SunPost Best Of 2013-City Life

This Year, the SunPost celebrates 13 years of producing Best Of Editions. Quite a milestone in the ups and downs of print publishing. We are proud of our small team, working like crazy to put together this issue – SunPost style. What that means, to us, is the best of what we see this complex city as. Political, Social, Fun, Crazy and Chic. A melting pot of cultures and attitudes that could never be replicated or bottled.

Miami is unique and those of us who have been through the last 35 years of city living still think fondly of Barbara Capitman wandering down Ocean Drive or Nicola Siervo holding court at Bang or the Apple Store opening on Lincoln Road or Feisty Mayor Bower taking on a crowd of protesters on her own. These snapshots over the years, are what makes living in our wonderful city worthwhile. What keeps us here. This is Miami Gatsby: A little Deco, A little Rock and Roll and a lot of us.

Contributors:

Editorial: Kim Stark, Jeannette Stark, Mike Sasser, Frank Maradiaga , Mary Jo Shore, Kim Steiner and Vala Kodish.

Design & Concept: Kim Stark

CITY LIFE:

Best Powerhouse Attorneys
Greenberg Traurig
For decades, the Miami branch of the international law firm Greenberg Traurig LLP has assisted local, national and international clients in a number of fields – from land use and aviation to entertainment and liquidation. Its attorneys show a deft hand in all of their endeavors and include many who are regular figures around town, assisting all sorts of businesses adapt to a changing environment.

Best Attorneys With A Conscience
Bilzen Sumberg
Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod LLP Restructuring & Bankruptcy partner, Jason Z. Jones, was honored as “Pro Bono Bankruptcy Attorney of the Year” by the Dade County Bar Association (DCBA) & Dade Legal Aid’s “Put Something Back” pro bono program earlier this year. Mr. Jones represents debtors, trustees, secured and unsecured creditors, and creditors committees in business and personal bankruptcy cases. He also has experience representing assignors and assignees in state law assignment for the benefit of creditors proceedings.

Best Looking Attorney
Aaron Resnick
Greater Miami has helped bring the sexy back to attorneys years after LA Law limped off the air and the handsome Aaron Resnick is chief among the lookers. Soft on the eyes, sure, but also a star of his profession, Resnick’s practice is focused on business and commercial matters. He’s been recognized as a Super Lawyer and as one of the top 40 Under 40 Professionals in South Florida, and his cases have been covered by the New York Times and Forbes Magazine among others. Resnick is also deeply involved in charitable and community efforts, is the founder of the Ultra Music Festival and represents a number of professional athletes.

Best Real Estate Attorney Duo
Lucia Dougherty and Alfredo Gonzalez,
Greenberg Traurig
Land-use attorneys get bad names. Sure a lot of the lesser ones in the (cough) honored profession are just shills for developers with no interest in anything but profit. Others, though, are more interested in establishing long-term relationships with municipalities. That’s the case with Lucia, a crackerjack attorney on good terms with most elected officials in Miami-Dade County. Equally committed to her clients and to the idea of appropriate land-use and environmental management, Lucia is a smart, savvy representative of the very best of her profession.
As further evidence that not all land use attorneys are blood-sucking exploiters of the public, witness the affable Gonzalez. As another Greenberg-Traurig attorney, Gonzalez walks the line between developers and the best interest of the public with aplomb. Alfredo learned his way around South Florida politics as Chief of Policy for Miami-Dade County Commissioner, Bruno A. Barreiro — and it shows.

Best Miami Beach Luxury Realtor
Oliver Davis
Born and raised in affluent Potomac Maryland, Oliver developed an interest in luxury real estate at an early age. Beginning his career in Hotel Management he began buying and selling properties until he finally made the full transition into real estate sales. Bringing together his customer service skills developed in the hotel industry and his understanding of real estate from both the buying and selling side, Oliver opened his real estate sales business in 2003. Oliver spent six successful years as a top producer with EWM Realtors, the local affiliate to Christie’s International Real Estate. Stemming from a desire to have more control of his business and ability to better satisfy his customers, Oliver became enticed by the forward-thinking and technology-driven concepts offered by Keller Williams Realty, currently the second largest real estate company in the United States. With its agent-focused philosophy, Keller Williams consistently tops the sales charts and has successfully created a strong presence in the competitive Miami real estate market and Davis is a key member of that powerful team.

Best Connection To South American Real Estate Buyers
Crealova International Realty
In today’s real estate market, foreign buyers are as important – arguably  more important in some cases – than domestic buyers, and with Europe’s economy stagnant, the focus on South America is essential. Few companies are as adept at working with foreign buyers as Crealova International Realty. Multi-lingual agents specialize in assisting foreign buyers access the market and make the right decisions about their investments. The result is an international reputation for specializing in buyers who want to focus on the vibrant South Florida market.

