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HEY YOU! YES, YOU!!


However you may have arrived here, this is the old Not Not Silly Newsroom.

It's a long story -- hardly worth going into here -- but after this place was declared a Brownfield Site, we abandoned it for the NEW! IMPROVED!! Not Now Silly Newsroom.

Feel free to stay and read what you came here to read, but when it's time to leave go to the new place by clicking HERE.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

When Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff Lied To My Face

Just like on Batman, the lair of the criminals is crooked.
Mea culpa. I should have written this up in December, when it happened, but that would make me merely another reporter to whom [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff lied. That's hardly news, but better late than never. 

A bit of background. On December 9th I attended the Douglas Park Soilgate Dog and Pony Show. This was merely the latest, fancy, multimedia production, mounted at taxpayers expense by [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff in another frantic effort to mollify constituents after they realize they've been hoodwinked, as opposed to the elected representative being upfront with his constituents in the first place.

Read about a previous Sarnoff Dog and Pony Show:
The Trolleygate Dog And Pony Show

I didn't write about Douglas Park Soilgate Dog and Pony Show because: 1). It was a total yawnfest, even though at the end of the meeting [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff lied to my face; 2). I really had nothing new to say on the topic after I shot my wad posting Marc D. Sarnoff ► Everything Old Is New Again in November. That post documented the Sarnoff Skulduggery™ that slicked through Brownfield designations against 6 Miami parks, and 6 adjacent neighbourhoods, before anyone could notice. To quote myself:
[Michelle] Niemeyer is the lawyer who has been advising and working with the Friends of Merrie Christmas Park. She's managed to help them understand and negotiate the extremely complicated thicket of Miami, Miami-Date, Florida and U.S. environmental laws that go into effect once a neighbourhood has been designated a Brownfield site.

According to Niemeyer, the entire process for designating the 6 neighbourhoods around the toxic parks Brownfield sites was flawed from the get-go. The Brownfield designation was slapped on these neighbourhoods without the proper notification, no matter how many publications in which the city claims it was published. There are supposed to be public meetings before any decisions made and none were held.
During the Douglas Park Soilgate Dog and Pony Show Deputy City Manager Alice Bravo refered to this flawed process in an oblique way and I wanted to get [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff on the record. That's why right at the end of the Douglas Park Soilgate Dog and Pony Show, I raised my hand to ask a question. Unfortunately, because I had already written about the Sarnoff Skulduggery™, he was prepared for my question. I had barely begun before he cut me off to tell me there had never been a Brownfield designation.

"Does that answer your question?" he challenged.

"No, not really." And, so I started to ask the question again in a slightly different manner. Once again he cut me off to say there had never been a Brownfield designation.

As I started to ask the question a third time, [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff cut me off again to say the same damned thing. That's when I gave up. The meeting was breaking up, it was getting loud in the room, and no one really cared about the answer but me. And, even I didn't care that much because the record shows he is duplicitous liar every time he opens his mouth. However, at least I had him on the record that there was no Brownfield designation, just another lie to a reporter and his own constituents.

[Maybe I didn't write about the meeting because I'm embarrassed that I allowed [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff to bully me off my question. I kicked myself over and over on the drive home. However, as I have clearly demonstrated, he's not inclined to answer any questions from me anyway.]

I was reminded of all of this Tuesday when I got an email from Ken Russell announcing Merrie Christmas Park is almost ready to reopen. To remind you, Russell led the neighbour revolt that got the toxic soil removed from Merrie Christmas Park. He's also recently teased that he's considering challenging Teresa [is it too early to call her corrupt?] Sarnoff, wife of [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff, in the Miami District 2 race, already crowded with 6 people vying to topple the Sarnoff Dynasty.

FULL DISCLOSURE: This reporter runs a kidding-on-the-square Facebook page called ABT - Anybody But Teresa. Come join the fun.

Russell managed to get the park cleaned up to the neighbours' satisfaction despite the best efforts of [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff to present them with a fait accompli, a bizarre take-it-or-leave-it deal that would have had the neighbours chipping in for the cost of removing the toxic soil.

Yes, you read that right. For some reason [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff thought the residents should pay to remove the toxic soil the city dumped in their local park. As it turned out an anonymous donor coughed up the dough for the toxic soil remediation and the work went ahead. That's just another [possibly illegal] deal [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff cooked up behind closed doors. So far he has refused to name the anonymous donor, which pisses all over the Florida Sunshine Law. But, I digress.

In his email Russell reminds his neighbours: 
Brownfield Designation:
Several months ago, the Commissioners quietly voted to declare this and 5 other parks as Brownfield Sites so that they could get money from the State and [be] release[d] from liability after the cleanup.  Through research, we learned that proper notification wasn't given to residents and that this particular use of the Brownfield [law] wasn't appropriate.  So the State is not recognizing the City's ordinance.  However, for us, it's important that the City officially reverse their decision to declare our neighborhood parks as Brownfields so that there would be no future confusion or stigma.  I received a call from Deputy City Manager Alice Bravo confirming that at the next Commission meeting (not this week), that the Commissioners would bring it back up for a vote to reverser [sic] their earlier vote.
How can a city reverse a vote that [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff tried to tell me to my face had never been made? Because, you see, it's not just a game of semantics. This affects people's lives and property values, something that [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff doesn't seem to understand as he moves all these chess pieces on a board, playing both sides without any oversight.

