Letters 1

Hey George, Why Don't You Just Arm-Wrestle Bruce Matheson and Be Done with It
I have been visiting Crandon Park for 35 years and have some comments on its proposed future, as described in Oscar Musibay's article "His Own Private Paradise" (April 4).

It was a bonehead decision to install ball fields on one of the most spectacular tracts of land on the planet. Besides its aesthetics, the park is an extremely important potential natural area. It should be reforested and managed as such. Key Biscayne's council members should stop insisting that the ball fields remain, and instead make a deal with the school board to tap their underused school yards for that purpose. It is called the park-school concept; the City of South Miami provides a perfect model. However, Bruce Matheson errs in insisting on the dismantling of Calusa Park except for one tennis court. Its environmental impact is basically nil.

The tennis center, golf course, and marina are facts of life. Environmentally friendly management regimes should be insisted upon for them. I disagree with Mr. Matheson that the fiscal health of the restaurant, Sundays on the Bay, would be compromised by limiting its use. Nighttime dancing there does not make any difference.

We already have a world-class botanical facility, the financially strapped Fairchild Garden. It would be folly to try to create another at the Gardens at Crandon Park (the old zoo), and I detect absolutely no inclination by any except the most elite -- if that -- to add a budget-busting sculpture garden there. Both would be forlorn failures at best and should be dropped from consideration.

The park's master plan as it now exists relies on a two-headed monster of a parking lot separated by a huge lawn. The lawn is there ostensibly to allow motorists to get a glimpse of the ocean from the road. This feature, the land-swallowing traffic circles, and the roadway overpass all reflect too much homage paid to the automobile.

Delete all three. Instead, let's design a single but larger lot as far south as possible, even encroaching into the present "garden" while paying due respect to the residential areas to the south by creating a wetland buffer exploiting the lakes already there. This wetland demonstration area could be made to coalesce with an environmental education building, which would follow part of the southern edge of the parking lot. Following the lines of the existing cabanas and defining part of the lot's eastern perimeter would be a very open snack bar, carousel, and petting zoo, with a large picnic area beyond. This sinuous branch, along with the equally winding cabanas and wetland area, would form a cartwheel design. Where they meet at the T-intersection, a plaza would be defined by a modestly majestic two-story building on the fourth edge, housing park offices, lifeguard headquarters, and an observation deck on the roof.

If followed, this plan would maximize the use of already-existing disturbed areas (including school yards within the City of Key Biscayne), minimize auto-dominated and turf areas, allow for through traffic to flow unimpeded, and create a villagelike focal point for the eastern half of the park. Kudos to Mr. Matheson and all of those aboring to create a better Crandon Park.

George Childs

Harvey Drops the Herald
Regarding Jim DeFede's article "Union Mad" (April 4): [AFL-CIO union organizer] Ed Feigen is mistaken when he accuses Miami Herald publisher Dave Lawrence of "violating the tenets of good journalism" to get his way on a given subject.

The Miami Herald, in my opinion, has almost never practiced the tenets of good journalism, so how could Lawrence violate them? Personally, I canceled my Herald subscription recently to protest Tony Ridder's egomaniacal effort to give rich brat Micky Arison an early Chanukah present -- public park land and a new arena financed by the suckers, er, taxpayers of Dade County -- all with no vote by the public.

Talk about conflicts of interest -- former Herald publisher Dick Capen now sits on the board of Arison's Carnival Cruise Lines.

If any other business pulled this kind of bullshit, investigations editor Jim Savage and his Herald reporters would be all over it like stink on A well, on the Miami Herald.

Harvey Slavin

Greens with Plenty of Green
Kirk Semple's article "A Whiter Shade of Green" (March 28), on the nearly exclusively white and Anglo composition of the local environmental movement, made many good points but left out another important reason that this movement lacks credibility among minorities and poor people.

The politically vociferous members of groups such as the Tropical Audubon Society or the Sierra Club are almost totally upper-middle-class people who conceive of saving the environment as essentially an effort to make someone else do something or stop doing something, frequently at the expense of his job or income.

The notion that this effort should begin at home with these activists' own lifestyles is simply unthinkable. Turning off their air conditioning and thus lessening the need for power -- nuclear and otherwise -- would never occur to them; neither would trading in their gas guzzlers for economy models or (perish the thought) giving up their second and third cars entirely and riding public transit with the peasants. Selling their wasteful suburban homes and moving to much more energy-efficient multifamily housing is not even worth considering.

Until environmentalists start making real sacrifices themselves, they cannot expect those who are less well-off to pay much attention to them, regardless of their ethnicity.