Best Waterfront Property Specialist
Denise Rubin
Made famous by the her larger than life billboard in Aventura, Denise Rubin, the femme fatale of real estate, is a real estate powerhouse known for her business savvy, marketing innovation and exceptional customer service. The secret to Rubin’s success is her personal drive for excellence in all she does. Winner of 22 Best Awards from the Builders Association of Florida and a five times winner of Best Real Estate Professional, Rubin handles some of the biggest, luxury, waterfront real estate listings through her office. Her client list reads like a celebrity who’s who and includes legends like Pete Rose, Rony Seikaly, Deion Sanders, Donald Trump, Jon Secada and  Romero Britto to name a few. 19056 N E 29th Ave., Aventura. 305-932-9326 or
deniserubingroup.com

Best Looking Realtor/Best Personalized Service In Real Estate
Howard Chase
Winners in two categories are rare and special things, but Howard Chase and his Howard Chase Real Estate warrant recognition for these distantly-related awards. Chase is deeply aware of the nuances of the local real estate market and he brings that knowledge to the table when tailoring personalized services for both buyers and sellers. He understands the effects of the recent economic downturn and works carefully and successfully with distressed sellers. A specialist in luxury condominiums, Chase offers innovative and practical marketing and promotional plans for sellers and works with buyers from all over the world looking to buy in numerous Greater Miami and the Beaches neighborhoods. All the personalized service is particularly welcomed when offered by Chase, a handsome a specimen as the real estate sector has to offer in South Florida.

Best Luxury Realtor, North
Barbara Savalli
With 12 years of experience in the market, Barbara Savalli is among the top one percent of real estate agents in the country, which has earned her the trust and faith of buyers and sellers. Savalli specializes in waterfront homes and condominiums in Fort Lauderdale, Aventura, Bal Harbour and Sunny Isles Beach as well as homes and condos off the water. Her knowledge and vaunted work ethic results in stress free experiences for her clients – something highly valued in today’s market.

Best Celeb Realtors
The Jills
Jill Hertzberg and Jill Eber, whose team the Jills is the highest-grossing in Coldwell Banker’s history, continue to rack up huge sales, notable accolades and further boons to their already-stellar reputation. The Jills parlay market savvy, mercurial energy and personal charisma to serve all of their clients with the same aplomb that they do their many celebrity clients.

Best REO Specialist
Arnowitz & Associates
For the uninitiated, Real Estate Owned properties are those owned by a lender – a bank or mortgage-backing institution, primarily. Dealing with such properties is a particular area of expertise and, of course, in recent years, it has been a growing sector of the industry. Arnowitz & Associated is a boutique-luxury firm specializing in discreet buyer and seller representation. They are completely focused on producing successful transactions, utilizing real-time market data and principled, full-disclosure. They support their clients in every facet of the transaction and they work closely with all the parties involved — buyer, seller, appraiser, inspector, closing agent, lawyer and bank — to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.

Best Local Charitable Individual
Michael Capponi
Luxury construction and design and spectacular events might be the things that Michael Capponi has become best-known to many locals for over the past two decades, and for good reason – his success in luxury development and organizing spectacular events alone could have earned him numerous entries in this or any Best of the Beaches. But Capponi’s commitment to humanitarian efforts is also notable. His Haiti Empowerment Mission is a non-profit committed to improving education, job skills and employment for Haitians and he has helped in emergency disaster relief in Haiti and in the wake of national disasters in the U.S. A key player in the development of South Beach’s international reputation, Capponi firmly believes in giving back and supporting his community – and beyond.

Best Green Organization
ECOMB
Miami Beach’s own ECOMB was but a minor player when it launched years ago, but as Green became the New Black, the estimable environmental group has grown its brand and exposure. Now one of the forefront of the environmentally-conscious community in Miami Beach, ECOMB is usually front-and-center in events ranging from beach cleanups to electronics recycling and much more.

Best Innovative Businessman
Matt McKenna, Red Fish Media
Taking full advantage of the recent stages of the digital revolution, Red Fish Media designs and provides mobile marketing and advertising campaigns, support services and management of mobile programs, customizable widgets, content management and data analysis among other services. A one-stop digital mobile service provider, Red Fish Media is a significant presence in the industry and evidence that innovation and customer service lead to success.

Best Gym
Crunch
In Miami Beach, this is a competitive category and to be fair, it would be easy to break one this one category down into several. After all, not everyone wants the same gym environment and experience and not every gym offers the same atmosphere. Crunch takes the award for having becoming a community institution and a vibrant heart of the health-conscious in Miami Beach. It’s real – as far as anything in South Beach is – and welcoming to guests of all stripes. 1259 Washington Ave., Miami Beach.