At the Friends of Merrie Christmas Park Facebook Page Russell elaborated on this Sarnoff lie:
If anyone tells you that the City never designated the 6 parks as Brownfields, ask them about this attached signed approved memo from the City Manager's office. I have been promised by Alice Bravo (City Deputy Manager) that Sarnoff has promised to un-do the designation through a vote at a Commission meeting later this month.(even though the State never recognized the designation, it's important that the City withdraw their intention to designate).
If you go to the Friends of Merrie Christmas Park Facebook Page. you will see that Ken Russell has helpfully posted the minutes of the July 24, 2014, Miami City Commission meeting. Because of Sarnoff's failure to adequately notify the residents around 6 parks and to provide public forums prior to any city vote on Brownfield designations, the motion passed will not be recognized by the State of Florida and now has to be undone. 

This District 2 race is shaping up to be a lot of fun for the Not Now Silly Newsroom.

Headlines Du Jour ► Thursday, February 12, 2015

Hiya, Headliners! Today's birthday belongs to Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett. Here are some other Headlines Du Jour of yesteryear:
Let's take a look at today's Headlines Du Jour:

SO GLAD WE'RE LIVING IN A POST-RACIAL SOCIETY:


Hashtag #MuslimLivesMatter trends as man,
46, charged with murder after killing at housing
complex near University of North Carolina campus


The most recent data on lynching, compiled by the
Equal Justice Initiative, shows premeditated murders
carried out by at least three people from 1877 to 1950.
The killers claimed to be enforcing some form of
social justice. The alleged offenses that prompted the
lynchings included political activism and testifying in court.


WAR IS HELL:



Instead of confronting the truth, we scrubbed the record
clean—and we’re still paying for it in Afghanistan and Iraq today.




From the vast Not Now Silly Archives:

IN LGBT NEWS:






MORE OF THAT REPUBLICAN OUTREACH:





IN INCOME INEQUALITY:



ANOTHER EXCITING EPISODE OF COPS GONE WILD:



ANOTHER EXCITING EPISODE OF CORPORATIONS GONE WILD:



GIMME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION:


The lynching and torture of blacks in the Jim Crow South
weren’t just acts of racism. They were religious rituals.

HACK ATTACKS:





FOX "NEWS" IN THE NEWS AGAIN:





FREE THE WEED!!!





IN INNER SPACE:





IN OUTER SPACE:





VIDEOS DU JOUR:



Headlines Du Jour is a leisure-time activity of Not Now Silly, home of the Steam-Powered Word-0-Matic, and your rest stop on the Information Highway. Use our valuable bandwidth to post your news comments in today's open thread.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Headlines Du Jour ► Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Howdy, Headliners! Today's birthday belongs to harmonica virtuoso Larry Adler. Here are some other Headlines Du Jour of yesteryear:
Here is today's Headlines Du Jour:

IN LGBT NEWS:






IN INCOME INEQUALITY:






MORE OF THAT REPUBLICAN OUTREACH:







ANOTHER EXCITING EPISODE OF COPS GONE WILD:



ANOTHER EXCITING EPISODE OF CORPORATIONS GONE WILD:



GIMME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION:



HACK ATTACKS:



ANOTHER SHOOTOUT AT THE OK CORRAL:



FOX "NEWS" IN THE NEWS AGAIN:






FREE THE WEED!!!



IN INNER SPACE:


Forgotten version of historical parchment that established
principle of rule of law discovered in files of history
department of Kent County Council in Maidstone

IN OUTER SPACE:


A hidden treasure trove of gear flown on the Apollo 11
mission to the moon sees the light of day after Neil
Armstrong's widow shares the find with the Smithsonian.



VIDEOS DU JOUR:



Headlines Du Jour is a leisure-time activity of Not Now Silly, home of the Steam-Powered Word-0-Matic, and your rest stop on the Information Highway. Use our valuable bandwidth to post your news comments in today's open thread.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Coconut Grove Playhouse Trojan Horse; Part II

Gate [H] left open for the valet parking allowing traffic to
go out onto William and Thomas Avenues. Note the arrow
on the ground directing traffic out onto Charles Avenue.
Part I of The Coconut Grove Trojan Horse presented a capsule history of the Coconut Grove Playhouse, the surrounding area, and how a good neighbour's complaint to City Hall led to this long investigative article. 

After researching the parking issues around the Playhouse for the last year and seeing how the residents were being abused by these valet companies, especially following a night of havoc they created on Charles Avenue in December, this reporter emailed [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff a series of questions which have yet to be answered:
FROM: Headly Westerfield
TO: msarnoff@salawmiami.com, rnelson@miamigov.com
Fri, Dec 19, 2014 at 3:36 PM
SUBJECT: ON THE RECORD - PLEASE RESPOND

For the past year I have been quietly researching the parking lots surrounding the Coconut Grove Playhouse. This week I was forwarded an email chain in which your name appears. This seems like a good time to write up the result of some of that research. My forthcoming article concerns more than the illegal parking last Friday night on the empty residential lot on the north side of the Historic Roadway of Charles Avenue.

Since this is not the first time this lot has been used for overflow valet parking -- just the latest and most egregious -- the denials by Daniel Radrizzani ring hollow. I have witnessed this residential lot being used on many Friday and Saturday nights and have taken pictures of it. The neighbours will confirm that this has been an ongoing problem. And, Coconut Grove Village Council Chair Javier Gonzales will no doubt remember the several nights I interrupted his evenings to tell him he should rush on over there to see it for himself.

Consequently, I have a series of questions about *ALL* the parking surrounding the Coconut Grove Playhouse, of which this residential lot is only one piece of the entire puzzle.

1). Why did Charles Avenue resident Cynthia Hernandez have to insist that the police do something after they first tried to tell her that there was nothing they could do since the property owner hadn't made a complaint?

