Miami parking nightmare: From the homeless parking mafia to the meter fairy

Haitian cabbie Pierre Jean-Charles climbed into his yellow taxi van while cradling a bottle of Coke and a bag of Doritos — the customary get-me-through snack for the 51-year-old full-time student and father of five. He had parked at a meter in front of a corner store at 75th Street and Collins Avenue in Miami Beach. It was before noon September 7, Labor Day, and the sweltering streets were full of people draped in towels, wearing bathing suits, and flip-flopping to the beach.

Jean-Charles found that an SUV had parked inches behind him, jamming him in. He honked and stepped out of the taxi, gesturing for the woman behind the SUV's steering wheel to back up.

A short, stocky Hispanic man emerged from the passenger side and stomped toward the cab. "Where you from?" the man snapped.

Cabbie Pierre Jean-Charles was stabbed in a Miami Beach parking dispute.
C. Stiles
Cabbie Pierre Jean-Charles was stabbed in a Miami Beach parking dispute.
Coconut Grove's magical meter fairy, Xavier Cortes, was forced into retirement by the Miami Parking Authority.
C. Stiles
Coconut Grove's magical meter fairy, Xavier Cortes, was forced into retirement by the Miami Parking Authority.

"What difference does it make?" Jean-Charles shot back before climbing back into the driver's seat. Suddenly, the stranger began punching the cabbie through the open window, landing hard blows on Jean-Charles's face. The taxi driver grabbed a long umbrella from the back seat and jumped out of his cab to fight back. As a crowd formed to watch, the two men grappled for a few moments, destroying the umbrella, before the SUV passenger tripped on a curb and fell backward.

The stunned and sweat-drenched cabbie returned to his vehicle and sat down with the door open. That's when his attacker ran up on him again, clenching a dagger-like knife. With short, manic lunges, he stabbed Jean-Charles in his left shoulder and, when the taxi driver tried to escape, the back of his left thigh.

The man jumped into the back seat of the SUV and it took off northbound on Collins. When cops arrived, they found Jean-Charles "bleeding next to his yellow cab," according to a police report. A baggie on the ground contained cocaine — perhaps shedding light on the source of the attacker's rage. Despite many witnesses — including one who Jean-Charles says wrote down the SUV license plate number — Miami Beach Police spokesman Juan Sanchez tells New Times: "there hasn't been an arrest made."

It's a story quintessential to Miami, which has long been the nation's cultural capital for cocaine use and more recently has hoisted America's road-rage championship belt. For four years straight, a national study declared Miami to be home to the country's most aggressive and angry drivers, until New York City stole the title in 2009.

And though old-timers will tell you parking in this city was once a breeze, rampant development and a scheming homeless contingent have turned securing a spot into a Mad Max-esque adventure. Anybody who has trawled for parking on Washington Avenue on a weekend night or near Wynwood's clubbing area during bar hours knows the joys of inhaling Lamborghini carburetor dust or being extorted by a drug-addicted parking-protection mafia. Finding a spot usually isn't violent — but nowadays it's rarely boring.

In this report on all things parking in Miami, we'll sojourn with ragged Bayside Marketplace receipt scalpers fundraising for crack cocaine and visit enraged restaurateurs who claim the Miami Parking Authority is killing the neighborhood. We'll expose the county's worst ticket scofflaws and the teacher accused of assaulting a parking officer, and detail the rise and demise of a tutu-wearing parking-meter fairy. Because if anything unites folks from Aventura to Opa-locka to Homestead, it's the tireless pursuit of a place to leave their cars. "They say there's nothing certain in life but death and taxes," says Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, whose vehicle-clogged district includes Coconut Grove, Brickell, and portions of downtown. "Add the near impossibility of finding a parking spot when you really need one."

A month after being stabbed, Jean-Pierre Charles has recovered from his wounds, although he'll likely never lose the scars on his shoulder and thigh. The poster child for Miami's parking woes sits in his North Miami living room, which is strewn with his young daughter's pink plastic toys, and describes the ordeal with remarkable calm. He finally gets angry only when he partakes in one of our town's most popular pastimes: complaining about parking. "Last weekend, I went to see I Can Do Bad All by Myself in South Miami," he says, his voice rising. "I spent half an hour driving around looking for parking before I finally had to spend eight dollars on valet parking. When I bought the ticket, I had already spent $20 just getting in, and that's without any popcorn!"

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A large family of Indian Sikhs, the women in traditional saris and the men in turbans, climbs from a black Acura SUV after it's parked in the lot across Biscayne Boulevard from Bayside Marketplace. They're from Boca Raton, here to do a little sightseeing on this early Monday afternoon.

"Papo," a bug-eyed homeless Puerto Rican man who claims to have lost his teeth in the Iraq War, acts as their one-man Miami welcome wagon. "You need a ticket?" he demands, brandishing a parking receipt with a couple of hours left on it, which he'd begged off a driver leaving the lot about 15 minutes ago.

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24 comments
robthom
robthom

Well, wonderful Haitian cabbie Pierre Jean-Charles the fulltime student and father of five got here the same way the criminals did.

Can we send them all back?

I want to go to school and drive a cab, and I was born here.

Kennoble
Kennoble

Robbed in Collins. Get your act together Miami. English tourist who will not return.

hunter
hunter

buch of no good idiots down there in opa-locka-scum of the streets-pooers with no scoopers=dragging ass and smelling like it-lived there most of my life and had my share of busting heads and thats a fact--loved it -lived for it-it replaced love in miami

Darren Chaker
Darren Chaker

I never thought parking was that bad. Under no means should these people be assaulted. Darren Chaker

D
D

Carry a gun.

ammy
ammy

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Ice
Ice

Here is a great place------- Cougarmatching.com ------- It's a premiere cougar dating community for older women seeking younger men and young men seeking cougars. Come in, post a message, a picture of yourself and check out the hot photo galleries. You will find someone you like here...