Best Public Sculptures
Noguchi Sculptures at Bayfront Park
It wasn’t that long ago that Greater Miami and the Beaches started branding itself as a destination for the arts, and somewhere along the line, reality started moving closer to the marketing myth. Like most things in South Florida, come to think of it. While spectacular events like Art Basel Miami Beach focus the eyes of the art world on our humble town, museums countywide collectively still are not exactly making New York or Paris envious. But many aspects of the South Florida arts scene are remarkable and the Noguchi Sculptures at Bayfront Park bring a serious note of sophistication to a scene still recovering from Miami Vice pastels in the minds of many. 301 Biscayne Blvd., Miami

Best Golf Course
Indian Creek Country Club
Tiny Indian Creek might be a mystery to those of us on the outside, but its golf course is well-known to the nine-holes-after-yachting crowd from all around the U.S. A classic design and fast elevated greens make for a challenge, while impeccable upkeep and staff maintain a relaxing upscale environment. Barring an apocalyptic infestation of gophers or, even more tragic, a membership for Chevy Chase, golfing at Indian Creek should remain a distinct pleasure – until South Florida slides under the surf in a few months.
55 Indian Creek Island Rd., Indian Creek Village

Best Charitable Couple
Dr. Eugene and Suzie Sayfie
In another category that could easily be broken down for numerous award recipients, Dr. Eugene and Suzie Sayfie claim the solo figurative trophy here for the length of their involvement and charitable support in the community and because of the scope of their efforts. Generous to a fault, passionate about their efforts and personally elegant, Dr. Eugene and Suzie Sayfie represent the best of the giving community in South Florida.

Best Charity Fund-raiser
Pat Wallace
Whether it’s a fabulous event for the Jackson Memorial Foundation, for the Greater Miami Humane Society or for any number of other organizations and efforts, fundraising events hosted by Pat Wallace at the family’s Halcyon Park estate in Coral Gables are always the talk of the town. A success in the business world earlier in her career, Pat has become the region’s foremost fundraiser through personal charisma, true passion and the ability to attract huge attendance – and open check books – to her spectacular fundraising events.

Best Looking Architect
With Best Looking Projects, Kobi Karp
In television from the 1950s and ‘60s, architects were frequently portrayed in a similar fashion as accountants. As in, not exactly sexy, personally and professionally. Fast-forward a few decades and awareness of architecture is at an arguable all-time high in the country and particularly, in Miami-Dade where it has been key to the tourism industry and the driving force in the South Beach renaissance. Few local architects have contributed to regional urbanism with the beauty and vision as has the remarkable Kobi Karp. A herculean professional, Karp’s vision has been stamped on South Florida at every level of architecture and design. Sure, the fact that the humble genius is dreamy doesn’t hurt his case either…

Best Business Marketing
Jason Loeb, Sudsies
SunPost’s long institutional memory recalls well when Jason Loeb brought his Sudsies brand of dry cleaners to South Florida. It doesn’t seem that long ago at all, which is notable considering just what an amazing success story Loeb has to tell. From one initial location on the Beach, Sudsies has not only grown to be a household names in the Eastern Corridor, but also, Loeb himself is everywhere, deeply involved in the local business and civic life in the city he clearly loves. Loeb’s story is a classic American success story. Well, for those who remember back when business success was considered a virtue. SunPost indeed does, and recognizes what Loeb has accomplished.

Best Politician
Representative David Richardson
The fresh-faced Richardson has only been in office briefly, but the openly-gay state rep. from Miami Beach has already energized not just the LGBT community but also many residents who were craving to see someone new on the political scene – as opposed to the usual cast of characters shuffling up, down or across the elected chart. He’s a progressive in the best possible, not creepy fascist, way – forward-thinking and open minded. Important to those familiar with local politics too is that Richardson seems beholden to no one and not terribly interested in the gamesmanship that makes up most local politicians’ entire careers.

Best New Public Policy
Miami Beach’s Tax Equity Program
This new law enacted by the Miami Beach City Commission bridges the financial gap for employees between same-sex and heterosexual couples as a result of the, uh, tiered nature of marriage under the law today. As a result, employees who have registered their partnership will receive compensation for the lack of federal and state benefits afforded to other couples. Of course, with DOMA struck down by the Supreme Court, Washington D.C. is in the midst of helping level that playing field too. This policy came first, though, and is the first to provide dollar-for-dollar compensations in the State of Florida. Championed by Commissioner Michael Gongora, this represents what local government can do best.

Best Political Gossip
Jorge Gonzalez
Although Gonzalez was forced out as city manager, hardly a day goes by that his name is not conjured up within the Miami Beach beltway. Among the many: Gonzalez is planning a commission run; Gonzalez is being brought in as a consultant or advisor on the convention center scheme; Gonzalez is coming back in another city staff position. And that’s just from the past three weeks. Perhaps it was the length of his tenure or perhaps it’s because city commissioners are simply less interesting than the former top city administrator. But for whatever reason, for a City that seemed to want to push Gonzalez aside, some in it spend a lot of time summoning up Jorge’s name.