[To their credit, but only after additional phone calls, the police finally ordered the residential lot to be emptied of cars; a process, I am told, that took 45 minutes and created the 2nd traffic jam of the night on Charles Avenue. The first was filling the empty lot with some 40-50 cars in the first place.]

2). When neighbours complained previously that the 45 valet parking spots rented from the MPA would bring additional traffic, they were assured there would be no additional traffic on Charles Avenue as a result. This is clearly false. Why has this been allowed to continue for the past year despite occasional complaints by the neighbours?

3). If there was to be no additional traffic on Charles Avenue then why did the MPA, when it resurfaced the Main Street parking lot, paint a giant arrow on the ground immediately BEHIND the Playhouse directing cars to exit onto Charles Avenue?

4). Some of these 45 spots rented from the MPA are now being used several days a week as a drive-in movie theater. How is this being done? Is there a sub-lease? A contract? A gentleman's agreement? Is the MPA involved?

5). What permits were needed to run a drive-in theater in that parking lot? What are the insurance requirements and who is paying for it?

6). When these 45 spaces are full of cars and/or drive-in movie patrons, where does the overflow parking go now that the gate on the residential lot has been locked again? [It's been locked and unlocked as needed for overflow parking until now.]

7). At the far west end of the MPA parking lot on Main Highway there is a chain-link fence with a double-gate that feeds onto William Avenue. Why is this gate locked most daylight hours, but quietly unlocked and left wide open on busy nights in Coconut Grove, when the Playhouse parking lot is full?

8). What will the City of Miami do about monitoring these valet parking infractions going forward?

9). What will the City of Miami do to reduce all the added traffic these parking lots have caused on Charles and William Avenues?

10). Considering Gino Falsetto is one of the owners of Aries; and considering he also has financial interests in the empty residential lot being used for the last year as overflow parking to the 45 spaces rented from the MPA; and considering he is also part owner of Paradise Parking; and considering it's his 3 restaurants that use the valet parking; and considering that his brother Andrew Falsetto is a part of South Park, the company that took the fall for Friday night's parking fiasco; isn't all this circular finger-pointing just a little too convenient for everyone to duck responsibility by blaming this ongoing situation as a one-time event?

11). And, most important of all: Considering all I have uncovered and written about Gino Falsetto's shenanigans -- his Demolition by Neglect of the 120-year old E.W.F. Stirrup House; the destruction of the old trees on that property without the proper plans and permits; the interior demolition of the E.W.F. Stirrup House without permit or historic plan on file; the destruction of the wall that separated La Bottega from the current construction zone of the E.W.F. Stirrup lot without the proper permits; the removing the roof of the Bicycle Shop without a demolition permit; his alleged squatting on the Playhouse parking lot for several years; etc., so forth, and so on -- isn't it time that Falsetto, and the series of companies he hides behind, are held responsible for the downgrading of the quality of life of your West Grove constituents who live around his fiefdom?

I will publish when I think my story is ready and would like to include your response. A prompt response ensures that.
My questions to [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff were punted to the Miami Parking Authority, which has still yet to answer.

The area surrounding the
Coconut Grove Playhouse

[Click map to enlarge]
LEGEND:

A). Grove Gardens Condominiums;
aka The Monstrosity;
B). Regions Bank;
C). The E.W.F. Stirrup House;
D). Zoned residential lots, used
for illegal parking;
E). Part of the 45 parking spaces
leased for Valet Parking;
F). Blue Star Drive In & remaining 45
spaces leased to Valet parking;
G). Playhouse Parking Lot
operated by the MPA;
H). Unlocked gate directing traffic
onto William and Thomas Streets
and location of arrow directing cars
to exit onto Charles Avenue;
I). Main entrance/exit for main
Playhouse parking lot;
J). The Bicycle Shop;
K). The Barnacle, now a State Park,
once belonged to Commodore Ralph
Monroe, a contemporary of E.W.F.
Stirrup;
L). Rich people in gated enclaves;
M). Far less well off people in West
Grove, which has remained
predominately Black and depressed
during the last 125 years;
N). Commodore Plaza, named after
Ralph Monroe, is lined with pricy
eateries and more expensive art
galleries, meant for people with
more disposable incomes than
those on the surrounding blocks.
In the meantime, I emailed back [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff to re-ask questions 1, 2, 8, 9, 10, and 11, since those questions could ONLY be addressed by an elected representative on behalf of his constituents. The response from Sarnoff's office, paraphrasing, "As we told you before, the neighbour is satisfied her complaint was resolved within 2 business days. We're done here."

While I didn't get a response from people paid by the City of Miami to answer questions, I did get a response from Regions Bank [B], which is treating this issue seriously.

The Regions Bank parking lot is another small piece to the parking puzzle. On many occasions I watched the valets zip cars in and out of the bank parking lot after hours. After asking a few discrete questions I was told the local Regions manager had an informal agreement with the valet parking company to use the bank's parking lot at night. Consequently, I contacted Regions' HQ and asked several questions about its Coconut Grove branch:
1). Is Regions Bank aware of any arrangement between the manager of your Coconut Grove branch and the manager of the 3 restaurants next door (Calamari, La Bottega, The Taurus) to use the bank parking lot for the restaurant's valet parking during the bank's off hours?

2). Is there an [sic] written agreement on this arrangement or is it just an understanding?

3). The valets get $6 per car. I have counted more than a dozen cars at any given time in this parking lot, with cars constantly being brought in and out as I watched. These valet fees represent several hundred dollars on the busy Friday and Saturday nights that I have witessed [sic] myself. Is any of this money shared with Regions Bank? With the Coconut Grove Regions Bank manager?

