HEY YOU! YES, YOU!!

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, June 9, 2016

See Something; Say Something In West Grove

Since my last visit the house has
been cited for a by law infraction.
When I attended the meeting at Plymouth Congregational Church for South Grove residents to complain that developers have been allowed to get away with lot splitting and building Big White Boxes in their exclusive neighbourhood, there was one repeated piece of advice from the Miami officials to the homeowners:

If you see something?
Say something! 

As I wrote in Coconut Grove in Black and White:
Meanwhile, South Grove residents were told on Wednesday night if they see anything hinky happening in their neighbourhood -- from illegal tree-cutting to demolitions without a permit -- to call By-Law Enforcement. I'll bet you dollars to donuts that they respond a lot quicker than they have to this disaster on Charles Avenue in West Grove.
That disaster on Charles Avenue was finally cleaned up. However, it took over 6 weeks to get a gigantic pile of demolished house removed.

Maybe "See something; Say something" is advise that only applies to the residents of South Grove. Because last week, in Unpacking Coconut Grove & The Writer, I introduced you to 3678 William Avenue, a house on the next block over from Charles. Very little has changed since I visited.

This won't deter any kids, the homeless, or crackheads.
As I was taking pictures last week I listened to someone on their cell phone reporting the address to City of Miami officials. It had already been reported to the NET office previously, according to my source.

The only thing that's changed since last week is that Miami inspectors cited the house for a By Law infraction. Additionally, a lock has been placed on the front gate, presumably by the owner because that's not the kind of thing the city does. However, that fence is 3 feet tall, tops. Any child older than 2 can easily climb over it, which is what the reports are meant to prevent.

Unlocked houses are attractive to kids. When I was taking my pictures last week there were a couple of kids playing in the street right outside the house. I know if I lived in the neighbourhood I'd have been all over this place as a kid.

The house remains unlocked and open to anyone who wants to get inside.
It really does no good to just slap a By Law infraction notice on the house and a bicycle lock on a gate that anyone can climb over. This house needs to be sealed. Children can get seriously hurt in it. There are signs that people have been sleeping in it and it is a potential safe haven for crackheads.

According to the City of Miami property search website this house is owned by LEMANO INVESTMENTS LLC. , a company that owns 19 other properties in Miami, the only place that I've bothered to search. The registered agent's name & address is: MOYAL ACCOUNTING SERVICES INC, 10796 PINES BLVD, SUITE 204, PEMBROKE PINES, FL 33026. The manager of that company is listed as HENRY, FREDERIC, 2550 SOUTH BAYSHORE DRIVE, COCONUT GROVE, FL 33133, a pretty ritzy address, if you ask me. I can't imagine why they cannot afford to buy a few pieces of wood to seal this house. Maybe somebody from the city should give them a call and ask.

BTW: Along with the notice slapped on the house, the city sends a registered letter to the owner. However, it needs to be asked: How many previous citations have been slapped on this house since I first started taking pics of it 7 years ago?

If the owner won't do the right thing, the City of Miami needs to show up with some plywood and seal the front and back doors and charge it back to the owner. From my understanding this house has been reported to the City of Miami enough times that the city might find itself legally liable if something terrible were to happen now.

I ended Coconut Grove in Black and White by drawing a stark camparison between West Grove and South Grove:
As South Grove meets with their elected representatives, West Grove is as ignored as ever. As South Grove begins the task of forming a Homeowners Association, West Grove is quietly gentrified without anyone noticing. When will West Grove get the same kind of attention from the City of Miami as South Grove? 
Would this disaster have gone this long in South Grove without the city taking action? Or is "See something; Say something" just an empty slogan -- like FAIR & BALANCED -- no matter what part of District 2 you live in?

Inquiring minds want -- no, need -- to know.

McCarthyism Redux ► Throwback Thursday

It was 62 years ago today when Senator Joseph McCarthy was famously rebuked by Joseph Welch, chief counsel for the United States Army, which was under attack by "Tailgunner" Joe during the height of the Red Scare of the '50s:
"You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?"
McCarthyism led to many good people being blacklisted in their chosen professions, including the most well-known, the Hollywood 10. The WikiWackyWoo has a list of the Victims of McCarthy, which is still not exhaustive. You may not know many of the names on that list, but it includes such notables as Lucille Ball, Elmer Bernstein, Leonard Bernstein, Bertolt Brecht, Luis Buñuel, Charlie Chaplin, Aaron Copland, Howard Da Silva, Dolores del Río, W.E.B. Du Bois, Albert Einstein, John Garfield, Jack Gilford, Allen Ginsberg, Ruth Gordon, Lee Grant, Dashiell Hammett, Lillian Hellman, Lena Horne, Langston Hughes, Sam Jaffe, Danny Kaye, Gypsy Rose Lee, Burgess Meredith, Arthur Miller, Zero Mostel, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Dorothy Parker, Linus Pauling, Paul Robeson, Edward G. Robinson, Pete Seeger, Artie Shaw, and Orson Welles.

