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Daily updates on what's up in Coconut Grove and beyond including Brickell, Coral Gables and Midtown Miami

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Don't attack the messenger

Please when you read this, picture us as friends sitting across from each other with a beer. Because I'm just trying to explain my point of view and not be rude about it.

Yesterday, after I published my piece on my wish to see Shake Shack at the Glass House, I received this anonymous comment:

"Tom, how can you think that selling off public property in a public park to private companies is is any way, shape or form is a good idea? It was built as a community center for the residents of Coconut Grove. The NET offices and Chamber of Commerce took it away from the residents years ago."

He went on: "
I feel that you are a voice for the Grove and when you stand up and make suggestions like Shake Shack instead of questioning the wisdom of selling a public park to private investors you ARE supporting and promoting that idea."

My response to that is, I have been questioning the issue for four years now. I have been writing about it and people have been debating it. And while I am not in favor of a restaurant over a community center, what if I was? Why do I need to take his side? Who says, the "voice of the Grove" shouldn't like a restaurant in the space? Who is to say what is right and what is wrong?
Again, I did not say I was in favor of a public park being taken over by private companies, in fact, starting in 2009 I was at meetings including one with with the Friends of Peacock Park to question this idea. I don't believe our accuser was at any of those meetings. 

At the time, a friend left a comment under the story I wrote, which stated, "
I attended the meeting and felt that unless the residents get involved and ask questions and demand answers Peacock park will have a full service restaurant with a wine and beer license, full catering rights to the park and possibly the park could be eventually privatized."
That comment was published here in the Grapevine in 2009.

Back to our anonymous commenter; I told him I would not debate anonymous people so he kindly revealed his name and said he has been a Grovite since the 1960s, so I suspect most of the changes that have gone on around here have been a thorn in his side. I do have to agree that too much is changing too fast, but to blame the messenger for what is happening at the Glass House is out of line.

I am not here to take sides. I don't have to take his side or anyone's side and I am not going to fight his or anyone else's battles. When the RFP (Request for Proposals) for the Glass House and the proposed restaurant was brought up by me, right here, years ago, where were people then? Why wait till it's too late to fight the issue? The RFP has gone out, that's it.

In my article yesterday about the Shake Shack, I was just answering the question, which was not asked, but I answered, "What type of restaurant would you like to see in the location?" I chose Shake Shack only because if a restaurant goes in, I would like to see something that everyone would use. I passed a bunch of kickball teams in the park yesterday, I am sure that most of these guys and girls would visit the Shake Shack after their games rather than if it was a high end restaurant, which I believe most, if not all, would just bypass after their games. So a restaurant for the masses seems to be what is needed.

Would it be great if a community center went in there. Sure. Would it be great if they knocked down the whole thing and made it a lawn? Yes, why not? Would it be even better if new, clean bathrooms, water fountains and shade was brought in instead? Of course.

This public/private park thing has been going on all over the country. In New York City now, most parks host vendors. Union Square has a large farmer's market most of the year, which runs most of the week, not just weekends, which was the original plan, and in the fall and winter, along with the farmer's market, there is a huge bazaar that takes over a big portion of the park. They start with pumpkins and Halloween items and then it ends up being Christmas trees and Christmas stuff and all the while the farmer's market is going on.

The same people run a holiday bazaar in Brant Park and also inside Grand Central Terminal. Fashion Week tents, an ice skating rink and a carousel in Bryant Park behind the NY Public Library are also a big part of that city park, various times of the year. There are also little snack and ice cream kiosks that dot one area and there are lots of little cafe tables where people eat and hang out. All this was parkland a few years back.

Am I in favor of it? I don't know, I just looked up one day and it was all there. Perhaps the people of New York fought the idea, but it happened. The parks are all commercialized now, whether it's right or wrong.

For more years than many of us have been alive, the Boathouse restaurant has operated in the center of Central Park and on the other side of the park, inside the park, Tavern on the Green operated for many years. This is not just a Miami thing and it's not such a new thing.

And if people are against the Glass House becoming a restaurant on city owned land, let me ask you, do you go to The Fresh Market, Scotty's Landing, Red Fish Grill (at Matheson Hammock) and other places on the waterfront? Did you go to Sundays on the Bay on Key Biscayne in the past? Have you eaten at the restaurant at Black Point Marina or the lighthouse on Key Biscayne? Then you are feeding into the problem. In all of these cases, the businesses are leasing the land from the city, county or state.

And if you don't like the Glass House project, just wait, the future plans for the waterfront where Scotty's and the Chart House is now,  is supposed to one day become Coconut Grove's version of Bayside.  Just like I told you about the Glass House plans four years ago and I repeated the plans many times over the years, I am telling you about the waterfront plan. You know that Starbucks is going in at Monty's, right? Well that could be the start of things to come.

So stop blaming the messenger. I am only here to give you the message, that's it. You need to take it and run with it from here.  I can't stop these projects, I can only inform you about them. And I do right from the beginning. I can't help it if you wait years, until it's too late.
For the record, I am against a private, money-making venture taking over city or county owned property to run a restaurant or any other type of business. And yes, I am guilty of frequenting the places that do eventually take over the land for private businesses. I think most of us do and that is why it keeps happening.

