A unique confluence of ugly events led the citizens of Miami to overwhelmingly approve the creation of a Civilian Investigative Panel in November 2001. Leaders and activists in black communities, enraged over the alarming tendency of police to shoot suspects dead even when they were in wheelchairs, had long insisted that someone other than cops should investigate cops. But it took Cuban-American outrage over beatings and questionable arrests during the April 2000 Elian Gonzalez riots to provide the critical mass needed to put the idea to a citywide vote. After that it was groups such as Brothers of the Same Mind and People United to Lead the Struggle for Equality (PULSE), along with the legal expertise of the American Civil Liberties Union, that kept the flame blazing. CIP members, when the slow-turning wheels of Miami city government finally get around to appointing them, will be able to subpoena witnesses and recommend penalties to the police department.
For its first 43 blocks, narrow little Collins Avenue is at best an inconvenient way to get around Miami Beach. At 44th Street, however, it widens to six lanes, becoming one of South Florida's premier boulevards, a show street lined with fancy and famous hotels, luxury condos, palm trees, and private yachts. This also marks the exact location where South Florida's true character is revealed, for this is where automobile-industry magnate Harvey Firestone built his magnificent Georgian Colonial mansion. Lured by the warm winter weather and the phantasmagoric hype of Miami Beach hucksters Carl Fisher and John Collins, Firestone and other American tycoons scooped up oceanfront property (Firestone's estate encompassed fourteen acres) and erected ostentatious monuments to capitalist wealth. By the Roaring Twenties this stretch of Collins Avenue boasted some of the most audacious private homes south of New York. But Miami Beach was really nothing more than a shifting sandbar, and the alluring vision of South Florida as a land of boundless opportunity under the bright subtropical sun was as illusory as the mythical landscapes that decorated crates of oranges heading to the frozen north. So it was fitting that Harvey Firestone's dream home should be demolished to make way, in 1954, for another dreamscape, the Fontainebleau hotel. Thus began another chapter in the life of this section of Collins Avenue. As the mansions went down, the fantastical hotels went up, followed by the towering condominiums that isolated bay from ocean and man from nature. From inhospitable, mosquito-infested mangroves to concrete canyons in the bat of an eye. It's magic. It's what Miami is all about. And it's all there in this nine-block-long postcard.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®