As rip currents swept unsuspecting swimmers out to sea along the Miami Beach coast two weeks ago, a couple of lifeguards went mano a manoduring a workout session gone awry.
According to a tale told to the sun-averse Bitch by a retired leathery lifeguard, Vince Andreano, captain of the Miami Beach Fire Department's ocean rescue division, headbutted operations supervisor and fire Lt. Hank Oppenborn. "The Dance of the Lifeguard Noggins" allegedly occurred at the foot of the Eighth Street beach lifeguard station, where Andreano and Oppenborn were engaged in a fitness competition.
Unimpressed by Andreano's subsequent apology, Oppenborn filed a complaint with assistant fire chief Ed del Favero, who is conducting an investigation into the altercation. Oppenborn, Andreano, and del Favero declined comment.
There Goes the Neighborhood
Call it the opposite of white flight. As Miami's core neighborhoods explode with construction and gentrification, the city's historic black communities are being eviscerated by a ghetto gold rush, falling prey to urban renewal of the financially fittest. For years, black Miami's greatest export has been the best and brightest, who leave us for cities with greater opportunity. The African-American heads of some of our major public institutions (Miami International Airport, the Public Health Trust, Miami-Dade County Public Schools) are all from outside the area.
The latest threat to the varied character of Miami is the coming exodus of the working poor, as land values rapidly escalate and city officials offer major incentives to developers willing to build in the inner city. The proposed $150 million Crosswinds project in Overtown would see 1000 new housing "units," and the Midtown Miami project in the Wynwood/Buena Vista area is similarly huge. All this cityscaping is sure to shore up the tax base and bring in affluent new residents with ample discretionary income. However, what is the cost to the greater community if we simply relocate our poorest residents to outlying areas rather than helping them achieve something like middle-class status?
The grassroots in Overtown and Liberty City are stirring around this very question. "In ten years, I have no doubt Overtown and Liberty City will be beautiful," opines activist Max Rameau, of the Miami Workers Center. "The question is, is that redevelopment going to be done to places and things, or for people?"
Crosswinds developers have suggested setting aside 200 "affordable" dwellings, 50 of which would be designated for current Overtown residents. Some are doubtful that any would be able to afford to remain in the neighborhood.
Another issue heating up in Liberty City is a public transit hub proposed to be built by the county on NW 62nd Street and NW 7th Avenue. Residents in the area fear that the hub will bring lots of pollution and traffic. "We do not want to support something that will ultimately be used to move us out," Rameau told a group of homeowners in Model City recently. "We will not support our own suicide."
Nathaniel Wilcox, a leader of PULSE (People United to Lead the Struggle for Equality), claims that a number of black public officials have been supporting the proposed hub on the down low, while telling activists they were against the project. "It's all a hush-hush type of thing," Wilcox asserts. "We got some lyin' black folk who supposed to be representing us and who is going to sell us out to line their own pockets."
Nightclubs in the largely residential neighborhood of South Pointe in Miami Beach are the bête noire for the many residents who want lights out. The residents won't get their wish when it comes to behemoths such as Opium Garden, but for a little restaurant in the shadow of the big joints, the end might be near. Oasis Restaurant and Lounge, a 66-seat Mediterranean bistro, has no hope, absolutely none, of succeeding as a club since the recent passage of a city ordinance prohibiting new nightclubs opening in the area south of Fifth Street. Dance and entertainment licenses were granted to restaurants in the area (Nikki Beach, Pearl, and Opium obtained those D&E licenses under the guise of operating as restaurants). But now that the loophole allowing such foolery is closed, no new clubs really means no new clubs. Forthcoming restaurants may serve delicious cuisine, but under no circumstance can they pump up the volume and morph the dining room into a dance floor. It doesn't matter if the music is tasteful and the patrons are doing the waltz, the hustle, or even the safety dance.
