When heading up the steep, narrow staircase to the second-floor South Florida Boxing Gym on Washington Avenue, a stale odor wafts into your nostrils. It's that unmistakable smell of sweat, which, though rank to some, is actually the first sign of a good gym. It means members are not busy admiring themselves in the mirror, or reading a gossip rag while "running" on the treadmill. It means hearts are pounding, pulses are racing, and people are working out. Since opening the gym almost nine years ago, owner Trevor Cedar has cultivated a following of men and women alike by offering a host of classes — all taught by professionals — designed to suit any age and ability, including technical boxing classes, muay thai kickboxing, and jiu-jitsu. Each participant gets to pound out aggressions on his own bag, and if that's not enough, don a mouthguard and step into the full-size boxing ring for a sparring class. If this place doesn't get you into fighting form, nothing will.
Some said the trees were ugly. Others said they were a danger to motorists when their fanlike fronds dropped on the busy street. And the Florida Department of Transportation said Biscayne would be better lined with oak trees. Oaks! In tropical Miami! In 2006 the New York Times wrote about the planned uprooting of the palms, and indeed the evil, aesthetically challenged state agency did rip out some trees near NE 69th Street. Then, thanks to a group of Eastside residents and Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, an agreement was reached in February: The state replanted palms and other trees between NE 37th and 87th streets. May Biscayne be royal once again.
It took him two years and an exhausting legal battle with the county commission and its benefactors, but Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez succeeded in assuming more power over county government. Now Miami-Dade joins major metropolitan areas such as New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, where one individual is accountable for mismanagement, theft, and separating taxpayers from their well-earned dollars. In other words, if another scandal breaks out at the airport, seaport, housing agency, or building department, Miami-Dade citizens can blame Alvarez. And if he doesn't clean things up, we can vote him out. Now if we could only set term limits on the commissioners, get rid of single-member districts, and impose lobbyist reforms. Then maybe Miami-Dade could finally begin to focus on becoming the international gateway to the future.
Crandon Park Tennis Center
Photo by Richard Cavalleri / Shutterstock.com
Ensconced in the foliage of Crandon Park, the tennis center is not only the most aesthetically pleasing place to play, but also offers diverse surfaces. The seventeen hard courts, seven of which are equipped with lights for nighttime playing, are the very courts used in tournament play when the Sony Ericsson Open (formerly the NASDAQ-100, and before that the Lipton) comes around every spring. The park is closed from the first week in March to the third week in April to prepare for competition between the sport's top 96 players, but for the rest of the year the not-so-skilled can play on them for $3 per person, per hour ($5 at night). For those who prefer clay, Crandon has two courts surfaced with red and four with green. And if your favorite movie is The Queen and you watch Wimbledon on television each year — while eating strawberries and cream and wearing absurd flowery hats — the center has two grass courts specifically designated for you and your Anglophile friends. (Grass courts are $10 per person, per hour; a stadium court costs $12 per person, per hour.)
Crandon Golf at Key Biscayne
Courtesy of Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department
A basket of balls at this public course's driving range doesn't cost any more than one at the other county-run courses, but Crandon Golf at Key Biscayne might as well be another planet. Besides a gorgeous tropical setting teeming with bird life, there is a cafe that serves filet mignon (for special events) and coconut shrimp and a locker room with tile mosaic floors. The driving rangeç It's perfect, ringed with pine trees and palms. Flags on raised faux greens are icing on the cake. Buckets go for $6.26 (60 balls) or $3.26 (30).
We are a polarized bunch here in Miami. The Cubans hate Castro, the Venezuelans hate Chavez, Haitians hate a lot of their leaders, the city people hate the beach people, and the beach people don't even bother with the hot mess that is downtown Miami. But for one brief, shining moment back in November 2006, we all united in our hatred of one man: U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado. He became the object of our ire after he had the audacity to compare our city to a Third-World country during an interview with the rabidly conservative online magazine www.worldnetdaily.com. His quote about Miami reverberated from the colada windows in Little Havana to the fried goat joints in Little Haiti to the martini bars of South Beach. "Look at what has happened in Miami," Tancredo whined. "It has become a Third-World country. You just pick it up and take it and move it someplace. You would never know you're in the United States of America. You would certainly say you're in a Third-World country." Well, Tom, Miami is our Third-World country. And we're proud of it. So let's send a message to Tom, in our respective, awesome three languages:(Spanish) "Vete pa'l carajo, Tom!"(Kreyol) "Get maman ou, Tom!"(English) "Fuck you, Tom!"
Bobby banks in an eighteen-foot jumper over J-Rod's outstretched hand. "You can't stop me!" Bobby taunts. The nineteen-year-olds have been going at it, one-on-one, for the past 35 minutes on the asphalt court closest to the train tracks. They have come out here every other day, around the same time, 4:30 p.m., playing with the same beat-up basketball with pieces of leather torn off its hide, for the past two years. "Out here, your ass is mine, chico!" Bobby razzes. They aren't the only playground ballers who make playing at Eaton Park, right across from the Lemon City library on 61st Street and NE Fourth Avenue, a ritual. Young men from all over Little Haiti and the surrounding area come here to polish their ball-handling and shooting skills. Gray clouds fill the sky, casting a cool shadow over Eaton Park — a welcome relief for the eight teenage boys playing a half-court game on the second court. A train horn wails in the distance. The ground underneath the basket begins to rumble. Soon a freight locomotive bound for the Hialeah rail yard roars by. The boys sitting on top of a fallen wood light pole stare as the immense diesel-power steel serpent goes past. Even the teens showing off their hops stop their match. Then a homeless man wearing a brown cowboy hat and a red Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls jersey tucked into his khakis rides a bicycle around the court's perimeter. As he does this, he smiles, rings the bike's bell, and waves at everyone.
Pete Rojas had given himself this award a long time before we did. But he's a good cop, and perhaps the only officer ever to receive a gangsta rap shout-out, much less a cameo in the corresponding video. (In a 2006 song, "Get Yo Money Brisco," Opa-locka rapper Brisco lamented, "Rojas got me calculatin' every move....") In thirteen tumultuous years in Opa-locka, Rojas never lost a single hollow-point .45 round. He recalls pulling his AR-15 out of the trunk only once. People got the message quickly. He received six commendations in 2006, for rescuing a hysterical woman from of a second-story ledge and catching a pair of murderers and a knife-wielding burglar, to name just two feats. Rojas showed no fear in the hood yet treated everyone with due respect. He has since transferred to South Miami, a veritable walk in the park. No doubt he will be missed.