Best Political Rumor
Most Expensive Election
Although ambiguous, for months rumors have been circulating that this year’s Miami Beach election will be the most expensive in history as a result of Political Action Committees stuffed with developer money (and largely untraceable). It should make for an interesting show…

Best Misguided Politician
Mayor Matti Bower
No, this isn’t a criticism of any particular policy or vote made by the reigning Miami Beach mayor. Nor is it a personal criticism of the affable Bower. Consider this award a sympathetic one. After years of striving for the Miami Beach City Commission, after then serving on that commission and then serving as mayor, Bower’s decision to run for a seat back on the city commission in 2013 is eyebrow-raising. Who would want to go from the cushy center seat on the dais to one of the wings? What, do only commissioners who are in office when the Miami Beach Convention Center project is done get naming rights to a water fountain? Madame Mayor, it just doesn’t seem like it would be much fun to opt for a sort-of demotion. You have plenty of accomplishments – no need to start arming foreign rebels with six-shooters to try to build a legacy. Plus, it’s only a matter of time until things simmering now boil lover (what was that scope of corruption in the administration again? Those union contracts bankrupting the city yet?), at which point it won’t be much fun for anyone. Maybe riding off into that sunset wasn’t such a bad thought after all.

Best Dog Hangout
The Dog Bar
South Beach’s The Dog Bar bills itself as Miami’s original pet boutique and they might have some truth in branding over on Jefferson Avenue. When The Dog Bar first opened years ago, most communities didn’t even have bark parks, much less a handy little retail-and-service respite site such as The Dog Bar, where one can take his or her precious four-legged child in for snacks, treats, training and treatments. Today, The Dog Bar has become an integral part of the community of dog owners citywide – and demonstrates the success of a very clever and targeted business plan.

Best All Ages Hangout
North Shore Open Space Park
Our city’s most recognizable beaches worldwide are certainly those in South Beach along Ocean Drive. Millions of NFL fans are even led to believe that Joe Robbie Stadium, err, Dolphins Stadium, err, Solyndra Green Energy Stadium – whatever – is a stone’s throw from Ocean Drive. Sure, a fabulous fantasy for Miami Beach’s predatory tow companies, but a fantasy none-the-less. Far less glamorous is North Beach’s North Shore Open Space Park, the expansive tree-lined beach and park that would be the outdoor focal point of any community were it not for an attraction like the more adult-oriented beaches in points south. Family-friendly with plenty of room for activities, this beautiful site is perfect for families with members of all ages.

Best Charity
The Humane Society
Charities today provide support for such a huge array of recipient organizations and causes that it can be challenging for some to find those that they can really relate to. Given recent findings about the failure of major national and international charities to fund anything but their own staffs and officers, it makes the environment harder to navigate for those committed to successful charitable giving. And given that if one donates to something like the Tea Party Christians For the Constitution and a Strong Israel, he or she is likely to be rounded up and shot by armed IRS agents, it can be a little scary out there too! But who could argue with the preservation of puppies, kitties and other of man’s best friends. Well, besides the government that recently stamped approval for the processing of horses for food. Locally, though, people are more sentimental about animals than the Important People in D.C. So what better cause than the Humane Society? The beloved institution is fiscally sound, spends money on things it supporters wants it to, and does a better job in South Florida than in many other communities around the country. The Humane Society is an example of a charitable cause with purpose and success – but also with ongoing need.

Best Local Charitable Support Organization
Lotus House
The Lotus House is a unique resource center and residential facility serving homeless women and infants in the heart of the historic African American district of Overtown, Miami, an area suffering from extreme poverty in one of the poorest large cities in the United States. Lotus House serves women who are homeless, whether due to domestic violence, untreated medical or mental illness, disability or economic reasons. The facility houses over 100 women and children at a time and includes a special maternity program for women who are homeless and pregnant and their infants.
In addition to free housing for up to a year, three meals a day, clothing, and other basic human services, Lotus House offers comprehensive support services such as individual and group counseling, computer classes, job training and placement, medical and mental health services, and access to a wide range of community resources. Educational workshops and a host of enrichment activities, including art, creative writing, yoga, dance, and crafts, offer alternative paths to healing, self exploration, growth and creative expression. Pre-natal care, birthing and parenting classes, and infant medical care and screening are also arranged for pregnant women and infants, along with needed maternity and infant supplies and day care assistance. 217 NW 15th St., Miami, FL 33136. 305-576-4780 or lotushouseshelter.org

Best New Social Service Provider
Joy’s House
Joy’s House is a beautiful, upscale 4 bedroom / 3 bathroom home dedicated to bridging the gap from early recovery to independent living and a sober house for women in South Florida. Located on 9/10 of an acre in the heart of North Miami Florida, Joy’s House is limited to only 10 women for their comfort. Joy’s House strives to achieve a close, family feeling where a small, intimate group of women will be there for one another. An atmosphere of mutual support and accountability allow an opportunity for the healing process to begin. Joy’s House is based on 12-step principles is located near five different 12-step meeting rooms. Attending a 12 step meeting daily is required in the first three months (90 meetings in 90 days). Transitions, Holistics & The Village are among the treatment centers conveniently located near Joy’s House; a plus for women attending outpatient therapy.

