Cortes was catcalled by construction workers and berated by teenagers, but to the Grovites who understood his purpose, he was a hero worthy of tips, cigarettes, and free meals. Soon though, he says, a cold war developed between him and MPA officers. "They would try to intimidate me, telling me it was illegal to feed another person's meter," he recalls. "They'd try to figure out my routes and shifts. I'd see them hiding behind walls spying on me. It got ugly, and it went all the way to the top of the MPA."

MPA's director of on-street operations, Luis Choter Jr., confirms the fairy's operation was legal but doesn't deny there was some intelligence gathering done. "We weren't spying on him," he insists. "Our only concern is that we wanted to know when he was skating. We wanted him to remain visible. It was really a safety issue."

A meter man who has worked in the Grove for nearly a decade — and for fear of losing his job did not want his name published — recalls stalking the fairy as more of a recreational pursuit than a directive handed down from on high. "I saw it as a friendly competition," he says. "I liked to figure out which street he was going to be on and beat him to it. I just liked watching his face drop when he saw all the tickets on the windshields... And I loved getting him on technicalities. Say he put a dime in a meter just as I'm getting to the car. But I'll leave a ticket anyway, right in front of him, because the car has an expired tag."

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.

Bredemeyer declines to comment specifically about the rogue meter man's claim. His enforcement officers have no quota, he says, and the MPA earns no money for tickets: Parking fines are owed to the county.

In early 2005, after less than a year on skates, the parking-meter fairy met his demise at the hands of the MPA when the Goliath agency introduced the pay-and-display system in the Grove. Because the receipts must be placed behind a vehicle's windshield, Cortes was left with no recourse. "My presence sped up the process of the MPA incorporating those new machines," he says. That's a claim Bredemeyer scoffs at, although he verifies the Grove was among the first districts to use the pay-and-display system.

Cortes is now a freelance TV producer who has worked on Keeping Up With the Kardashians and America's Worst Drivers. But there's been no fairy-tale ending to the feud between Grove business owners and parking officials. It's a rift that's reaching levels of near-revolutionary unrest. "It's disgusting, the racket that they have going," says Mark Phelps, co-owner of the Sandbar sports bar. "It really is like a mafia."

He's complaining about a little-known clause in city code that requires neighborhood businesses to make monthly payments "in lieu of parking" to the MPA for the "Coconut Grove Parking Improvement Trust Fund," which is run by the neighborhood's Business Improvement District (BID). In theory, the fund is used to create spots to alleviate the Grove's parking gridlock. The monthly fees for each business are determined by an MPA estimate of how many customers the place will draw. For many owners, the expense is huge. When Phelps owned the restaurant and nightclub Flavour, he was ordered to pay $2,790 a month. He couldn't stay profitable, and the place went out of business earlier this year. "It's like another rent, but for nothing in return," Phelps says. "And if you don't pay it, the city will revoke your license within three months."

An informal survey of Grove owners and managers — most of whom did not want their businesses identified for fear of crackdowns from city code enforcers or cops — reveals that the amounts due are largely arbitrary. Owners who opened before the law went into effect in the early '90s pay nothing because of a grandfather clause, while others pay more than $5,000 a month. "We have not seen one extra parking space built with the money," says the owner of one well-known café, who guesses he's forked over $500,000 for parking since he's been in business.

Bredemeyer insists the "in lieu of" payments are a necessary expense. He points to an Oak Avenue garage that was opened using Parking Improvement funds and "$4 million" that BID has stashed for a future garage. "I'd love to open a restaurant that doesn't provide parking and then bitch about the fees," he snaps.

Incensed Grove restaurant and bar owners, many who already regard Commissioner Sarnoff as an enemy for his support of a 3 a.m. nightclub curfew, won't appreciate his position on this issue either. The Parking Improvement fund "was created because parking was sorely needed and required by code for restaurants," Sarnoff says. "The money raised so far has paid for the Oak parking garage, and more is to come."

Grove restaurateurs say their bar receipts have been sliced by a third or half as the district's hip reputation has faded. Revelers instead flock to South Miami and Brickell. The Grove's chronic parking problems might represent the final nail in the coffin, says Le Bouchon du Grove manager Jean-Charles (no relation to the stabbed cabbie). "Let's say you want to take your wife out to eat," he says. "You come to the Grove and drive around endlessly trying to find a spot. The babies are crying in the back seat. Your wife becomes impatient. You've had a bad night already, and it's just begun. Of course, by now you would rather go to Aventura and park in some mall."

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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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