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Saturday, March 9, 2013

An Update On Sarnoff's Trolleygate aka Astor's Trolley Folly

The view of the diesel bus garage from the closest house, a
mere 100 feet from where the polluting buses will be idling.
These days whenever I visit Coconut Grove I check on the progress of the Coral Gables diesel bus garage. I am always surprised that the building of what will be a polluting bus garage continues unabated. The lawsuit launched by residents of the West Grove demanded for it to be stopped in its tracks -- even though these are not really trolley cars and they don't use tracks. 

Curious that the work continues, I reached out to Ralf Brookes, one of the lawyers who has taken on the case pro bono, for an update. Here's where the case stands:



The City of Miami filed a motion in the 11th Circuit Court to dismiss the case, arguing that Astor Development, which had not been originally named in the lawsuit, was an indispensable party to the suit.

In the meanwhile, Astor Trolly LLC filed a motion to intervene in the case. Astor Trolley LLC is a new-ish "limited liability company" owned by Astor Development Holdings LLC [which itself seems to be a wholly-owned subsidiary of Astor Development Group, LLC], incorporated to isolate Astor Development from any financial fallout of Trolleygate. While it seemed inevitable that Astor would eventually be drawn into this case, I don't know why it willingly asked to have its head put on the chopping block. No matter. The judge granted that motion on February 26th and has given Astor Trolley LLC until March 18th to file a response to the lawsuit.

And that where it all sits as of today.

However, just about everyone seems to agrees the diesel bus garage will never be used for the purpose for which it was designed and intended. It does not conform to the Miami21 plan, which specifically forbids a "government vehicle maintenance facility" along the South Douglas Road corridor. One wonders why Astor Development wouldn't just cut its losses and stop building and fighting.

Well (I speculate), it's probably because Astor Development has too much invested in the project already. It acquired the land, purchased the building materials, has been paying the work crews, and (presumably) already bought all the equipment that will have to installed in the diesel bus government maintenance facility. The losses would be too great to just cut and run. It might be better to be ordered by a court of law to do the right thing, as opposed to doing the right thing in the first place. Then it can turn around and try to sell the structure for a profit.

Since the West Grove lawyers are working pro bono, this is not costing the community a penny. However, it is costing the City of Miami (read: every Miami taxpayer) money to defend Astor's Trolley Folly. Those costs can be placed squarely at the feet of Commissioner Marc "Doggy" Sarnoff, who rammed through this diesel bus garage project without the normal neighbourhood consultation.

The Marc Sarnoff Memorial Dog Park with the Marc Sarnoff Memorial
Traffic Circle in the lower right. Click here for an interactive map.
Commissioner Marc Sarnoff is used to ramming through projects -- which cost the Miami taxpayers big bucks -- without the normal neighbourhood consultation. Exhibit A: The Marc Sarnoff Memorial Dog Park [right], across the street from his house. No one seems to know who approved this, but to date this boondoggle has already cost Miami taxpayers $546,065.00. The latest renovation to the Marc Sarnoff Memorial Dog Park came within the last month. Work crews installed astroturf for the dogs because these are privileged dogs, donchaknow, and shitting on grass in their own backyards just won't do.

Clearly these dogs are more privileged than the children in the community. The bigger crime is how a pocket park created for the enjoyment of children, has gone to the dogs. Prior to Doggygate the length of the children's playground was approximately 300 feet. Once Marc Sarnoff was done with it the children's portion of the park was reduced to approximately 100 feet, while the dogs get 200 feet.

See an interactive map of the Marc Sarnoff Memorial Dog Park


Go by the park yourself and you'll see what I have noted every time I go there: The children's area is packed tight, with barely any room for kids to run and play: The playground equipment is overcrowded and there are not enough benches for the parents to sit. [While I've tried to take pictures that illustrate this, every time I show up with a camera I get the evil eye from parents.] Meanwhile, the Marc Sarnoff Memorial Dog Park always appears underutilized, with a whole lot of room for the dogs to run free.

Luckily for the taxpayers of Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff is term-limited. Unless he runs for mayor he only has to the end of his term to waste taxpayer's money.

For more on Trolleygate, aka Astor's Trolley Folly, click here.