Best Fundraising Awareness Campaign
By and About Women (Lotus House)
As part of a special public awareness and fundraising campaign, the Lotus House Endowment Fund has created a one-of-a-kind, limited edition, portfolio of art and poetry, entitled By and About Women, which is the collaborative work of women artists from around the world and the creative writing group of the Lotus House. Proceeds from the sale of the portfolio will be used to help build the endowment fund to ensure that the shelter will serve as a resource for generations of women and infants to come.
Touching, soulful and beautiful, the By and About Women portfolio resonates deeply with the concept and cause underlying the Lotus House, and in so many ways gives voice to the dreams and aspirations of all women to be safe, free and truly who they were meant to be. In both, we transform the isolation of poverty and homelessness into a message of hope, social inclusion and heightened awareness of what each of us can do to make a difference. Contributing artists include: Peggy Nolan, Helen Levitt, Mary Ellen Mark, Anastasia Khoroshilova, Carrie Mae Weems, Alessandra Sanguinetti, Brenda Ann Kenneally, Jackie Nickerson, Justine Kurland and Natasha Duwin. By and About Women is a project of the Lotus Endowment Fund, Inc., sponsored by Sotheby’s and Martin Z. Margulies. To purchase go here.

Best Political Blog
Watchdog Report
Dan Ricker’s comprehensive political blog isn’t as sexy as some others and it rarely features the things that drive other political blogs in South Florida: failed journalists chasing pols to break stories to 100 friends who wish the blog was about food anyway, wealthy white leftists ranting about wealthy white people who rant and hilarious self-importance. Instead the Watchdog Report offers a ton of information and commentary that is drier – but considerably more relevant – than what is offered by most other political blogs.

Best Local Blog
Belle Isle Blog
This relatively small blog manned by a handful of residents of a residential building offers a formula for how everyday residents can affect change through technology without wading into the murk of politics. The blog focuses on city works projects in their neighborhood and the blog and its bloggers have successfully held the city’s feet to the fire, advocated for oversight, responsibility and change – and even improved transportation for residents. The Belle Isle Bloggers are a benefit to their neighbors, to the overall community and to those who want to get involved and improve their neighborhood without enduring the soul-selling and retching associated with direct political involvement.

Best Power Couple
Alan & Diane Lieberman
Power couples come from all parts of society and in all professional, civic and social fields, but it’s hard to argue, given the importance of real estate and development in the city, that Alan and Diane Lieberman aren’t one power couple to watch. From loft projects to boutique hotels to fabulous homes favored by celebrities, the Lieberman duo has a stylish hand in all aspects of real estate and development and their imprint indelibly on Miami Beach. When you take into consideration the rising star of family scion Nathan Lieberman as well, it’s more of a power household these days.

Best Quote
“Why are we selling our quality of life so that a handful of people can make an enormous amount of money?”Commissioner Jonah Wolfson
One would think that in a political environment where deep thought is defined as using all of one’s allotted characters in a Twitter feed that local affairs would be dominated by compelling quotes from significant figures. But throw in political double-talk, obfuscation and the atrocious grammar of many leaders and it’s much more challenging. This year, SunPost opts for quotes made only in its pages or to its reporters and Wolfson earns the nod with a pithy quip that hadn’t yet fit into our coverage of the Miami Beach Convention Center scheme. Now, in a sense, it has.

Best Political Miscalculation
You have to wonder about former Miami Beach City Manager Jorge Gonzalez’s decision to reveal corruption he had discovered in city hall. No, not ethically. Ethically and presumably legally, he did the right thing. But what’s with ethics, legality and whistle-blowing in city hall? Jorge, your predecessors didn’t coast through, collect their massive fee and then happily move on to their next victim, err, municipality by going and blabbing about corruption in city hall! As long as you were in that position, how did you miss that? What, did you think the city commission would handle this in a way that might reflect poorly on them? Whether commissioners had good reason for your expedited exit or not, the timing was certainly peculiar. It could also be the best example of being tossed under the bus since Susan Rice. But, from the outside and based on decades of handicapping politisport, we can’t help but wonder if the decision to reveal the corruption didn’t hasten Gonzalez’s departure. That this is even a distinct possibility says a lot about Miami Beach politics.

Best Swimming Pool
Delano South Beach
Years ago, this was always an easy category win for The Biltmore in Coral Gables, and that goes to show one how things have changed since the astounding Delano South Beach’s rebirth. There are a dozen areas in which the Delano warrants recurring awards, but the iconic swimming pool is something that never fails to astound and delight visitors. As a centerpiece of designer Philippe Starck’s whimsical Alice in Wonderland theme, the massive pool is integral to the world-class, acclaimed look and feel of this Miami Beach landmark destination.

