Museum Park Trial Balloon Bursts

The Livan Is Easy
Filed Under: News

Livan Hernandez pays rent. It just takes him nearly four years.

Back in January of 2003 the former Marlins pitcher (now making $8 million a year with the Arizona Diamondbacks) displayed some behavior that was very unbecoming a Major League Baseball player. At the time he was renting space for an auto parts accessories business in Miami. He got into a dispute with his landlord, then-65-year-old Francisco Martinez-Celeiro, about the condition of the building. Martinez-Celeiro is a former movie star in Spain (screen name: George Martin) and is now a substantial landowner (he is nicknamed "the Baron of Biscayne" and — disclaimer — owns the Miami New Times building). He was not intimidated by the six-foot-two, 245-pound World Series MVP.

According to Hernandez's deposition filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, Martinez-Celeiro told him, "If I had not been a baseball player in Cuban baseball, I would be just any other Cuban black, cutting cane in Cuba." At that point Hernandez admits that he took a golf club out of his car and said, "I am going to show you how cane is cut in Cuba."

Although he denies actually swinging the club at Martinez-Celeiro, Hernandez was nonetheless arrested and charged with two felony counts: aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and battery on an elderly person. He ducked the charges by agreeing to a plea deal that had him donate $500 to charity, perform 50 hours of community service, and attend an anger management class.

Unsatisfied, Hernandez decided to get back at Martinez-Celeiro another way: by not paying rent. After ignoring three court orders compelling him to pay, sending one bounced check, and roaming the Earth as it made three-and-three-quarters trips around the sun, Livan finally settled up. Late last year the parties settled, and Hernandez paid $60,000 for three months' back rent and another $60,000 to Martinez's attorney. This time, the checks went through. Martinez-Celeiro, however, is still seeking more cash in a civil action for assault and battery. That case is pending. A hearing is scheduled for next week. — Deirdra Funcheon

Museum Park Trial Balloon Bursts
Filed Under: Culture

After months of closed-door negotiations and planning for Museum Park (a.k.a. Bicentennial Park), the city held a public meeting this past Wednesday to show preliminary plans and take comments. More than 100 people jammed into a meeting room at the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts, with more spilling out to the hallway.

Architects and designers with Cooper, Robertson dreamed aloud of a heavily landscaped waterfront park complete with terraced gardens, "rain curtains," waterfalls, man-made islands, and "floating walkways;" a home for the Miami Art Museum and the Miami Museum of Science; Miami's ticket to becoming a "great international city."

Then the balloon popped.

Why so many nonnative species, one guy asked. Why such an apparent lack of hurricane planning? "It feels a little over-programmed," one man said of the multiple garden areas. The overarching concern, however, was open space. The two museums would occupy too large a concrete footprint in one of this city's last remaining open spaces, several people said.

Judy Sandoval, a member of the citizens' group Neighborhoods United, lit into the planners, museum directors, and the mayor. "The public has been hoodwinked," she said, practically shaking. "This is the most formal and contrived [design] that I've ever seen in my life."

What's more, Sandoval said, the whole thing ignores the will of the people who, Neighborhoods United claims, expressed a desire for smaller buildings and more open space in a 2004 charette.

Groundbreaking is set for early 2008, while planners hope to have the park and museums operational by 2011. — Rob Jordan

Flower Power
Filed Under: Flotsam

If you've been arrested recently, you might have noticed the City of Miami Police Department is looking a lot nicer these days. Mary Brown, a veteran criminal intelligence analyst in the special investigations section, took it upon herself to plant dozens of red and white impatiens in the concrete planter just outside the headquarters' entrance downtown.

Over the course of several weekends, Brown, an avid gardener, and her sixteen-year-old granddaughter, Ariel Brown, weeded out the planter, loaded it with fresh soil and fertilizer, and then let the flowers do their thing.

The planter had, for at least a year, held only a withered, dead little tree. Not only was it ugly, but it left seriously bad karma when it was removed. One evening, on his way out of work, police spokesman Det. Delrish Moss encountered a group of about ten old Cuban women around the planter. "They said that tree brought good fortune and spiritual wealth," Moss said recently. The tree's demise was bad news. "They said that could possibly mean a plague on our house." The women insisted Moss pray with them. He obliged, then went on his way.

Interestingly Moss said it wasn't the first time he had been asked to pray for police headquarters. A few years ago a group of black church women asked for access to the building's roof so they could pray over the department. "People are praying for us," Moss said with a relieved laugh.

Brown is already thinking ahead to May, when the impatiens will likely die out. She's considering what to replace them with for the summer. "This will probably be my project until I retire," she said. — Rob Jordan

Wackenhut gets whacked

In January County Manager George Burgess miraculously recommended that the security firm Wackenhut receive a general service contract worth $4.9 million a year, for the next seven years, to guard several government sites. The deal seemed set to pass, in spite of Miami-Dade County's pending lawsuit alleging fraud by the company, and a county audit of Wackenhut that has been promised, and delayed, for nine months.

But at a recent Budget and Finance Committeee hearing, County Commissioner Rebecca Sosa spoke up, asking why any company under investigation would be awarded such a meaty contract.

"Any time that I see a message from the inspector general, I try to pay attention," she told New Times. With Sosa's prodding the commission awarded contracts to Alanis Security and Delad — two companies that are not being investigated for fraud.

Cathy Jackson, the head of the county's Audit and Management Department, did not return two phone calls for comment. The release date for the audit remains a mystery. — Calvin Godfrey

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Deirdra Funcheon
Calvin Godfrey
Rob Jordan
Contact: Rob Jordan