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10 Comments:

Anonymous K. Clasby said...

Hi Tom,
I don't see anything wrong with private enterprise on public property. If the public doesn't like the venture, they won't frequent it, and it will not survive. On the other hand, if the gov't builds something unpopular, it will stand idle in the name of community use.

May 05, 2013 9:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Je accuse?

As the "accuser" I think this is an awesome response. :)

Most of us have lives where we are not as hooked into the local political scene and only become aware of the issues when the local media prints what happened as opposed to what is going to happen or when issue s come up for discussion. The pine trees as you drive out to Key Biscayne are a good example. Once the City started tearing them out there was such an uproar that even though many trees were lost the ones on the north side were left alone.

Unfortunately I only discovered this blog of yours when you started your series on Scotty's or I would have been more vocal about this issue much earlier. Miami politics and Coconut Grove in particular work on the "Better to ask forgiveness than permission" principle and most of the media is more concerned with the bloodiest accident on 95 than why a million dollars was spent to AstroTurf some local politician's favorite dog park.

Because most of us have lives where we cannot attend the meetings at City Hall or even community meetings we depend on the media to keep us aware of local issues. (checks Miami Herald website: Top story- The Miami Heat and their tattoos...sigh)

We really need people like you and Crespo and other bloggers to keep up with the REAL local news and not just the If It Bleeds It Leads fare of current media. Btw is Anna Nichole still dead?

Glad to know you are active in our community and posting the events and issues that the big media corps don't see fit to publish and I wish you would publish more opinion pieces like this. In a kinda sick way I'm glad I made you angry enough to write this piece.

Thank you for bringing back the Grapevine. We need more local media to keep an eye on City Hall and less of the mass media's commercial drivel. Thank you also for bringing back the anonymous commenting and the headaches and oversight that that requires.

Christopher Neil.
(raises beer glass). Slainté?

May 05, 2013 9:58 AM  
Anonymous Sandi said...

Tom :
Keep doing what you do best, you are reporting. Comments should have a name . No more anonymous comments. Grow a pair people and put your name! Thanks for keeping us informed Tom, your awesome!

May 05, 2013 10:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Comments should not be REQUIRED to have a name. It creates a shoot the messenger mentality and most times end in personal attacks while avoiding whatever subject is at hand.
Imagine if Sarnoff or Jonny Depp commented. Extreme example but do you think the following comments would be more towards the subject at hand or more like OMG!!! J.Depp I love you or Sarnoff you're a piece of excremental flotsam.

It is the author of the site who makes the ultimate decision but as a person who has people agree or disagree with me on a daily basis based on my name I prefer anonynymity. Most people would rather not have their names attached to their opinions. It makes one a target. This is why when we vote it is anonymous.

If that seems wrong take a look at how many people left comments when Mr Falco did not have the anonymous option on comments vs the amount of comments (and revenue generating click counts) since he reinstated the option.

May 05, 2013 10:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought it was a great idea actually, I don't know what everyone is getting so upset about.

May 05, 2013 11:00 AM  
Blogger Sledge said...

actually the glass house isn't exactly bay front (can't see the water courtesy of the sacred
Mangroves

My 2 cents:
No business there no restaurants we have dozens of those next door.

A little museum somewhat like the science museum wouldst be cool with changing shows every month or an art gallery


Carlos Iglesia

May 05, 2013 1:31 PM  
Anonymous Dan Wells said...

How about tear the darn thing down. Who needs a building in the middle of a park anyway?

May 05, 2013 3:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Miami's free speech center, like the speakers' corner in London's Hyde Park, a free people need to be able to peacefully express themselves publicly or anonymously without fear of being intimidated, persecuted or prosecuted.

May 05, 2013 3:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi. My name is Laura Albritton (not to be anonymous) and I'm a Grove resident. Your blog is terrific, by the way. So glad you decided to return. In this latest post you make several excellent points about public/private use of parks. As someone who enjoys eating at Boater's Grill in Bill Baggs and at Scotty's Landing, I've benefited from this public/private partnership. So you are pretty persuasive about a restaurant for Peacock Park's Glass House. Shake Shack isn't a bad idea! It would in fact be affordable, yet cool. A community center would be lovely, but who's going to rally the community to get it done? If someone leaps to the forefront of this cause, let us know. I'll sign petitions and buy t-shirts. But if no one does, a hip, pleasant place to enjoy an inexpensive meal...why not? Even in Paris the public parks have private vendors. More people would use Peacock Park if they could sit outside at a table and have a bite, perhaps with a crisp glass of wine or a yummy milkshake.

A complete non sequitur: what I'd love in or near Cocowalk is an old-fashioned newstand with loads of newspapers (local, national, and international) and fantastic magazines, and little sundries. Like the kiosks on NYC street corners. Maybe Bookstore in the Grove could start a satellite kiosk.

Basta! Thank you for your blog, and keep up the sensational work.

May 05, 2013 6:04 PM  
Blogger David McBurnett said...

Keep up the great work. If no one gets annoyed you are slipping....
Glad you are back!
David McBurnett

May 06, 2013 3:11 PM  

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