Best Dog Park
Flamingo Bark Park
At almost 40,000 square feet, the Flamingo Bark Park features two doggie play areas, with one of the runs designated for smaller breeds under 25 lbs. that is often rotated to help reduce the frequency of park closure due to sod replenishment. Addition amenities include double-gated entrances into the dog runs, which allow owners to unleash their pets in a holding area before releasing them into the play areas, drinking stations for peoples and their pets, biodegradable doggie bag stations, trash receptacles, and many benches with plenty of shade for the hot summer months.
13th Street and Michigan Avenue, Miami Beach

Best Bike Ride
Key Biscayne
While it’s uncomfortable to award islands to points south of the 33139 (sniff), it’s also impossible to ignore the appeal of Key Biscayne and that’s particularly true when it comes to cycling. The bicycle ride from the mainland to Key Biscayne is a popular and scenic one, but it’s just the start to exploring this lush island community, which seems to have beautiful hidden corners at every turn. Sure, Miami Beach offers similar flora and fauna, and something about Key Biscayne has always felt a little too structured. But still, one is less likely to get caught in the crossfire of a MBPD versus gangbanger shootout or beaten silly by a gay-bashing cop in Key Biscayne than South Beach.

Best Gallery
Bakehouse Art Complex
While art galleries might be the recent Big Thing in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood, the Bakehouse Art Complex (BAC) has been displaying, educating, exhibiting and generally expanding the scope of South Florida art for the past quarter-century! That’s saying something considering that Miami-Dade wasn’t even trying to market itself as an arts destination when BAC first exploded onto the scene. In addition to exhibition galleries and work studios for select artists, BAC is open to visitors and hosts numerous special events and exhibitions throughout the year.
561 NW 32 Street, Miami

Best Museum
World Erotic Art Museum
When Best of the Beaches was first launched, this was one of those no-brainer categories. Not so much because there was always one, clear winner, but rather because there simply weren’t too many museums around and most of those that were only survived because of school trips and public grants – public money that is. Well, ok, so maybe the latter hasn’t changed all that much, but if there are school trips to Miami Beach’s World Erotic Art Museum, then sign us up for remedial biology! WEAM is truly unique to our region, something said about many institutions but true of few. With thousands of artifacts and art objects, WEAM documents man’s artistic interest in the erotic from ancient times to modern day. While there are certainly items – maybe even entire galleries – that might make the more wholesome blush, it is nonetheless a fascinating and thought-provoking destination. Now if all museums in Greater Miami could make the same claim.
1205 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach

Best  Public Wi-Fi
The City of Miami Beach
It’s easy to take pot shots at the City of Miami Beach. Like a bloated, self-absorbed uncle living high off the hog while ignoring a coming fiscal cliff, Miami Beach is ripe for parody. Corruption, cronyism, wasteful spending and the occasional wilding cop driving over beachgoers – sure, this is Miami Beach. But occasionally the city gets some things right, and wiring Miami Beach with wi-fi is one such example. Available citywide outdoors and in most buildings’ lower floors, at least, the system is evidence of Miami Beach’s technical prowess and also of what can be accomplished when the city government deigns to act in the best interest of the public. Can you imagine what could be accomplished if public welfare was as important as developer profit? Here, Miami Beach proved it could be done.

Best Political Comeback
Xavier Suarez
Bet the “Pothole Mayor” sounds pretty good to a lot of people in Miami and around South Florida these days. That was the label that Suarez earned back in the 1980s when he was Miami’s highest profile politician. Afterward came the dark days when one of two things or some combination took place: either the previously level-headed X-Man went a little over the edge and has returned from a flirtation with full-on eccentricity; or else X’s previous political comeback efforts ruffled the wrong feathers and thus he was portrayed that way to keep the political class busy building stadiums for sucky sports teams and romancing casino developers instead of those DAMN potholes. Either way, though, one of the single most intelligent political figures ever to survive Miami politics is back, making waves and looking strong across the causeways. After year after year of political scandal, wasted public money and mismanagement, a politician focused on quality of life issues, neighborhood integrity and transparent government sounds really good to a lot of people. Count SunPost among those intently watching this next chapter of the mercurial Suarez’s career.

Best Beach
Naming a best beach in Miami Beach is like trying to name a single favorite Starbucks in Miami Beach – there are just so many from which to choose! (Note: Starbucks = not a Best of the Beaches sponsor.) But at least with beaches, there are ways to break down the options. Around 12th Street seems most popular with a good number of people and warrants recognition. However, families tend to prefer North Shore Open Space Park and even distant Haulover. Yet others prefer the beaches along the mid-Beach condo row, and some others prefer points south of 11th Street. They’re all winners to us. At least until one of them has a Starbucks stand pop up, then it’s all over.