Anonymous
Anonymous

Here is a great place------- Cougarmatching.com ------- It's a premiere cougar dating community for older women seeking younger men and young men seeking cougars. Come in, post a message, a picture of yourself and check out the hot photo galleries. You will find someone you like here...

elena
elena

This mafia exist thanks to the authorities,and those exist thanks to US.So is US who have to do something about it.We have to be more responsible for whom we vote and constantly watch what are they doing with the power WE gave to them.About the homeless,Prince Dracul did the right thing,he prepared a party and invite all of them locked the gate and torched the whole place no more homeless.

Rothgar
Rothgar

The MPA IS the mafia. Businesses that shell out money to the MPA for creating more parking spaces that have never been built need to file a class action lawsuit and make the MPA prove that the funds they've collected have in fact gone to create more parking spaces. If they can't prove it, then they need to return the money. Additionally, Coconut Grove politicians need to be held accountable; if they don't eliminate the law that allows the MPA to pocket money for Grove businesses, then they should be thrown out of office.

suckhole
suckhole

This is very interesting, but could it be anymore verbose? Who fucking wrote this? Charles Dickens being paid by the word? I really want to read this, but I just can't spend 4890348903908 hours at work reading infinite unnecessary words.

Wolf Lorber
Wolf Lorber

Great article, muxh needed. Of course, people who do not have to work during the week have no need to "weekend."These people go on the town during the week, thereby avoiding crowds and parking problems. They are rich or very rich, or retirees (whether rich or not). They are also the bread-and-butter of many restaurants and other retail establishments.

PS: How about a series on "internships" at prestigious magazines, non-profits and institutions? Only children of wealthy families can afford to take these no pay/low paypositions which often lead to permanent ones. Examples are: National Geographic Society; Smithsonian Institution; The Nature Conservancy; New York Public Library; etc.

Henry
Henry

I recently had my car stolen for my home in Kendell and the thief took my good tags and put them on a different car. He then proceeded to accrue all kinds of parking violations. And the bills came to me. I had to fill out 3 different appeals to the county because they just seemed to be trying to force me to pay even-though I had included copies of the police report. Then they passed the overdue fines on to a collection agency that was based out of New York. How come they can find out if a person has unpaid parking tickets but can not determine if a vehicle is stolen or not? I would have liked too have a car thief off the streets.

Gus Garcia-Roberts
Gus Garcia-Roberts

Dave: Maybe I got too whimsical there. Thanks for grounding me. I drive a Toyota Corolla, which does have carburetor dust.

Rolanda: It wasn't my intent to embarrass you. The mugshot is public record, as is the police report. I allowed you to tell your side of the story and was careful to make it clear that you were not convicted. If the county withholds working opportunities due to this article you should definitely let us know. You're innocent until proven guilty.

Rolanda Benjamin
Rolanda Benjamin

I feel as though the Miami New Times deliberately made a fool of me by posting my picture and personal information related to job information as well as my arrest photo. I understand that this is a public newspaper which obtains information from public records but when I spoke with the writer Gus it made it seem as though he was just writing a article which was related to my case. This is UNFAIR and if i were going to be used in a newspaper I should have signed something stating that it was ok for them to do so.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Regarding the parking in the Grove, you hit the nail on the head. I've lived in Miami for 8 years, and love all of outdoor "mall" type of places like Bayside, Lincoln Road, etc.. however I have been to the Grove probably 5 or fewer times simply because parking is -always- a hassle and honestly, if I'm going out for fun, who wants to worry about parking? It's just easier to hit up Aventura or Miami Beach.

And the part regarding businesses paying upwards of $5000 per month for parking, what a shame considering those costs are only translated to the customers via higher prices. Just hurts Miami residents all-around.

dave
dave

Lamborghini's haven't had carburetors for years. And if they did, you wouldn't smell their dust since they neither produce dust, nor are they anywhere within olfactory detection range, especially considering the exhaust gases coming out of the lambo's tailpipes.... Otherwise great article, just sayin...

KPR
KPR

Quotes the article: " In 2008, according to the agency's annual report, it made $87.8 million in revenue, for a whopping net profit of $27.8 million, $2 million more than in 2007 and $3 million more than in 2006. "

Terrible. Now like any respectable city, county, state, or federal governmental agency in America, this bunch of public servants will have to figure out a way to never again make any sort of profit, and instead finish the fiscal year with a loss.

That way they can grow and prosper and hire lobbyists to argue for general fund cash.

John Albert Negron
John Albert Negron

As a fellow media professional and a 20 year Miami resident of hispanic decent, I resent that you have to bring national identities to any of the people in this article which only adds to the pejorative stigmas of our community.

cb
cb

They really need to fix the parking problems asap. I can't visit my gf downtown without having to pay $15 for a valet, or $10 to the city and risk getting towed when they put up 'no parking' signs overnight.

And arrest the idiots who will 'make sure nothing happens to your car'...

Grrrant
Grrrant

Parking, along with all the other ways the city and property owners have found to tax everyone, is exactly the reason people like myself, and others, are either leaving Miami or not going out to spend their money... after all the inflation it's just not WORTH IT any more. No wonder Miami has no clearly definable middle class.... these would be people with job skills and education, but no desire to put up with the nickle and dime BS of the nightlife and entertainment districts here in Miami's metro area.

 
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