The owner of Oasis, Toufic Mazzawi, turned in all the required documents a month before the vote on the ordinance that the others used to obtain their coveted pass to party on, and Mazzawi expected to get over. He repeatedly told worried residents that Oasis was not really turning into a club. But community activist Frank Del Vecchio and others proved otherwise. They showed how Oasis in fact purchased a fancy sound system and published flyers announcing parties that last till 4:00 a.m. Oasis has been cited for noise and for having music and dancing without a license. The club was cleared of patrons and closed for the night after its most recent violation. Miami Beach city code compliance officer José Alberto is even entertaining a pending request to shut down the mischievous lounge for good. "All I want is belly dancing. What does anyone have against belly dancing?" Mazzawi asks.
Bienvenidos a Miami!
Jordan Heath-Murtha spent several months in Miami in 2001. The then-tetherless 28-year-old stayed in hostels and worked odd jobs. In March of this year, he decided to return to Miami in more concrete fashion, and encountered what can only be described as a South Beach welcome.
"I found a place at 750 Collins, but I didn't have the three grand deposit they wanted," says Heath-Murtha. "So I just said, 'I'll give you a grand today to sort of reserve it, and try to get the rest. ' They said they were fine with that. I never signed anything." You know how the rest of this goes: He came back the next day, said he couldn't get the rest of the money and could he have his thousand dollars back? "The lady who works there shooed me out the door like a chicken, and told me to come back the next day."
The next day, of course, Heath-Murtha was told that "the guy who writes the checks isn't in." The guy who writes the checks is Peter Margolis, of Margolis Gral Collins, LLC. Not surprisingly, he didn't return The Bitch's calls about Heath-Murtha's lost deposit.
Heath-Murtha called a lawyer about getting his money back, and a roommate referral service (AA1 Roommate Referral Service) about getting a roommate and an apartment.
The referral service worked out about as well as the first apartment. "The first woman they were sending flaked out and turned around when she was halfway across the MacArthur Causeway. The second potential roommate was a 44-year-old actor who was, you know, really a waiter. He said he couldn't help with the down payment because he didn't know when he was going to get paid or how much."
Heath-Murtha won't divulge personal details of his third potential roommate, because he says they're friends despite the fact that he got evicted from the apartment he finally found after she failed to pay her part of the rent. "So I lost another grand from the deposit on that place. Now I'm in a place downtown, but I'm not on the lease, so I can't really talk about it. But I'm still out a grand from the first place."
Los Angeles-based record producer Domino had to console The Bitch when she became irritated upon discovering that the Indies Trader, a research ship that was supposed to be ashore for inspection, was actually anchored about five miles due east of the Sagamore, site of this past week's Quiksilver Crossing launch party.
"There's a beach, a cool breeze, beautiful people, cool music ... what else could you ask for?" Domino soothed.
Well, the promised boat, for one thing, but the set by DJ Dan the Automator was indeed way chill.
Locally adored DJ and self-proclaimed "urban pundit" Kronos will be on hand this weekend at PS 742's continuing-over-the-summer-aganza Surreal Saturday, this week sub-dubbed "Arroz Con Mango." For information and directions, check out www.ps742.org or call 305-324-0585.
What? And Leave Show Business?
A respectable-sized audience showed for the recent opening of the Coconut Grove Playhouse's Cookin' at the Cookery, a thin but tuneful examination of the life of blues singer Alberta Hunter. But first the audience was forced to sit through a well-worn Magic City tradition -- the frequent verbal back-slapping in which our public officials so delight. This time it was Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, presenting the playhouse's "Make a Difference" award to difference-making county commission chairwoman Barbara Carey-Shuler.
"Hey Manny!" cried out one oblivious late arrival in a white guayabera, raising his arm in greeting as he walked down an aisle to his seat. Then again, getting an award in Miami is so common, maybe the guy didn't think it was anything special. It seems like every seminotable in town has received enough paper, plaques, and chunks of etched glass to build a whole village for the homeless.
A gushing Carey-Shuler, luminescent in a white pantsuit, read her own rambling little speech about the importance of the arts before she, Diaz, and the playhouse's producing artistic director Arnold Mittelman posed with frozen smiles at the edge of the stage for the obligatory photo-op. "I've never lived in a city before where people congratulate each other so much for doing jack shit," commented The Bitch's theater companion.
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