The Name Game
There is a lot of trash on Lexus Boulevard. Heading south on the nascent byway in West Kendall, you pass rotting sofas, abandoned furniture, and a fridge oozing flies. A rusty spool of chicken wire partially obstructs the road.
"The county's in charge of cleaning that up," says Miami-Dade Commission Chairman Joe Martinez, who represents the area.
On April 12 Martinez sponsored a resolution to christen a winding half-mile of macadam near Tamiami Airport "Lexus Boulevard" in honor of the sleek new dealership situated at the street's north end. The measure, which passed unanimously, cited Gerald Bean, owner of two gargantuan Lexus dealerships in Kendall, for creating 185 jobs, sponsoring charity golf, and loaning a pair of electrical generators to the county during the ice crisis that followed Hurricane Wilma.
Martinez and his fellow commissioners, it seemed, had found a clever way of circumventing a 1995 law that prohibits naming a street after anything with a pulse. The ban was inspired after a stretch of SW 132nd Avenue was dubbed "Leomar Parkway" for wealthy developer Leonel Martinez. He was later arrested and convicted of importing 300 kilos of cocaine and funneling arms to the contras.
Like Martinez, Bean and his Lexus empire have a few nasty little buggers in the closet. First there are the pissed-off customers. Then there's the federal lawsuit. Back in November 2001, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and five former employees sued GFB Enterprises LLC, doing business as Lexus of Kendall.
The employees claimed management treated the words nigger, spic, and wetback like water-cooler patois at the Kendall dealership, which is located on South Dixie Highway. Gerald Bean's son Terry, the fleet manager, was alleged to be the primary offender.
While Lexus of Kendall admitted no wrongdoing, it settled for $700,000 and agreed to hold executive-sensitivity training courses for the next four years.
Terry is still fleet manager at Lexus of Kendall. Terry's brother Tim manages the new West Kendall dealership on Lexus Boulevard. When asked about the trash and the EEOC, Tim lit into a New Times reporter. "You come into my place of business with no appointment, asking that I take time to talk to you, and ask about fucking trash? Aren't we going to talk about something positive? We had a problem over there and we took care of it. We just built a $50 million building here."
Lexus of Kendall also took care of Enie Altidor. Two years ago she filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) after an angry salesman at the dealership allegedly snatched an ad from her hand. "I was shocked," Altidor comments. "The other salesmen standing around were shocked." Altidor claims her wrist swelled up later that night, and her sister drove her to the emergency room. The dealership denied the encounter took place and said Altidor had misnamed the salesman. The bureau terms the case "resolved" because Altidor apparently didn't follow up.
"A street should be named after someone or something you look up to," says Lisa Taylor, a California woman who bought a GX 470 online from Lexus of Kendall two years ago. "This is a car dealership." Taylor contends the vehicle arrived with a broken back window. Although Lexus of Kendall took back the SUV and repaired it, Taylor says she had to fly to Pensacola to pick it up. The BBB Website currently lists Lexus of Kendall as having "an unsatisfactory record" because it did not respond to the agency about Taylor's complaint.
County Commission Chairman Martinez says he didn't know about the EEOC complaint or the unhappy customers. The last time he visited Lexus Boulevard and its namesake dealership was for the May Day grand opening. Before a small crowd of county employees, Martinez called Bean "an exemplary businessman who has shown a strong commitment to the community."
After hearing about the disputes and the messy roadway, Martinez says the county will be cleaning up Lexus Boulevard ASAP: "We put in a call to Solid Waste," he says. "I'm going to suggest that [Lexus of West Kendall] adopt the road."
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