Best City
Surfside
The one good thing about the allegations of corruption that circulated around Surfside’s city hall in recent times is that it took so many people by surprise. Why is that a good thing? Because can you imagine anyone being surprised when corruption rears its head in Miami-Dade County, the City of Miami, Miami Beach… or, for that matter, North Miami, North Bay Village, and on and on all around South Florida? Not so much. See, Surfside isn’t just the rare waterfront municipality that hasn’t sold out entirely to highrise development interests (see: North Bay Village), it also hasn’t sold out its residents quality of life to business interest or to glorify The State either. Surfside is what its residents have long wanted it to remain – a quiet, beautiful beachfront town. Sure they might err now and then and hire someone groomed in “public service” in places like North Miami or Miami Beach and end up with a stinker now and then, but its leadership has generally staved off every effort to change the nature of the best city in the Eastern Corridor. They’ve succeeded and so has wonderful Surfside.

Best Channeling Of Martin Shapiro
Commissioner Jonah Wolfson
Years ago, Commissioner Marty Shapiro was the city’s maverick who often found himself on the losing end of 6-1 commission votes or in position to break ties between entrenched bloc votes. Today, dashing young Commissioner Jonah Wolfson might not find himself frequently on the business end of a voting smack-down, but he nonetheless has shown a penchant for adventurism, individualism and courage to express himself regardless of the political will of his commission colleagues. That alone makes the commission better and more interesting, and hearkens back to the days Shapiro gave the political class nightmares.

Best City Official
Miami Beach City Attorney Jose Smith
The warm and engaging Jose Smith was a good city commissioner when he sat on that body in Miami Beach. Remove the inevitable politics related to holding elected office, and Smith is an even better city attorney than he was a commissioner. A steadying factor in city hall and for a typically fiery city commission, Smith’s intelligence, wisdom and tact make him an essential component in the city’s stability. Smith has demonstrated throughout his career that there some who still believe public service is a higher calling.

Best Swing Vote
Commissioner Michael Gongora
It isn’t that Gongora’s vote is regularly the deciding factor in Miami Beach City Commission votes, but rather that unlike some of his colleagues, he doesn’t telegraph his decisions in advance and shows both more interest in learning about subjects before the commission and a more open mind when considering options than some of his peers. His legitimate consideration of policy and it ramifications makes his vote key – and one watched and respected by much of the public.

Best Civic Activist
Frank Del Vecchio
At a time when so many activists have retreated to basements to blog for friends, Del Vecchio remains an activist in a delightfully old-school way – focused on policy not politics, willing and able to do considerable research, and interacting with city officials in a logical, professional way. The brilliant Del Vecchio often displays greater understanding of civic issues than the people voting and implementing policy. The city is a better place for having activists like Del Vecchio – and it needs more people like him.

Best Political Maneuvering
City Manager Jimmy Morales
Morales has probably been busy catching up to speed on how things work on Miami Beach and has been a fairly low-key figure since assuming the job earlier this year. That is, until the first week of July when he recommended to the city commission a much more scaled-down version of a vision for the redevelopment of the Miami Beach Convention Center than anyone else has put forward. There’s been no indication yet of how the commission will respond to the recommendation, but it certainly positions him well for negotiations with the eventual winning developer. Well played, Jimmy. Well played.

Best City Vendor
Standard Parking
Providing services to the City of Miami Beach can be a tricky thing. It does, after all, require one to cozy up to city officials and deal with city employees frequently. Sometimes, it even requires one to actually deliver services, though it’s hardly universal. Fortunately for years, Standard Parking and its charismatic local leader, Frank Pintado have demonstrated that they know how to make parking work for the ease and convenience of residents and visitors and for the financial benefit of the city and its taxpayers. Few know their way around the prickly world of contract services for municipal government than Pintado, and few know parking as well as Standard Parking.  In 1999 Standard Parking and VIP’S Parking Systems formed a Joint Venture. Partnership in the State of Florida, and through their professionalism and hard work they have become the biggest and most efficient and trusted parking company in Florida — specifically after a merger with Central and USA Parking. Standard Parking is the leading national provider of parking facility management services. They provide on-site management services at multi-level and surface parking facilities for all major markets of the parking industry. They manage parking facilities containing more than one million parking spaces in hundreds of cities across the United States and Canada.

Best Urban Bike Ride
Miami’s Upper East-side
A few years ago, people were talking about Miami’s Upper East-side the way they do about South of Fifth or Wynwood today – that is, as the “It” place. A lot has happened since, but what hasn’t occurred might be just as significant. Despite a period of intense development interest and attempts to entice development, the Upper East-side communities have successfully maintained their integrity while witnessing a notable increase in quality of life issues such as crime, pollution and abandoned structures. Today it is an area of distinct and close-knit neighborhoods and businesses that cater to those people – including a number of signature restaurants and shops. From the former Omni site to the Miami Shores border, the Upper East-side along Biscayne Boulevard offers a scenic ride with interesting potential resting points and few terribly congested intersections. It’s a great way to enjoy a day and explore historic and quaint neighborhoods.

