Like a linebacker, Papo blocks the patriarch's path to the blue Miami Parking Authority machine selling tickets. "You don't want to buy from that, bro," the peddler commands. "It's a six-hour minimum! I got your ticket right here."

The Indian man, who later gives his name as Ranjit, protests at first but soon submits. He gives Papo three crumpled bills and places the ticket on his dashboard. As the family tries to cross the street, a panhandler separates the beleaguered Ranjit from another dollar. "It's easier to give them money than to argue with them," he explains as Papo moves on to another mark — an old man in a white Cadillac with a VFW bumper sticker who's attempting to leave the lot with a receipt that's still good for four hours. "You just going to throw it away?" Papo asks incredulously.

Papo makes up to $100 a day, he claims, after a reporter buys him a Coke and gives him the change. The jittery 44-year-old doesn't hesitate when asked what he buys with the cash. "Crack!" he answers with good cheer. "What else? I buy all the rock I want."

The missing n must stand for nice: You don't want your vehicle impounded by Molina Towing.
C. Stiles
The missing n must stand for nice: You don't want your vehicle impounded by Molina Towing.
Rolanda Benjamin was cleared of wrongdoing in her scuffle with a parking enforcement officer.
Rolanda Benjamin was cleared of wrongdoing in her scuffle with a parking enforcement officer.

He dismisses the idea he's addicted. He uses crack as an "antidepressant."

The six-hour minimum in this parking lot, which means drivers have to shell out at least six dollars, has sparked a cottage industry for homeless people scalping receipts. Today the lot swarms with a rotation of hustlers who regard each other with varying levels of suspicion and animosity. Sometimes the competition verges on violent. Reggie, who has an apartment and is muscular and clean despite his own crack habit, spits before he speaks of Papo. "People don't like it when somebody runs up to you all gooked-out, dirty, and musky," he says. "It ruins it for the rest of us."

"Him? He's an asshole," Papo says of his well-groomed competitor across the parking lot. "One day, I'll have to punch him in the head."

For these addicts, scalping receipts beats busting a car window or strong-arming an old lady to get the next fix. As Reggie puts it: "I'd rather do a misdemeanor than a felony." Cops might arrest them for loitering, conducting business without a license, or aggressive panhandling, but the charges rarely stick, amounting to no more than a night in lockup. And though Miami Parking Authority (MPA) Chief Operating Officer Fred Bredemeyer tells New Times that "all levels of our personnel are trained to enforce trespassing laws," on this afternoon, an MPA employee working on a machine simply chuckles at the hustlers' shenanigans.

For the most part, the receipt scalpers' customers seem to appreciate the service. "Actually, they come in handy sometimes," says Rufus Wagner, here for family court. "They're not doing nothing too bad. Six bucks is a rip-off anyways."

After a few hours scalping tickets at Bayside, a light-skinned homeless man — everyone calls him "New York" for his birthplace — has hit his goal for the day: $30. "If the dealers know you're doing parking shit, they'll front you because they know you're making money," he explains. New York has hustled enough cash to pay for his last fix and the next one, plus an Angus bacon-and-cheese burger at McDonald's. He's a consummate parking schemer who also works late nights charging Wynwood clubbers five bucks and up to "watch" their cars on the desolate streets — a thinly veiled intimidation racket that's become popular among the tougher members of Miami's skid row.

After the meal, New York shows off his "abando-minium," the stalled-in-construction parking tower downtown that he and five others call home. "We let bums come and shoot up on the ground floor," he remarks, "but if they get loud or attract attention, we chase them away with lead pipes."

Next to New York's ancient mattress on the third floor, he keeps neatly folded clothes and a stack of reading material: mystery novels, cowboy and self-help books, and, of course, back copies of New Times. He pulls out a red flag and vest, which he swiped from a lackadaisical parking attendant. It's the uniform for his ultimate caper. During big events downtown, New York busts open a vacant parking lot and waves cars in for $15 to $20 a spot. "You let about 15 customers in there and get $300 in your pocket," he explains. "Then you run like hell."

He bristles at being called a "con man." He's providing a service, New York insists. "The MPA charges you six dollars and you stay for an hour. The next guy pays another six bucks, when the MPA already got paid for the spot. Who's really robbing you?"

----------

For at least the past 20 years, the Miami Parking Authority, which oversees all public metering within city limits, has waged an arms race against a guerrilla army of street people. In the early '90s, when the meters were fully mechanical, an anonymous innovator figured out the inner timer could be manipulated by jamming the tab of a Magnum malt liquor can (appropriately, no other brand worked as well) into the coin slot and jiggling. A guy parking his car could usually be persuaded to part with a couple of the quarters he was planning on feeding the meter. Naturally, word spread quickly, and at least one Overtown corner store stopped selling Magnum cans because of rampant shoplifting.

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
6
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
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

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...

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.

 
Loading...