Politics: Down In The Park With A Friend Called Five

By Jeffrey Bradley

South of Filth Residents continue to take comfort in limiting activities in their park. In fact, many battle-weary South of Fifth Neighborhood Association (SOFNA) members passed on yet another opportunity to vent during last week’s Breakfast with the Mayor.

This bit of intimacy attracted some four dozen diehards to the second floor veranda overlooking Government Cut. But not even a Smith and Wollensky breakfast (served by a waitstaff of stealthy step) could rouse the surfeited foot-soldiers still relishing their latest victory—rallying the troops and filling the halls with scores of residents after sounding the tocsin for that April 14 commission meeting, we mean. As noted, they’d swirled to the rostrum in waves, like dive-bombers, to lament the trash, people and excess lapping the shores of now world-popular South Pointe. Popular, sure—because, as they’ll be glad to tell you, of those outrageous property taxes they pay. That frenzy, over the swelling strains of the Cork Friedman video, was equaled or surpassed by the storm of campaign rhetoric and wacky ideas that rolled down from the dais. Still, a victory they claimed nonetheless.

Back of the hubbub, basic enforcement of existing quality of life laws apparently requires more resources than City Hall can muster. To Commissioner Weithorn’s suggestion that mobile “camera bots” be put on beach patrol to record what happens, and by whom, Commissioner Gongora observed that “I might have to give up my Speedo”. Well! But this didn’t prevent SOFNA from crowing in a recent email blast about the power they wield over elected officialdom: “…The Commission voted unanimously not to hold public or private events at South Pointe Park and not to even consider the question again until the Park is restored to its original and pristine condition”. The only exception the SOFNistas agreed to was—perhaps—allowing school children on field trips to use limited parts of the park… by day only, please. Even this concession was wrested after the realization that the area is, indeed, a public Miami-Dade County park. However, even that will be up for grabs as use of the park heads yet again for another committee meeting, this time the Neighborhoods/Community Affairs Committee on Tuesday, April 27, 2010.

Yet SOFNA’s apparent victory to “gate” their community flies in the face of what most people consider to be the essence of South Beach: a celebrated destination open to everyone and hosting as many exciting events as possible, even at night, to generate that precious lifeblood, buzz and money.

Instead, the rarified residents atop the gleaming towers lining South Pointe abide by the notion that the park is a flawed, unsafe eyesore. It’s their contention that use should be curtailed “until the park is restored to its original and pristine condition.” Which was when, exactly?

But it does boil things down to three major issues: the playground, the water park, and the turf.

And the residents have a point. One, the playground is unsafe. Instead of just buying kiddie equipment, the park’s “world class” designers custom built the pastel playset that opened with predictably disastrous results. While pretty, their stuff just didn’t hold up. So there it sits, roped off, while the rest of the rubbermat tot area stays open.

Two, the water features are flawed.  A series of water guns line the entrance on Washington Avenue, and the Tot Lot has sprinklers, sprays and showers. During planning and approval, much discussion focused on how the wind would affect these cannons, and if bums would turn it all into an artsy encampment. (Judging by the number of crackheads who walk around carrying on extremely important conversations with somebody, “homelessness” must be another law the police choose not to enforce). In the event, the County waded in to this “Public Swimming Pools” issue to demand certain standards. Instead, surprise!, City Hall turned them off.

And three, the grass is an eyesore—if you’re a bird. Growing the stuff here has always been contentious, as the City Manager memorialized in vivid detail in Letter To Commission 228-2009 September 1. But it is hard to grow, truly; few persons maintain their own lawns because it’s expensive, time-consuming work, and results can be ratty. Whatever the resolution is, just replacing it ain’t one. The proof’s in the pudding; they’ve already got grass that, you know, failed. We say, spray paint it all green so it looks good from the penthouse until you can find something better.

<Sigh> It’s evident that this and other fearsome battles will rage—with finger-pointing and blame aplenty—until peace descends. Lawsuits will be filed, briefs entered and motions granted as endless flaws are uncovered that desperately need litigation. (With obviously enough there to keep any ambulance chaser worth his shenanigans up at night with excitement). All will no doubt take years to resolve, so we’re guessing the aim is to hold the park hostage in a misguided attempt to promote law and order in direct response to the hysteria-driven politics.

What’s next, residents complaining that the huge lit-up Shhh! sign is too loud?

The Now For Something Completely Different Department

We were wrong! (There’s an admission you won’t see often, so savor it.) Actually, we were technically just a little off: We wrote that the Transportation & Committee Meeting featuring the Baylink discussion had already occurred. It hadn’t. That’s coming up May 12. Here are the details: On behalf of Alan Fishman, Vice-Chair of the City of Miami Beach Transportation and Parking Committee, we are extending an invitation to you to attend the May 10, 2010 committee meeting where a discussion on Baylink will take place. The meeting is scheduled for 3:30pm and will be held at City Hall – 1700 Convention Center Drive, City Manager’s Office (4 Floor) – Large Conference Room.

See you there.

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