4). Has liability insurance has been arranged for the shunting of cars in and out of this parking lot? If so, who is the provider and who pays for the insurance? If not, who would be responsible were there to be a fatality as cars zip in and out on this residential street?

5). Why is your parking lot being used to secure profits for a valet company, and customers for 3 restaurants, who would otherwise eat elsewhere were it not for the valet parking?

Please respond as soon as is convenient because I plan to post my story when it's finished and would like to give Regions Bank the opportunity to respond.
Once I started asking questions about this arrangement, it was formalized: 
Headly,

You can attribute the following to me:

We do have a license agreement between Regions and the valet parking company.

We do not receive any financial compensation.

What Regions and our customers do receive is that the parking company helps manage the lot after hours.  Before this agreement, there was an issue with cars parking in the lot after hours and blocking access to the night drop and ATM.  This kept customers from being able to access their funds – or make deposits in their accounts – in an efficient manner.  The agreement was developed to help remedy that issue and to help people in the community access the ATM and night drop as needed.

You would need to consult with the valet company regarding insurance arrangements covering their activities on the lot.

Thank you.

Jeremy D. King
Corporate Communications
Regions Financial Corporation
205-XXX-XXXX
jeremyd.king@regions.com
So ... While Regions Bank has seen fit to reply to me, neither [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc. D. Sarnoff, nor the Miami Parking Authority have answered any of my questions. Which brings us to this:



The Parking Problem at Charles Avenue and Main Highway
~~or~~
Why Is The Playhouse a Trojan Horse for a Huge Parking Garage?


A sign on the Regions Bank parking lot.
If you want to see some hard-working men and women, wander on over to Main Highway and Charles Avenue and watch the valets at work.

Diners pull up in their cars in front of The Monstrosity [A] because they are going to one of the 4 restaurants on the property: The Taurus; Calamari; La Bottega; and the member's only, private wine club, La Cava. These restaurants were forced to offer valet parking because they were struggling from a lack of customers. Blame it on the Broken Window Syndrome; people were loathe to walk past the boarded-up Coconut Grove Playhouse to get to Falsetto's restaurants. In fact, you will rarely see pedestrians walk any further south on Main Highway than The Greenstreet Cafe, Falsetto's biggest competitor just up the block. Everything south of that is a virtual No Pedestrian Zone.

When cars pull up the valets collect $6.00, give it a parking tag, and zip them on over to parking lots [B], [E], or [F] as quickly as possible. Then they run back for the next diner or to retrieve a car for a satiated diner. At the end of a hot night the valets are drenched in sweat. I have absolutely nothing against these people and actually admire their work ethic. [In fact, some of them have become quite friendly and provide me with background information even though they know I am working against their boss' interests.] However, there is no denying these valet companies are destroying the quality of life for the residents on Charles, William and Thomas Avenues.

Recently I was SHOCKED to learn something I hadn't discovered in the 6 years I have been researching West Grove: The Monstrosity has 2 underground levels, one a parking level and the other the private, members only faux wine cave known as La Cava.

I can hear a gigantic "So what?" to that news, except this is Florida. Dig a small hole in the ground with a spoon and it fills up with water. That’s why basements are not built here, as dry basements are hugely expensive in South Florida.

When The Monstrosity was built there were obviously concerns about residential parking, as is standard for any project. To that end the building was designed with an underground parking lot for the residents in the condos above. Not having to share any above-ground space for parking allowed Aries to build a structure with more residential and restaurant space for the footprint and height for which it was zoned. However, it's clear that the City of Miami, or anyone else, did not anticipate sufficient parking for the building's multi-use -- the restaurants -- which is why the valets are forced to use every available parking space in the area.

Last year, when Miami-Dade County Cultural Czar Michael Spring cut the deal that gave Aries Development the Bicycle Shop [J], another part of that deal was that the valet companies could rent 45 parking spaces [E & F] at $6.00 p/day p/space from the Miami Parking Authority.

The Blue Star-lite Drive-In at night
There's one last player to be introduced into this story and that's the Blue Star-Lite Drive-In, which uses parking lot [F] several nights a week to project movies onto a screen attached to the back wall of the Coconut Grove Playhouse.

When I first heard about this new use of the parking lot, I thought it was a great idea to help revitalize the neighbourhood, not only bringing movies back to that corner, but creating a fun event for the neighbourhood. However, I have since changed my mind for the following reasons:

1). To begin with, this is an expensive night out. Just like the rest of Coconut Grove, to be honest. A normal night out at the megaplex is barely more expensive than the Blue Star-Lite Drive-In and you don't have to bring your own lawn chairs or cars or bug spray. This is not priced for the families that live in the areas marked [M].

I'll take a Sliders Basket and a Hot Dog Basket, please.
2). My next thought, because I know how these things work, was, "How does Gino Falsetto make money off this deal?"

Falsetto's valet parking company rents these spaces from the MPA. Is the Blue Star-Lite Drive-In paying any rent to Paradise Parking or the MPA? I still don't have the answer to that question from the MPA, but I didn't have to search very far to see at least one way that Falsetto is making money off the drive-in. He's selling overly expensive hot dogs and hamburgers to the people who have enough disposable income to pay these crazy rates for a movie in a parking lot.

The Blue Star-lite Drive-In during the day
The Blue Star-lite Drive-In during the day
3). Josh Frank, owner of the Blue Star-Lite, has turned his portion of the parking lot [F] into a junk yard, complete with rust imported from other locations. Admittedly, all this junk gives the drive-in a funky, street- level feel, despite its sky-high prices. However, if any of the homeowners along Charles, William, or Thomas Avenues [M again] loaded up their property with this junk, they'd be cited by the city for creating a hazard and/or an unsightly mess. The Blue Star-Lite Drive-In is allowed to load up this property with everything from camper trailers to porta-potties. The only thing missing is the junk yard dog.