Best Developer
Jorge Perez, The Related Group
Sure, Jorge Perez and The Related Group have taken some lumps in the past few years. Who hasn’t in the development world in the midst of an economic and real estate collapse? But regardless of any criticism or struggles, Perez’s The Related Group is a – arguably the – developer who has had the most impact on Greater Miami. Until such time as another entity stamps itself as broadly on the face of South Florida, there is no question that The Related Group has been a key contributor in the development of contemporary Greater Miami.

Best New Development
The prospect of new development would have been so foreign just a few years ago that many who depend on this market for a living probably feel like ANY new development is damn good. But that was before the market started to heat up again to where it is today – once again, new projects are moving from drawing board to fruition. Two that can’t be ignored are Glass by Terra Group and One Ocean from The Related Group. In the South of Fifth neighborhood, Glass features just 10 units, but they are spectacular and complete with 360-degree views, wide terraces and a gorgeous modern integration of the indoors and outdoors and of natural light. One Ocean comprises 46 luxury residences and four Ocean Villas. Each residence boasts sinuous glass curves and strikingly seductive interiors. Stunning sea views, fluid architecture and an incredible art collection by famous artists set these residences apart from any other.

Best Country Club Sale
The Surf Club
Since 1930, the Surf Club has been South Florida’s premier private beach club. At the beginning of the year, the member-owners sold the Surf Club to the Koc Group, a Turkish conglomerate for a whopping $116 million  thereby scoring a huge payout for each original member. The payouts turned into lawsuits and squabbles between old and new members, but we are happy to report that all is copasetic. The new owners have huge plans for the club and have hired Architects Kobi Karp and Richard Meier to bring the club back to life. After much ado, it has been decided that much of the original building will stay as is and the building will appear much as pioneering Miami architect Russell Pancoast designed it, both inside and out.

Best Hangout
Van Dyke Café
A lot has changed in Miami Beach and in some cases, changed back already. But from the early days of the South Beach renaissance, the Van Dyke Café has been the beating heart of Lincoln Road and Lincoln Road the beating heart of the community. Sure, today, one might not have to walk more than 50 feet without landing in a Starbucks and sure, the wealthy masses who visit Miami Beach aren’t nearly as colorful as the tourists who braved the city before Lincoln Road was renovated, but some things remain constant. Van Dyke is one of those things. The chief meeting point, people-watching post and overall hangout of Lincoln Road is also still the best place to hang out in town. Forget the sunburned tourists on Ocean Drive. Van Dyke’s combination of surprisingly good food, terrific staff and quintessential café atmosphere is a winning formula for both the business and residents who recognize its importance.
846 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach

Best Scooter Rental
Beach Scooter
Beach Scooter offers a surprisingly broad array of alterna-transportation possibilities, from the oh-so-obvious scooters to motorcycles, electric cars and luxury cars. When they add bullet-proof vehicles for Memorial Day, this company could hit the Fortune 500. Beach Scooter handles rentals, sales and service and even ships scooters to customers around the country – already assembled and tested for safety. An entirely convenient service, Beach Scooter has three branches serving the Beach. 1341 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach    1435 Collins Ave., Miami Beach    213 6th Street, Miami Beach

Best Park
Flamingo Park
There are bigger parks. There are parks with a greater range of activity options. There are parks where gay men are less likely to be beaten silly by Miami Beach Police officers. But when you consider the location of Flamingo Park in the heart of our island paradise, the beautiful tree-lined streets helping shade it and the assortment of Beach locals who utilize and appreciate the Flamingo Park facilities, there really is no comparison. Flamingo Park is an iconic local gem that amazingly still isn’t appreciated by all residents the way it deserves to be.

Best Shopping Street
Collins Avenue, Bal Harbour
Sure, if one is interested in investing in emerging artists’ works, there are better streets in the Design District, Wynwood, etc. If one is more interested in buying t-shirts at 10 for a dollar, there are Collins Avenue and Washington Avenue. If one wants to buy zoning approval for his development project, there is 17th Street and it isn’t far to Lincoln Road for those who want to buy a $10 double-Dutch decaf-half-caf espresso with soy foam and a lemon twist at a Starbucks to boot! But for those with more traditional shopping needs, there is no destination but the Bal Harbour Shops. It’s only one of the most glamorous “shopping centers” on the East Coast, complete with all of the upscale department stores, boutiques and specialty shops one would expect – and that one will enjoy.
Bal Harbour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave., Bal Harbour

Best Intersection To Score Crack
Meridian Ave. and 6th Street, Miami Beach
Look, Lincoln Road isn’t the only place in Miami Beach that has been for decades a retail destination. Better looking crowd on Lincoln Road. Better deals on Meridian Ave.

Best Street To Score A Ho
Lower Collins Ave., Miami Beach
This category begged, just begged, for a city hall reference, but out of respect for hookers, we’re electing to leave politicians out of this category. It isn’t just your street walker type strolling late at night that makes Collins Avenue the winner here – it’s the high-end call girl services available that earn the nod here.

 

Comments

  1. peace says:

    Congratulations Mr. Smith. You deserve praise for all your hard work and honesty.

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