There Goes the Neighborhood
Regarding Kirk Semple's article "First the Bumbling, Then the Crumbling" (November 28), I really did move to Miami Beach from New York City in 1989 because I loved the Art Deco buildings. On a beautiful, crisp, sunny, dragon-clouds-racing-by day, I was sitting having a colada with a friend of mine from San Francisco. We were swapping neighborhood-preservation stories. He won. They had saved not only a historic building but a business and a home, and in turn, a national treasure of a person. He was telling me about how they kept McDonald's and other chain stores out of their back yard and were keeping a real neighborhood. Chain stores choke a neighborhood; they don't play in the parks, in the restaurants, or shop in the stores.

It was then that I realized exactly how our Art Deco movement had failed. I can remember, with great joy, the approximately three months when I thought almost everyone got it. They understood the charm, the beauty, the humanness of these Art Deco buildings -- how they harmonize together yet are uniquely different and have their own personalities, just like people. What a great place for a people-oriented neighborhood!

But alas, that was a quick honeymoon. When I next looked, they hadn't gotten it. They never got it. They still haven't a clue of what a neighborhood is. They only smell money.

There isn't much neighborhood here, not like my friend's in San Francisco, where your neighbors and environment are both important. When I meet people who have lived only in Miami, I often tell them they ought to visit other parts of the U.S. so they can witness how nice and logical other people are (even New Yorkers).

I suggest that Daniel Abia, [Miami Beach senior engineering inspector], be given another job. Senior inspector and he isn't aware he's in one of the nation's most famous historic districts?

Starr Hagenbring
Miami Beach

Tobee's Choice
Judy Cantor's "An Unorthodox Style" (November 21) was most provocative and enlightening about the diverse group of Jews known as Hasidim. Her critical examination found Hasidics to be wanting in freedom of choice, stifling, and restrictive. But there is a more realistic view to be observed and objectively appraised in our local area.

Venture into the shul in Bal Harbour and speak to the women in attendance (granted they are seated separately and above the male area). You'll be impressed by their positions in our community as practicing attorneys, physicians, entrepreneurs, and teachers. They participate in the secular world and still proudly maintain their strict adherence to their religious choices.

Hopefully, everyone has choices. Although Yehudis Levitin was born into a fundamentalist family environment that can be stifling and consuming in its dictatorial demands, she managed to unshackle herself and select the more comfortable rituals and beautiful spiritual environment found among her contemporaries. She can be creative and enjoy living a full existence, and still be multidimensional as an artist.

Tobee Schneider
Bal Harbour

When Intelligence Is Not Enough
I am reading -- attempting to read -- Michael Sragow's review of The English Patient ("Fools for Love," November 21). I am an intelligent person, but I am struggling to tell if Sragow liked or disliked the movie. "It's a whitewash job done with sperm." What is he trying to say? Too cute by far. And after more than a page of elaborate scene-by-scene descriptions that seem to imply admiration, we learn that the film is "squishy at the core." Does this negate everything that went before?

And where's Todd Anthony? I love his stuff. His reviews are witty and don't read as if they were written with a thesaurus. I don't want to spend an entire lunch break reading a movie review.

Michelle Childs

Make Boat Repairs, Not Movies
The Miami City Commission soon will have an opportunity to determine how the Dinner Key boat yard will be developed, a subject reported by Sean Rowe in the October 17 issue ("Guess Who's Coming To Dinner Key?").

Some time ago a group of concerned citizens met to decide how the public felt about the property. Ninety-eight percent of these people felt that the property should be returned to a full-service boat yard. Some of the dissenters were people with other special interests.

Not long ago the city put out a request for proposals (RFP) for the property. From my perspective, the RFP had several flaws: First, it did not require a place for "do-it-yourselfers" as promised earlier by the commission; second, and more serious, at the eleventh hour one of the commissioners decided that the property should have a minimum rent of $300,000 per year, which removed the possibility of our ever learning what the actual market value of the property was. At the twelfth hour a change was introduced by the staff providing that the major use of the property could be "film-related." I appeared before the commission to request that major be changed to ancillary. The commission agreed.

As a member of the Waterfront Advisory Board, I read all three of the proposals originally submitted, and the latest RFP. I sat through the three proposers' presentations, and the remaining two bidders a second time. After seeing the proposal submitted by Atlantic Clipper, I am amazed that the city's staff found them in compliance. Questions about their financial ability were answered with a very indignant "I don't know."

While I voted with the Waterfront Board to select Grove Harbor Marina and Caribbean Marketplace, I later determined, after much thought, that it would be best for the city commission to start anew. The RFP should be for a "world-class boat yard." The rent should be determined, as originally intended, after the new bids have been submitted and an appraiser can evaluate the property's value as a boat yard.

There has been no rush to develop this property since Merrill Stevens left at least ten years ago. As the commission is preparing to award a 40-year lease, and as there are other bidders waiting, this does not appear to be a time to rush. Let us not forget that there are more than 3000 boats in Biscayne Bay that could use this yard if it were run properly, and a marine industry which is already established and serving the marine community throughout Dade County.

I would like to emphasize that this is my private opinion and not that of the city's Waterfront Advisory Board.

John A. Brennan

South Florida Law Enforcement: Excessive Force
Reading your October 24 edition regarding "Policing the Police" compelled me to write. Elise Ackerman's article leaves out one very important theme: The police departments in Dade and Broward counties are out of control! These agencies act with indifference and impunity from the laws they themselves are sworn to uphold. Service to the public at large is a joke. I have yet to find a courteous, professional police officer in South Florida. From what I've personally seen and heard, every "routine" traffic stop is a potential Rodney King incident.

If you happen to be a minority, the only chance you have of receiving fair and impartial treatment is if the officer stopping you is of the same racial or ethnic background. Even that is no guarantee. If a person is on probation and he is stopped, he can plan on going to jail on some trumped-up charge, most likely with cuts and bruises. The police in this area will rough you up knowing full well that you can't protect yourself against them without facing the consequences.

As Ms. Ackerman's article stated, cops cover for other cops. How many times have you seen four or five police cars stopping one car on the side of the road? How can fifteen Hialeah officers respond to a call, have the suspect end up with "road rash" on his chest, and no one see anything? The bare fact that the rate of legitimate excessive-force complaints is 1.6 percent, while the national average is 10.4 percent (in one of the highest-crime areas of the country), should in itself raise flags. This reeks of departmental indifference. Please don't insult the intelligence of the citizens you are sworn to protect!

I understand not all officers are bad. If you consider yourself a good cop, you would be well advised to purge your ranks of the scum mentioned in the article.

As a comedian once said when commenting on a slogan emblazoned on a police cruiser -- "To Serve and Protect" -- "They serve you up an ass beatin' while they protect themselves." That says it all.

Richard Lewis


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