The fine facilities at the Blue Star-Lite Drive-In
4). The first time I met Josh Frank I gave him my card and he was friendly, quite open, and willing to talk. The second time I tried to talk to Frank he was not only rude, but told me where I could line my car up to pay an admission to see a movie. I declined the offer. However, I couldn't help but wonder whether he had seen any of my posts on Falsetto posted here in the interim.

I have now spent many hours over the past year just observing these various parking lots and the traffic patterns along these streets. As well, I have interviewed valets, security guards, and neighbours at properties surrounding the Coconut Grove Playhouse. Consequently, I now have answers to some of my questions. 

The answer to Question #7 above is this: This gate is opened to traffic on Friday and Saturday nights so the valets working the restaurants on Commodore Plaza [N] -- which I never knew about until this all blew up -- can zip in and out the back way [H and pics above and below] without having to drive out onto Main Highway. Therefore, the valets are entirely responsible for the added traffic onto William and Thomas Avenues because they are the only reason that gate is left opened on busy Friday and Saturday nights.

IRONY ALERT: It was actually the valets on Commodore Plaza [N] and not The Monstrosity [A] that caused the mess on Charles Avenue which led to the neighbour outrage. [Which is a distinction without a difference because all these valet companies are owned by Falsetto and/or companies owned, in part, by Falsetto.]

On December 12th there was a big event at the Cruz Building -- the fake New Orleans structure on Commodore Plaza [N] rumoured to have been built with cocaine money -- and the valets needed a place to park all those cars. Gino Falsetto graciously lent the 2 residential lots across the street from the E.W.F. Stirrup House that had been used for overflow parking for the last year. They had been getting away with it for so long, but they finally overplayed their hand by trying to park that many cars at once.

And so finally we come to how all of this leads the Not Now Silly Newsroom to conclude that the Playhouse rehab is really the cultural Trojan horse to build a huge, misshapen glass and steel parking structure -- the kind Arquitectonica is best known for -- with a 300-seat auditorium attached.

An artist's rendering of a massive development on Main Highway at Charles Avenue hiding a parking garage, possibly 2 theaters, and what could turn out to be condo-style residences for thespians and others who might eventually work in the theaters. A secret source tells me I can discount the rumour that there will be retail on the premises because it's all State of Florida land, despite Miami-Dade County running all the backroom deals, and the charter prevents retail. However, that's assuming a gift shop doesn't count and the rules don't change.

Another view of the arrows on the ground directing
traffic out to Charles Avenue. Picture was taken from
the approximate location of the unlocked gate [H].
To begin with all of the valet parking machinations have proven 2 things: 1). Parking is the only thing generating money at Charles and Main Highway; 2). There's a growing need for parking surrounding the Playhouse. [I don't want to get too deeply in the weeds, but there's also a plan for nearby Ransom School to use these parking lots for overflow.]

Second, it always struck me as odd that the MPA was on the committee making decisions about the future of the Playhouse. It had a place at the table by virtue of [G], the parking lot it wrestled away from the squatting Paradise Parking.

I was recently able to get my hands on the Notice to Professional Consultants, the document that lays out the criteria to which anyone bidding on the project should adhere [emphasis added]:
Providing a master plan which may include both immediate and future development based on the existing property’s historic designation, programming goals for the facility, and the available funding. The components envisioned for the site include a state of the art theater (target capacity: 300-600 seats), including all required front-of-house and back-of-house spaces necessary for the successful operation of the theater, parking, and future compatible development that may address the need for additional parking, a second theater (target capacity 600-900 seats) and complementary site amenities such as retail, restaurants, etc.;
No sooner had I acquired that document than Cultural Czar Michael Spring announced that Arquitectonica won the bid. In an email to Javier Gonzales, Chair of of the Coconut Grove Village Council, Spring put the best shine on all the backroom machinations. One paragraph stuck out [emphasis added]:
The 5-person CSC appointed by the Mayor to evaluate the teams included: the Executive Director of the Black Archives (who has overseen the renovation and expansion of the historic Lyric Theater in Overtown and who currently serves as a member of the City of Miami’s Historic and Environmental Preservation Board, and was its chair from 2007 to 2009); a representative from FIU, the co-lessee of the Playhouse property (a senior university executive who has expertise in finance and served on the committee that negotiated the eventual contract with Arquitectonica); the CEO of the City of Miami’s Parking Authority (who will be involved in assessing the potential for a parking garage on the site and who has extensive experience managing and improving Gusman Center for the Performing Arts); the capital projects manager from my department who will be the lead in managing the architectural process (who has a background in architecture and extensive experience in building and renovating theaters); and myself.
When I talk about backroom decisions, I am not talking about the selection process that just ended. I am talking about all the backroom decisions that were made before the process was set out for tender. Even before any designs were considered Michael Spring downsized the size of the theater from 1100 to 300, and added a possible second theater. The presence of the MPA assures there will be a giant parking structure on the property and the choosing of Arquitectonica,increases the likelihood that it will be some gigantic glass and steel structure that will look totally out of place viewed from the quiet residential neighbourhood marked [M] on the map.

And, I am willing to place a bet that when this new monstrosity is being argued in front of whatever baords are going to vet it, they will point to Gino Falsetto's Monstrosity as the thing that opened the door to this kind of over-development at Main Highway and Charles Avenue and, OH, BY THE WAY, we just gotta solve the parking problem around the Coconut Grove Playhouse if it is ever to be taken seriously as a tourist destination for the kind of folks who have the kind of money it takes to live in Coconut Grove.