John A. Gorman
North Miami

Of Bottom Feeders and Mud Slingers
Please be advised that I am married to Carol Mishelow (now Carol A. Sofia), daughter of Marion Mishelow, one of the five sisters involved in litigation regarding the case of the estate of Dora Pomeranc.

Elise Ackerman's article regarding the nuances of the case ("You Can't Take It With You," March 28) was ostensibly designed to offer a critique of the clubby probate courts in South Florida. However, it appears to me and to the rest of our family that the real purpose of the expose was to further the ends of Annette Birne and Rose Hodges and their attorney, Irving Yedwab.

The entire diatribe against Shirley and Martin Levinson was designed to smear their reputations and is an affront to the family they represent and who loves them. It appears clear that the party who put Elise Ackerman up to this abomination is Mr. Yedwab, who is frustrated by the unity of the rest of the family, a family that is well cognizant of the wishes of Dora and Jacob Pomeranc regarding the two sisters whose inheritance rights were diminished or eliminated.

In fact, the two elder Pomerancs had good reasons for disinheriting or reducing the amount of their estate that would go to the other women. That Ms. Ackerman took no time to research the feelings of the rest of the family (considering the attempt to affect the reputation of the two Levinsons) is a travesty of justice and an abuse of her position. From where I sit, it is a wonder that she can sleep at night, considering the lack of balance given to this project. Her lack of journalistic ethics is an insult to all those who carry on a journalism career with honor and ethical standards.

Moreover, the underlying pathology of the effort has been a failure as well. The living heirs of the Pomerancs (including the three children of Marion Mishelow, one of whom is my wife) are, if anything, more certain today that they wish to pursue this case to the complete affirmation of Dora and Jacob's opinion of the rest of the family.

As for Mr. Yedwab, an attorney generously described as a "bottom feeder," it is obvious that his contribution to the case consists solely of efforts to throw enough mud so that some of it will stick to the wall. In the end, he will be shown for what he is: a self-serving and pathetic excuse for a professional.

All of us look forward to meeting in court. In the end, we are sure that justice will prevail. And when the findings of fact are announced in this case, we hope that Elise Ackerman will be adult enough to print the retraction that will follow in a location that makes possible a similar amount of public notice as this smear piece has been accorded.

Michael A. Sofia
Las Vegas, Nevada

Not to Labor the Point
I read with pleasure Kathy Glasgow's article "United They Stand" (March 14) about the struggle of nursing-home workers for decent treatment and union representation.

It is just so difficult to get coverage in the Miami Herald, given the AFL-CIO union boycott of the paper. What little news of the nursing-home workers' efforts appears to be relegated to the business section, except for bitter Op-Ed columns attacking the union. So I welcome the deep background report on the efforts to bring representation to South Florida's thousands of nursing-home workers.

The emphasis on Monica Russo, [southern regional director of organizing for the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees], was proper, as was the focus on activists at the various nursing homes who are fighting for better conditions for themselves and nursing-home workers as a whole. Perhaps, though, some mention should be made of the hard-working organizers, several fluent in Creole and Spanish, who put in such long hours on what they feel is a crusade for justice. A campaign is teamwork. Let's remember the team along with the coach.

Milton Zatinsky

Morello: The Truth Will Out A Someday
Regarding "Justice Undone . . . Again" (February 15) by Jim DeFede, I started following this story four years ago when I was a journalist working in Miami. The taxpayers of Dade County may be the losers in this affair, but it isn't a dollars-and-cents issue at all. It is one of justice. In fact, this incident seems much more like something one would expect from Castro's Cuba.

As Americans, we should all want to see justice done. This was obviously not a frivolous lawsuit or one filed for profit. Why didn't a jury get to weigh the evidence no judge or jury was allowed to see? Very little has been written offering the other side of this. Andrew Morello was just a sixteen-year-old kid fighting to get his life together, not a criminal with a record.

Jim DeFede's article outlined the horrors of being abused by a system that stops at nothing to back its people, no matter what outrage they commit. Laura Russell's promotion to detective is a prime example of the system rewarding people who should be booted.

The Morellos never sought, nor did they need, taxpayers' money. All they wanted was justice, and they had to go a civil route simply to get the facts into court. This sort of blatant abuse of power can happen at any time and to anyone. What have the taxpayers really saved here? What is the life of a healthy, loving, intelligent child worth? How many wrongful-death suits will the taxpayers pay for in years to come?