Best Criminal Conviction in the Past Year

John Couey

Sometimes someone commits a crime so horrible that we can't even finish reading about it in the newspaper. That's how the 2005 slaying of precious nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford affected us, even though the crime took place some six hours north of Miami in Citrus County. So when her killer, convicted sex offender John Couey, went on trial here in Miami in February (the trial was moved out of Citrus owing to all the publicity up north), we hoped our fellow Miamians would do the right thing. The panel of citizens did, by recommending the death penalty.
Oleta River State Park
While the boardwalk in South Beach boasts stunning ocean views, Key Biscayne a mammoth heart-stopping bridge, and the Venetian Causeway calm idyllic roads, Oleta Park offers joggers a little something extra: shade. Runners know that for eight months out of the year in our scorching city, doing any kind of physical activity after 9:00 a.m. without passing out from heat stroke is nearly impossible. And who wants to climb out of bed before the sun risesç For a solution, head to Oleta. For $3 for one person in a car ($5 for a car holding two to eight passengers; $1 to bike or walk in), daily from 8:00 a.m. till sundown, Florida's largest urban park (1033 acres of land and approximately 200 acres of water) offers runners a host of options that include the densely forested bike trails. If you stay in the fire lanes you can enjoy miles of road that incorporate some manmade hills and exquisite scenery. Run around the picnic area, log cabins, and along the river. But be warned: If you plan on going after a rainstorm, don't wear white. Things get pretty messy.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®