And that, dear readers, is why I believe the Coconut Grove Playhouse renovation is a Trojan horse for a big, huge, honking garage. I would love to be proven wrong.

Another rendering of a potential structure to replace, not renovate, the Coconut Grove Playhouse.

Save The Coconut Playhouse is a Facebook group not affiliated with the Not Now Silly Newsroom. It has far more detail about the backroom machinations of the current plan to renovate and/or tear down the Coconut Grove Playhouse.

Please join if you care about historic preservation.

The Coconut Grove Playhouse Trojan Horse; Part I

Some of the parking lots described in this post.
[See map legend below for matching location.]

Background: Looking south towards [C] the E.W.F. Stirrup
House, dwarfed by [A] The Monstrosity, aka Grove Gardens
Condominiums. Foreground: Looking across [F] The Blue
Star- Lite Drive-In and [E] the 45 parking spaces leased from
the MPA for Valet Parking. Behind the fence at right are [D]
the two vacant residential lots used illegally for parking rich
folk. Immediate left: The back wall of the Coconut Grove
Playhouse, the Blue Star-Lite Drive-In screen, and some junk.
Events have been moving quickly this week. Just as I was finishing a blog post writing up a full year's worth of research on the parking lots surrounding the Coconut Grove Playhouse, Miami-Dade County selected Arquitectonica to restore/ renovate/raze the structure (depending on who you ask). That forced a drastic rewrite to what follows.

Get comfortable, kiddies, because this is a long one. It needs to be long so I can develop the thesis in the headline: "Why is the reno of the Coconut Grove Playhouse really a Trojan horse for a gigantic glass and steel parking garage with a small theater attached?" It's a sprawling Michener-like story -- so long I've had to chop it up into 2 parts -- covering almost a century and a cast of characters that number in the tens. Like Michener, lets take a quick look at who you will be meeting:  
  1. First and foremost, E.W.F. Stirrup, one of Florida's first Black millionaires, who had more to do with the creation of Coconut Grove and the building of West Grove than anyone else you can name. Almost with his own hands he built an entire, cohesive Black neighbourhood in the Jim Crow south that lasts to this day. His house and his legacy have been allowed to undergo Demolition by Neglect
  2.  Commodore Ralph Monroe, a contemporary of Stirrup's whose house The Barnacle, only a few thousand feet away from Stirrup's, is now a State Park [K] and polished within an inch of its life, for whom Commodore Plaza [N] is named, and who gets most of the credit for creating the early Coconut Grove;
  3. Aries Development in the Snidely Whiplash persona of Gino Falsetto, who built The Monstrosity that changed the entire character of West Grove, has allowed the  E.W.F. Stirrup House to go to wreck and ruin through nearly a decade of Demolition by Neglect, and who, through several of his valet and parking companies, is destroying the quiet enjoyment of his neighbours; 
  4. The [allegedly] corrupt Miami District 2 Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff, who refuses to answer any questions posed to him by this reporter and is now running his puppet wife for his seat, now that he's been term-limited off the City of Miami Gravy Train; 
  5. Miami-Dade Cultural Czar Michael Spring, who recently defended the legitimate "cone of silence" during the Coconut Grove Playhouse selection process, but doesn't mention any of the backroom deals and decisions that were made prior to starting the selection process and dropping the cone of silence; 
  6. Arquitectonica, chosen by Michael Spring's selection committee to oversee the Coconut Grove Playhouse destruction, or renewal, depending on which side of the fence you sit;
  7. Luis Choter, of The Miami Parking Authority, who has likewise refused to answer the questions forwarded to him by [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff, despite his email to me of January 27th apologizing for his lack of attention and promising he will be "looking into all the concerns and responding accordingly within the next couple of days.";
  8. Cameo appearances by Sharie Blanton, of [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff's office; Ron Nelson, of same; Arthur Noriega, CEO of the Miami Parking Authority; Alejandra Argudin, who does something or other with the MPA; and Rolando Tapanes, another MPA employee; all of whom are in the email's CC: field dodging my questions;
  9. Entrepreneur Josh Frank and his Blue Star-Lite Drive-In; 
  10. Jeremy D. King, a media flack at Regions Bank's HQ; 
  11. The Movers and Shakers of Coconut Grove, both now and then;
  12. 1920s architect John Irwin Bright who designed the Coconut Grove Playhouse; 
  13. Several valet companies with dozens of valets;
  14. A number of private parking companies;
  15. A number of different parking lots;
  16. And, neighbours both good and bad.
Let's begin:

After a years research -- and a lack of clear answers from the city of Miami -- Not Now Silly concludes the small 300-seat theater being proposed as a replacement for the Coconut Grove Playhouse, is nothing more than a cultural Trojan Horse being used to sneak a huge parking structure onto the corner of Charles Avenue and Main Highway.

I started researching the parking problems around the Coconut Grove Playhouse a year ago as a natural outgrowth of my research on the E.W.F. Stirrup House and The Colour Line in West Grove. Six years ago, when I first started researching Ebenezer Woodbury Frankling Stirrup, I could have hardly imagined that his house, The Coconut Grove Playhouse and the Playhouse parking lot were interconnected in a very complicated ways, both now and historically.

The Bright Plan shows the proposed city hall and golf course,
with "Colored Town" moved to "the other side of the tracks."
A QUICK HISTORY LESSON: Prior to the illegal annexation of Cocoanut [sic] Grove by Miami in 1925, the town's monied interests -- the Movers and Shakers -- of The Grove envisioned turning the small, nascent tourist village into a big tourist destination. So they hired Philadelphia architect John Irwin Bright, who came up with The Bright Plan in 1921, the very first of an untold number of urban renewal plans for Coconut Grove over the years.

