As America hurtles toward a second scoop of recession and you struggle to make ends meet, you should know this: Some of this nation's wealthiest citizens are squabbling over a minute stretch of asphalt.
On a recent weekday, Riptide traversed where few plebeians without landscaping licenses have gone before: Indian Creek Village. The millionaires' island just west of Surfside is closed to the public. But the village's attorney wanted us to see something firsthand.
"Doesn't this road look like shit?" Stephen Helfman asked us.
Yes, the island's thoroughfare sort of did. It was full of fissures, sinkholes, and puddles. We wanted to brave the road with a brimming cup of hot coffee to truly gauge its bumps, but the only way we were getting on the island was in Helfman's plush BMW SUV, which we figured would ride smoothly in Sarajevo. So instead, we counted the ratio of pavement cracks to workers manicuring hedges. The final count was three to one. This is very troubling indeed.
The crappy road has its roots in a decades-old rift.
The 30-odd millionaire residents of Indian Creek Village -- home to Norman Braman and Don Shula -- are locked in jihad with the Indian Creek Country Club, the equally secretive golf-and-mint-juleps society plunked down in the middle of the land mass.
Both sects seem determined to wring the other's neck. There are currently three ongoing lawsuits. All involve whether the town or the club should pay the bulk of costs for the island's perpetually bored, seafaring police force.
The road is owned by the club, which, as Helfman characterizes it, keeps it in shabby shape as an extended middle finger to villagers. When the residents volunteered to pay for the repairs -- and drew up spiffy plans that include a walkway so that Braman can pedal a weird space-age bike around -- the club threatened to sue the moment backhoe hit pavement.
The club's attorney-- and former mayor of Miami Beach-- Neisen Kasden claimed in a statement that "upgrading of the road is being held up by the village council, not the club." In fact, Kasden claims the club has pledged $450,000 to the renovation-- if only the village will accept a settlement agreement involving their other disputes.
We phoned Old Man Shula, who is both a villager and a member of the club, but got his maid -- and some much-needed levity -- instead.
Asked what she thought of the road's condition, she said with a chuckle: "I'm not paying keen attention."
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