Speaking of no sense of decency: In 2016 we have entered a new era of McCarthyism, with GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump lashing out indiscriminately at Mexicans and Muslims. George Santayana famously said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

As a public service the Not Now Silly Newsroom wants to remind everyone of that ugly era in 'Merkin history in an effort to wake people up to the evils of Trumpism.

Everything old is new again!!!



More Trumpism at the Not Now Silly Newsroom:

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Trolleygate Sputters Back To Life

As the first journalist to write about Trolleygate, I couldn't help but chortle over yesterday's Miami Herald story about the white elephant also known as the Trolley Folly:


Why is this so funny? Let me count the ways:

1). WAREHOUSE?!?!

2). The Miami Herald covering something in West Grove? It only seem to do that when there's been a shooting.

The Herald seemed quite incurious about Trolleygate while it was happening. At the time everyone in West Grove knew how their [allegedly] corrupt former-Miami District 2 Commissioner, Marc D. Sarnoff, had sold them down the river. [How apt: A slavery reference.] However, the Miami Herald never reported on that aspect of the story, which allowed Sarnoff to slip away again.

3). I couldn't help but be struck by the total lack of specificity in the article. I spoke to Commissioner Ken Russel by phone last evening, after this article was printed. He tells me he was not only misquoted by David Smiley, but he left out an important part of what was said.

Commissioner Russell says he told Smiley that he wasn't going to do anything without input from West Grove, since those were the folks adversely affected by this bone-headed decision in the first place. [My paraphrase.]

3). This is not much of a scoop on the Herald's part. Just like Trolleygate, I was there first. On November 12th I posted a short interview conducted with Commissioner-elect Russell in which we had this exchange:
NNS: Is there any big project you've got in mind? Something you want to try to do while in office.

KR: Yeah, I would like to see something good come of the Trolley garage. I'd like to see that building serve the community. And, I've heard a lot of good ideas, but not in a formal setting to where I could say what should be done with it, but it's a symbol of how this part of town's been treated and, I think, in the same symbolic gesture should be converted into something that builds up the community.
A community center would certainly do that.

4). While I am total agreement with Commissioner Ken Russell that a community center would be a good use for this building, and that West Grove could certainly use one, I can't help but think this is just throwing good money after bad.

I've never seen a full accounting of how much money Miami flushed down the drain defending the building of this diesel garage that would have only served Coal Gables, a totally different city next door. However, there were several lawsuits launched against Miami, Coral Gables, and Astor Trolley. In the end it was determined that Trolleygate Violates 1964 Civil Rights Act ► Not Now Silly Vindicated. Every penny Miami spent to defend the out of town developer, over the interests of the community and its own constituents, was money wasted.

And, now the city may spend almost $4 million to, basically, get everyone off the hook.

5). If it were in my power I'd rename this building Marc Sarnoff's White Elephant. As I have written previously, Sarnoff worked tirelessly on behalf of the developer to get this project approved. He set one neighbourhood group against another. He offered one of those groups a kind of bribe to not fight the garage. At a public meeting I attended he threatened West Grove neighbours with withdrawing his support for building Gibson Plaza. He also suggested he didn't have to back the infilling of new homes in the neighbourhood if they didn't play along. It was Sarnoff's performance at this community meeting that prompted me to write Is Marc D. Sarnoff Corrupt Or The Most Corrupt Miami Politician?

However, Sarnoff was able to walk away without any of the blame -- which the Miami Herald helped by not reporting on it -- that should have been his due for having screwed his own constituents on behalf of an out of town developer.

6). This paragraph really jumped out at me:
[Developer Henry] Torres disputes that he or the city tried to ram the warehouse down the throats of unsuspecting West Grove residents, but he said he’s had previous discussions with Miami officials about selling the building to the city. There was talk at one point about a police substation, or a Bahamian consulate. Still, he said he hadn’t heard anything about Russell’s interest, or even received a call from the commissioner — which he found somewhat presumptuous.
This is simply not true. While Torres may not have PERSONALLY tried to ram the (((WAREHOUSE?))) down the throats of West Grove residents, he didn't have to. Marc Sarnoff greased the wheels, slicked the tracks, and got this through "faster than a hot knife through butter," as one of my sources put it at the time.

However, as I reported in BLOCKBUSTER!!! The Trolleygate Smoking Gun Surfaces, one eagle-eyed city Planning & Zoning drone named Dakota Hendon realized that the Miami21 plan would not allow this use of a building on that street and sent an email to his boss:
We have a bit of a problem. The Coral Gables Trolley Station that I met with you and the applicant on a few weeks ago appears to not be an allowable use as we had originally anticipated. See the definition of Auto-related industrial below. I believe this is specifically an industrial use. At this point, they have already submitted for the Warrant and action needs to be taken to stop the application. Additionally, IDR was adamantly against the project in the specific location.  Please call me to discuss at your convenience. 