The Bright Plan called for a fancy hotel; a golf course across most of West Grove, from Main Highway to Douglas; and a city hall approximately where Cocowalk now is. A wide boulevard ran from city hall to Biscayne Bay with a reflecting pool down the middle. The entire Bright Plan was based on Mediterranean-style architecture and would have been beautiful. However, it never got built. The bottom fell out of the Florida real estate market almost before the ink on The Bright Plan had dried.

However, there was one item on the Bright Plan that eventually got built: The Coconut Grove Theater (now the Coconut Grove Playhouse) was erected in 1927 and was based on Bright Plan drawings, which is why the building has a faintly Mediterranean feel. It first showed movies, but was later converted to live theater before it closed in ignominious bankruptcy 2006.
This is just one rendering of a potential gigantic development on Main Highway.
Don't be fooled. The facade will be a facsimile. There is no plan to save it.
Save The Coconut Playhouse is a Facebook group not affiliated with the Not Now Silly Newsroom. It has far more detail about the backroom machinations of the current plan to renovate and/or tear down the Coconut Grove Playhouse.

Please join if you care about historic preservation.
Another rendering of a potential glass and steel parking garage hiding a tiny theater..

Back in 1927 monied interests -- the Movers and Shakers -- got together to built the movie house to bring culture to Coconut Grove. However, before the theater could be built the land had to be acquired from E.W.F. Stirrup, by then one of the largest landholders in Coconut Grove. It's still an open question whether Mr. Stirrup, who was Black, could even go into the movie theater just 200 feet from his front door. At the time movie theaters were heavily segregated. The Ace Theater, on Grand, was later built for the Black folk of West Grove.

Back in 1927 parking cars wasn't a big issue, but there are times these days when it seems like the parking of cars is the only issue.

When Miami developers present plans for new buildings one of the first questions that needs answering is "Where's the parking?" Providing adequate parking often seems more important than an eye-catching design or quality of life considerations. This is especially true of Coconut Grove, where residents are howling over the fact that Cars2Go and Citi Bike are taking up precious parking spaces in The Grove because parking for their precious cars is more important than taking a chance on new, alternative forms of transportation.



A year ago Miami-Dade Cultural Czar Michael Spring untangled the Gordian Knot of the Coconut Grove Playhouse in an attempt to revive and renovate it. In other words: Bring culture back to the corner of Main Highway and Charles Avenue.

And, that's when today's monied interests -- our modern day Movers and Shakers -- got involved to screw the taxpayers behind closed doors. 

The backroom Playhouse deal had many moving parts. One part of the deal was to give to Aries Development the former-Bicycle Shop [J on map below] and $15,000. This was done because Aries floated a loan [in an amount I've never been able to determine] to the former-Playhouse board before it went belly up. At the time Aries was given a lien on the Bicycle Shop as collateral. That's not that unusual. What is unusual is that Paradise Parking (another tentacle of the rapacious developer Gino Falsetto, aka Aries Development) is said to have squatted on the Playhouse Parking lot in order to satisfy the loan.

In my exposé from last year, The Coconut Grove Playhouse Deal begins to Unfold, I speculated that a possible future use of the Bicycle Shop could be a restaurant:
[T]urning the Bicycle Shop into a restaurant makes sense because that's another cash business. Gino Falsetto [allegedly] learned how lucrative restaurants can be when he (and his brothers) bankrupted four of them in the Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, area. When the government finally moved in to seize the assets (cash in the till and the cutlery, essentially), Canadians lost an estimated $1,000,000.00 in unpaid taxes. However, that's chump change compared to what Falsetto's investors lost. That figure is estimated to be upwards of ten million dollars. And then, next thing you know, Gino Falsetto has enough resources after his business went bankrupt to buy his way into the hot Miami real estate market.

Of course, it has to be said, that there are many honest and reputable restaurant owners. In fact, the vast majority are. However, that doesn't mean that restaurant ownership has not been known as a source of illegal profit skimming. Just sayin'.

Speaking of cash businesses, that brings us to the Playhouse parking lot. On March 1st the Miami Parking Authority (MPA) will take over control of the Playhouse parking lot. On February 25th the new signage was being erected. However, most of the old signs hadn't been removed yet.

Who had the parking concession until now?

Double Park, Paradise Parking, and Caribbean Parking. Bring Truth To Light has written extensively about Gino Falsetto; his several various partners in several various companies; Aries Development Group; shady Coconut Grove real estate deals; and this particular parking lot. It's worth quoting extensively: [Click the link to read more of this alleged nefariousness.]
How much money did these companies collect from parking fees in the time it [allegedly] squatted on the Playhouse parking lot? Was it forced to return any of that money to the MPA, or was it all just gravy on top of getting the Main Highway frontage, potentially worth millions? And, while I'm asking questions: How much money did these companies report on their income taxes for the years it allegedly squatted on the parking lot?

When I learned these parking companies may have been squatting on the Playhouse Parking Lot for who-knows-how-long?, I began desultory research on the issue of parking in West Grove, but I had no real reason to write it all up into a post until December 12th.



