By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
It Flashes, Moos, and Poos
Filed under: Flotsam
Just how dismal is the city's condo market? Well, if last week's Platinum Condo auction was any indication, a bloodbath is in the making. The auction, which was held in a ballroom at the Biscayne Marriott, drew a few hundred people, mostly curious people who wanted to see how low the no-reserve condos would sell for.
The answer: $160,000 for a one-bedroom, one-and-a-half bath. Let's put that into perspective: Two similar units in the same building sold a few months ago for about $260,000. Another two-bed, two-bath was auctioned for $295,000; a similar unit sold earlier this year for as much as $500,000. Ouch.
Wrote Lucas Lechuga, a local real estate broker who pens the Miami Condo Investments blog: "If tonight was any indication of what lies ahead, then the Miami condo market is in for a rude awakening. Miami condo developers are in for a sleepless night if word about tonight's auction reaches them before bedtime."
But the best part of the auction wasn't the prices. It was sitting next to Joey Skaggs, a heavily bearded, long-haired guy dressed entirely in denim and cowboy boots. He was from Hawaii, and was there only to accompany friends, not to buy a condo. I asked him what he did for a living. "I'm an artist and prankster," he replied. "I've been called the godfather of the media prank."
Turns out that since the mid-Sixties, Skaggs has duped the media into believing his phenomenal (and hilarious) pranks. In 2000 he "announced" the creation of "The Final Curtain," a Disney-like memorial theme park and cemetery. In 1992 he "leaked" a (fake) letter from then-New York City Mayor David Dinkins, saying Dinkins was selling the Brooklyn Bridge via a lottery. Skaggs has also sold a bit of real estate himself: He created Fish Condos, which are elaborately designed aquariums for "upwardly mobile guppies."
Skaggs leaned over and held out his wrist to show me his latest creative endeavor: the Universal Bullshit Detector. It looks like a watch, with a little cartoon bull on the face and a pile of crap where the number six should be. "It flashes, moos, and shits," whispered Skaggs. He was nearly drowned out by the auctioneer, who was desperately trying to get folks to start the bidding at $300,000 for a one-bedroom condo.
He pressed a button on the side of the watch. It flashed a red light and made a loud mooooo. "Everyone should have a bullshit detector," Skaggs said, grinning.
I giggled in agreement. Especially, I thought, in this city. — Tamara Lush
Timoney Reads the Writing on the Wall — Sort Of
Filed under: News
Miami Police Chief John Timoney seems close to acknowledging his officers are miserable. Apparently the September 4 union vote of "no confidence" in his leadership has shaken things up a bit. Two weeks later Timoney issued to all employees a memo saying a "work climate assessment" will begin soon.
"The Champion Services Group will be deploying a team of consultants who will conduct confidential one-on-one interviews and focus groups. This will allow for an impartial, neutral firm to gather employee feedback and provide us with findings and follow-up recommendations to improve the work environment and labor-management relations," the memo read. "I encourage you to be open and forthright in providing them with your feedback."
Trouble is, those focus groups will likely comprise staff members who are hand-picked by superiors, according to police insiders. Despite Timoney's claims that the respondents' opinions — or identities — won't be divulged to police brass, the idea of speaking with anyone, consultant or otherwise, isn't exactly appealing to the rank and file. "I'm not talking to anybody about anything," declared one veteran officer. "I won't risk my job."
Meanwhile Timoney is still under investigation by local and state ethics committees for his use of a free Lexus. Those same ethics investigators are also wondering why Timoney reported on his financial disclosure forms as having no stocks, bonds, assets, bank accounts, or property.
Officers want him gone. One cop wrote to New Times last week after the paper exposed Timoney's extensive travels in his four years on the job: "When over 80 percent of your staff has no confidence in their leader, that sounds like the interior walls of a building waiting to collapse." — Tamara Lush
The Changing Tide
A Green Victory in Cutler Bay
This past January, Riptide wrote about a piece of wetland over which there was some contention: Cutler Properties LC wanted to develop some of the last untouched coastal wetland left along Old Cutler Road. Residents and environmentalists wanted the land to be left alone. Just last week the locals got their way: The governing board of the South Florida Water Management District voted to deny Cutler Properties the necessary permit to build. Randy Smith, a spokesperson for the SFWMD, says the decision was based on the state's greater efforts to restore water flow to Biscayne Bay, an integral component of which is the mangrove swamp to the south and east of Old Cutler Road.
"I think it's fantastic," says Eduardo Varona, a resident of Cutler Bay and vocal opponent of the Cutler Properties project. Verona helped coordinate a grassroots letter-writing campaign to preserve the wetland. "This was the result of the community getting together," he says. "It's almost precedent-setting in Dade County; this is pretty valuable land — it's coastal land, and you know how valuable that is." — Isaiah Thompson