Auto-Related Industrial Establishment: A facility conducting activities associated with the repair or maintenance of motor vehicles, trailers, and similar large mechanical equipment; paint and body work; major overhaul of engine or engine parts; vehicle impound or wrecking yard; outdoor vehicle sales, storage or repair; and government vehicle maintenance facilities. This includes auto related Uses not otherwise allowed within the commercial auto related establishment category.
So, what did the city of Miami do? It got Henry Torres, or underlings that work for him, to withdraw the application and then resubmit the application. They were identical, except that the new one didn't talk about vehicle maintenance and repair. The new application made it sound as if it was just going to be a passive (((WAREHOUSE?))) of diesel trolley buses (an oxymoron. Trolleys are electric.).

When I discovered this memo I tried to find Dakota Hendon to see how this building got approved when he said it was non-conforming. Surprise! He no longer worked for the City of Miami. I actually tracked him to his new job in New York and left several messages. I never got a reply.

However, I'm starting to think it's important that his boss was Francisco Garcia, City of Miami Planning Director. 

7). I had never met Francisco Garcia before I wrote Coconut Grove in Black and White, just another look at the disparity between Black and White neighbourhoods in Miami. Not only hadn't I met him, but I didn't remember he was the recipient of Dakota Hendon's email (see above). Even dumber on my part: I had forgotten I had actually written about him in that post and, furthermore, asked some pointed questions of him:
1). Why does the written record end with the email from Hendon;
2). Did he follow up Hendon;
3). Who approved this project;
4). What contact did he have with [allegedly] corrupt Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff over this project;
5). What contact did he have with Astor Development. 
If I had remembered all that I might not have walked up to him in that meeting to whisper in his ear. I wanted to ask him why South Grove was getting all this attention when West Grove has trouble getting house rubble removed in under 6 weeks. I also wanted to ask him about the NCD-2 rules (West Grove), which are different from the NCD-3 rules (South Grove). My source told me that Garcia could answer all my questions.

I waited until he was not answering questions or batting back insults from the South Grove residents and was standing quietly on the side of the room. I handed him my card and said, "Headly Westerfield. I don't want to waste your time at this meeting, or the meeting's time, but I'd like to interview you about the NCDs."

As he gave me his card, I can distinctly remember Francisco Garcia's exact response, word for word: "I'd be happy to talk to you."

However, he lied.

He has not responded to my several phone calls, which started the following day. Nor has he replied to my 3 emails. I've started CCing Commissioner Russell's office in my emails to Garcia's office.

Something tells me he's dodging me.

That's why I'm in the middle of a MASSIVE Freedom of Information request to the City of Miami's Planning & Zoning Office. I'll get what I need.

8). This article is a piece of crap. If the Miami Herald cared about the community, it might have published some of the above. If I can prove all of this, why can't the Miami Herald with its humongous resources? Instead the Herald played along by calling this a (((WAREHOUSE?))), as opposed to a polluting diesel maintenance facility, the thing it was designed to be. Once again the Herald is protecting powerful people responsible for wasting shit loads of taxpayers dollars.

Reading that article you'd think it was the poor developer who was the victim, as opposed to West Grove that has had to suffer from systemic racism since their Bahamian ancestors built Coconut Grove with their own hands. Henry Torres will make his money back (and then some, it seems).

Marc Sarnoff got away scott free.

Dakota Hendon seems to have landed on his feet.

And, Francisco Garcia continues to make decisions in favour of developers that adversely affect the current residents of the neighbourhoods.

I went to the craziest Planning & Zoning meeting the other night hoping to confront Francisco Garcia. Sadly he wasn't there. It was an appeal of a development in South Grove. After all the yadda yadda yadda it was decided -- get this -- that the Planning & Zoning department would follow the Miami21 plan when approving permits and warrants. That's almost a tacit admission that it hasn't been up to now. [See above.]

Smiley ended his article with this and made it a Patented Miami Herald Feel Good Story™:
But that idea [of a community center] sounds good to [Clarice] Cooper. And to [Anthony] Alfieri, the UM professor, it also sounds right.

“Given the West Grove’s Jim Crow history of municipal segregation in housing, education, and even public water access, and the current exploitation and displacement of long time West Grove residents,” Alfieri said, “Commissioner Russell’s proposed community center at the site of the misbegotten trolley garage is an important public policy initiative both to remedy past wrongs and to preserve and strengthen the surviving West Grove community.”
FULL DISCLOSURE: I also made a proposal for the Trolleygate building, which appears to have been rejected.