The area surrounding the
Coconut Grove Playhouse

[Click map to enlarge]
LEGEND:

A). Grove Gardens Condominiums;
aka The Monstrosity;
B). Regions Bank;
C). The E.W.F. Stirrup House;
D). Zoned residential lots, used
for illegal parking;
E). Part of the 45 parking spaces
leased for Valet Parking;
F). Blue Star Drive In & remaining 45
spaces leased to Valet parking;
G). Playhouse Parking Lot
operated by the MPA;
H). Unlocked gate directing traffic
onto William and Thomas Streets
and location of arrow directing cars
to exit onto Charles Avenue;
I). Main entrance/exit for main
Playhouse parking lot;
J). The Bicycle Shop;
K). The Barnacle, now a State Park,
once belonged to Commodore Ralph
Monroe, a contemporary of E.W.F.
Stirrup;
L). Rich people in gated enclaves;
M). Far less well off people in West
Grove, which has remained
predominately Black and depressed
during the last 125 years;
N). Commodore Plaza, named after
Ralph Monroe, is lined with pricy
eateries and more expensive art
galleries, meant for people with
more disposable income than
those on the surrounding blocks.
Not Now Silly has often highlighted the Bad Neighbours on Charles Avenue. For a change of pace let me introduce you to a good neighbour.

Immediately west of the E.W.F. Stirrup House [C] lives Cynthia Hernandez, her husband, and their 2 children. I knew little about Cynthia's credentials until a recent exchange of emails. That's when I realized she is a Senior Research Associate, Instructor, & Director of Internship Programs, Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy, Center for Labor Research & Studies, at Florida International University. That's a mouthful.

I first met Hernandez while photographing the Bicycle Shop for last year's story. We started talking and, as always, I started pitching the history of the area, especially the E.W.F. Stirrup House. That's when I learned she lived right next door to the Stirrup House, designated a historic site by the City of Miami, which hasn't prevented it from undergoing nearly a decade of Demolition by Neglect.


Why is preserving the E.W.F. Stirrup House so important to the cultural history of Coconut Grove? Read: Happy Birthday Coconut Grove!!! Now Honour Your Past


Since then we've exchanged information on the house and Charles Avenue whenever I'm visiting. Hernandez couldn't care any more about what's going on if she were an actual home owner. Unfortunately, she just rents. One of the issues we've talked about extensively over the past year is the valet parking business that operates out of the Grove Gardens Residence Condominiums, aka The Monstrosity [A]. She feels her complaints about the additional valet car traffic on Charles Avenue have fallen onto deaf ears.

ANOTHER QUICK HISTORY LESSON: Across the street from the Stirrup House, are 2 residential lots [D] devoid of residences. They once had residences, of course: 2 cute little Conch-style houses. In the same complicated swap that gave Aries Development a 50-year lease on the Stirrup House, it acquired ownership of these 2 lots. The first thing Aries did was knock the houses down to use as a marshaling yard in order to build The Monstrosity in 2006.

The Monstrosity is the mixed-use, 5-storey condo complex, with 3 restaurants offering valet parking. While it fronts onto Main Highway, it's immediately behind the Stirrup House and dwarfs the modest 2-storey structure. While Zyscovich Architects did its best to design a building with a Key West/Bahamian feel, The Monstrosity looks totally out of place and out of scale when viewed from Charles Avenue, designated a Historic Roadway as the first street in Miami.

After these 2 lots were no longer needed to build The Monstrosity, they remained empty and poorly maintained. The property has been cited several times for a lack of upkeep, when the weeds were more than knee-high in some places. I have been told off the record, by someone in the know, that these two lots can NEVER be zoned for anything other than Single Family Residential use. However, the same thing was once said about the E.W.F. Stirrup House before the developer managed to get its zoning flipped to Commercial in anticipation of turning it into a Bed & Breakfast.

In mid-December I got an out-of-breath phone call from Hernandez about new parking shenanigans on Charles Avenue. While we had spoken many times over the last year, she had never phoned me before.

I took these pictures of residential lots [D] being used illegally for overflow
parking on November 8, 2014, long before the December kerfuffle. [There
are several cars parked to the right of this open gate which can't be seen.]

Coconut Grove Village Council Chair Javier Gonzales may remember
me calling him that evening to suggest popping over to check it out for
himself; one of several times this reporter alerted him to this problem.
Hernandez's concern was that the two residential lots across the street were ONCE AGAIN being illegally used as overflow parking to the 45 spaces the valet parking companies rent from the Miami Parking Authority behind the Coconut Grove Playhouse [E & F]. She described to me how there were some 40 cars parked on these residential lots, with the valets zipping cars in and out, and creating a traffic jam Charles Avenue, a residential street.

What made her even angrier was that when she called the police to complain she was told nothing could be done about it because -- get this -- the property owner had not complained. However, the property owner, through a complicated series of companies and familial relationships, also owns the valet parking outlets and the restaurants in The Monstrosity. He benefits financially by illegally parking cars on these residential lots. Why would he complain?

That's when she called me. I told Hernandez to take pics and video. I also advised her to call the police back and ask, if they couldn't do anything, would they at the very least make a written report so that there was proof a complaint had been made because previous complaints to the city fell upon deaf ears.

To their credit, after her second call Miami Police sent out a higher-up, who actually ordered the lots cleared. That took some 45 minutes and led to the 2nd traffic jam of the night on Charles Avenue.

I also advised Hernandez on a list of people she should send the pictures to come Monday morning, which she did. She then forwarded me the entire email chain generated by her complaint. That's when I decided to collate my year's worth of parking research for a Not Now Silly article. However, I needed some questions answered to adequately flesh out any such article. Consequently, I shot out an email to [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff asking 11 pointed questions in order to finish my article.

READ MORE . . . 


PART TWO of 'The Coconut Grove Playhouse Trojan Horse quotes my email to [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff, his lack of adequate reply, and outlines why the Coconut Grove Playhouse is the Trojan horse for the gigantic Coconut Grove Parking Garage, coming soon to the corner of Main Highway and Charles Avenue.