I applaud New Times for trying to bring out the truth and Jim DeFede for the hard work he brought to the table. I hope that Andrew knows his parents did everything they could. Maybe it will take 60 Minutes to get at it. But if history has proved anything, it is that no matter how deeply buried it may be, the truth will come out.

John R. Miller
Concord, North Carolina

Kurzban Kicks Back
Several weeks ago New Times ran a comprehensive story by Elise Ackerman about the successes and difficulties of the Haitian Refugee Center, an organization I helped to start sixteen years ago ("Perilous Journey," February 8). Subsequently the newspaper printed a letter to the editor with the headline "Kurzban's Cash Cow." At the time, I chose not to respond to it because I am tired of dealing with all the negative, angry, and frustrated people in this wonderfully complex community who may have their own political agendas that include attacking people like me. I also thought that writing a letter would only bring more letters, and I try to put my energy into more constructive work.

However, yesterday my daughter came home from high school, where she was told by one of her classmates (who is not Haitian) that her father had no integrity and was ripping off the Haitian community. I can only assume that he read the letter and got the same misimpression that anyone reading it would get. In essence, the letter suggested that I had helped the Haitian community or Haitian refugees not out of a desire to do good, but because the Haitian government had paid me an amount in excess of $250,000 in a six-month period.

The letter was a complete non sequitur. It supposedly was in response to the New Times article, which recounted the Haitian Refugee Center's history. The article mentioned me as someone who represented the center and Haitian refugees at the United States Supreme Court. During those years, neither I nor any member of my firm took any fees from the Haitian Refugee Center, the Haitian community, or the Haitian government for the millions of dollars in legal work we performed for the center and for Haitian refugees. In fact, we periodically made contributions out of our own pockets to assist the center. In the last several years, because of the center's precarious financial situation, we did not even attempt to collect out-of-pocket costs that ran into tens of thousands of dollars. Although we occasionally received fee awards from the U.S. government as a result of their ill treatment of the refugees, these fees did not represent anything close to the millions of dollars in attorneys' time we spent over that nineteen-year period.

During most of those years, we did not represent the Haitian government. In fact, we spent most of our time trying to work to change the government and to establish democracy in Haiti. The letter made it appear as if the nineteen years that I spent representing Haitian refugees was in some manner compensated by the government of Haiti. The implication was that I did nineteen years of pro bono work for Haitian refugees not because I believed in it, but because I got paid for it by the Haitian government. The truth is quite different. I began to represent the government of Haiti only after Jean-Bertrand Aristide was democratically elected. I continued to represent him and the government in Haiti while they were in exile in the United States. I continue to represent the government of Haiti today under Pres. Rene Garcia Preval. Our firm is paid on an hourly basis. The rate we charge the government of Haiti is significantly less than what I charge other clients because of my commitment to the people of Haiti. The compensation we receive is for the work we do for the government of Haiti, not for the pro bono work we have done and continue to do for Haitian refugees.

Although the letter focused on how much we received from the Haitian government, it never mentioned the work we perform for the government or the money we have recouped for it. As a result of our work, we have recovered more than $600,000 in funds stolen by the Duvaliers, and we recently obtained an $11 million judgment against Michele Bennett Duvalier. At the same time, I am working on a project that would raise between ten and twenty million dollars in revenue for Haiti. More important, as every Haitian in this community who supports democracy in Haiti knows, I played a role in helping to restore democracy to Haiti after the coup. I was at Governor's Island with President Aristide and worked closely with Haitian and U.S. government officials to see that democracy was ultimately restored to Haiti.

Although many countries in the world -- and particularly in our hemisphere -- hire lawyers to represent them in legal and political matters in the United States, the only lawyers who have been subject to the type of attack expressed in your reader's letter have been lawyers representing the Haitian government. Articles about the payment that lawyers were receiving from the Haitian government began to appear in the U.S. press in 1993, at the same time the Central Intelligence Agency waged its unrelenting disinformation campaign against Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Every lawyer and lobbyist representing a foreign government must report to the Department of Justice the funds he receives from that government. They are a matter of public record. However, only the fees paid to Haiti's lawyers have surfaced in the press.

It is no secret that there are people living in this community, both Haitian and non-Haitian, who would like to see Haiti return to dictatorship or military rule. It is not surprising that they would like to see Haiti's democratically elected officials and its lawyers and political supporters cast as people with no integrity who are ripping off the people of Haiti.

Ira J. Kurzban

In the theater column of April 4, the year of ACME Acting Company's production of Danny and the Deep Blue Sea was incorrect. The correct date is 1987.


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