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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Why is St. Stephen's hogging the park?

I get lots of emails from people asking me why the basketball courts and soccer field is locked up at Peacock Park. The City made some sort of deal with St. Stephen's School where they could use the facilities, but they must share them during off school hours. They don't. As you can see, the facilities are padlocked.

I reached out to quite a few people at St. Stephen's, most of the administrative staff as well as the headmaster; they ignored my requests for an explanation. A friend dragged me over one Friday afternoon, after school was out. This was the scene. Empty fields locked up.

This is a poor photo, but the time says 4:30. But it's not true, we were there Friday, Saturday and Sunday at all times and the facilities were locked shut. There is one way in and one way out, all controlled by the field hogs at St. Stephen's. We saw one guy playing basketball and asked him how he got in, he said he jumped the fence, that that's what he does all the time, as it is it the only way to get in after 4:30 pm on weekdays and all day on weekends.

St. Stephen's needs to open the park up and stop hogging it. People are asking questions and it doesn't bode well for St. Stephen's and their selfish ways, need I remind you of the little historic 1912 church they knocked down in order to put in an after school tutor center?

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47 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Give them an inch and they'll take a mile" applies here.

If the administration won't respond and the city won't do anything about the school's abuse of a free park facility loan, then it's time to cut that padlock every time it is locked when it shouldn't be.

February 27, 2014 8:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you notice all the signs lying on the ground just uphill from home plate? They were installed at the corner of McFarland and Bayshore, taken down immediately after installation when they redid that corner, and never put back. Being that one of those signs is a stop sign for that corner, I really think that this creates a dangerous situation, a waste of tax dollars, along with a poor attitude towards people that actually would like to use the information that those signs were made for.

Besides that, who the hell is contracted to redo Peacock Park? It seems that the only work that has been completed is the work for St. Stephen's, and that was only completed 15 minutes before school opened last fall. The place is a mess and a major eyesore for everyone. Who rips up a park and lets it sit that way for a year? Something for all of us that pay so much in property taxes each year.

February 27, 2014 8:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm in total agreement with the sentiments expressed here. I live in the north grove and have 3 kids. Two of them boys that are interested in basketball. It's bad enough I have to pay $3 to park so that my kids can use the park. And that often times there is no parking because of people going to the shops. The fact that we cannot have free access to this BB court pisses me off. I'm willing to get involved in this matter if others are as well.

February 27, 2014 10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that St. Stephen's School is being a court hog. At first I was annoyed that they were able to lock up the court at all. Once I got past that fact, I was okay but now they leave it locked all day long! As a Grove resident and avid Peacock Park visitor I wish this wasn't so.

February 27, 2014 10:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heres a fun prank to play on them... cut their lock off and swap it until they learn their lesson.

February 27, 2014 10:35 AM  
Blogger Marc said...

Cut the padlock folks.

February 27, 2014 10:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is against the law for the City of Miami to allow a private entity to renovate and monopolize a public park for private use! Thank your corrupt Commissioner Sarnoff for making this happen. Sarnoff is also responsible for approving and orchestrating the middle-of-the night illegal demolition of Saint Stephen's historic 1912 chapel. All it would take is a challenge in court on behalf of the tax payers in the neighborhood to get our park back from the corrupt Christians at Saint Stephens. David Villano, Willie Allen Faella, and Marc Sarnoff are the crooked culprits here.

February 27, 2014 10:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Elitism, racism, snobbery at its finest. The ACLU will represent the neighbors for free - (786) 363-2700.

February 27, 2014 11:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By all rights, Pecock Park should be Coconut Grove’s Central Park. Take a stroll and become enlightened. They finally moved the Chamber and NET offices out of our former Community Center Glass House. But it remains empty, since no one has been interested in retrofitting it for a café, restaurant or anything. City of Miami seems reluctant to spend money returning it to a much desired Community Center, that it was for many years (see brass plaque on the wall). As you know a deal was made to lease a portion of the park to St. Stephens for their exclusive use. They built a fenced in basketball courts and fenced in mini-soccer field with artificial grass. There is one gate to enter from St. Stephens and one gate facing the Glass House to enter the basketball court, which leads to the gate to enter the soccer field. The sign on the fence indicates that the fenced in areas are for the exclusive use of St. Stephens, seven days a week, but open to the public after 4:30 p.m. Needless to say, the gate to the public has never been unlocked. Doesn’t school let out at 3 p.m. and closed on weekends and holidays? Where is the sign-up sheet for the public and teams to reserve the basketball courts and soccer filed? Why are Midtown mini-soccer fields successful while charging $10 an hour per player while Peacock Park is locked up and only available for the use of St. Stephen? This misuse of a public park must end or be improved drastically ASAP. Will another similar public/private exclusive deal also be the fate of the Regatta Park? Did you noticed that the artistic bike rack by Lobo is no longer there either? How much did Manny Diaz pay for that? What can we expect of Regatta Park, if we can’t even get our act together with Peacock Park? How soon before Regatta Park also gets its own undeserving and unwanted (except for pet owners without a backyard) fenced in dog area and locked up areas for St. Stephens or others willing to Pay To Play?

February 27, 2014 12:08 PM  
Blogger Brian Breslin said...

There was supposed to be an adult soccer league there in the evenings, but I think they couldn't get the access they needed (pure speculation)? I would LOVE to use the soccer field for pickup games.

February 27, 2014 12:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David Villano, who is associated with Saint Stephens, Willie Allen Faiella, and Marc Sarnoff, expressed concern about a "certain demographic" having access to "their" facilities (in this public park) and so they decided to keep the gate locked at all times. Marc Sarnoff, at the urging of David Villano, engaged the police in keeping a "certain demographic" out of Peacock Park and away from Saint Stephens and "their" facilities, in this public park.

February 27, 2014 12:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Getting our much deserved and needed trolley and getting Peacock park back should be on top of the list of all Grovites. (Let's see what the cops think now at 3pm..)

What's truly amazing is that our elected officials --our so-called "representatives" whose salaries we pay-- do not seem to have any answer or rational explanation at all regarding either of these 2 issues. None.

February 27, 2014 1:55 PM  
Blogger Aes said...

I frequent the park a minimum of 3 times a week to play basketball (T/TR/Sat), and I'd say the gate leading to the basketball court is locked 70 to 80% of the time. I've spoken to a few administrators at the school in person - multiple times - in regards to this situation, and I'm always given the same lame/nonsensical response: it's the "city" that's responsible for opening/closing the gate for the public, and thus there's nothing St. Stephens can do about the situation. Obviously, they're just giving me the run-around. I don't understand the need for the fence,though. All that fence accomplishes is to give the false impression that the basketball court/soccer field are the school's property and not the public's, and in doing so, this alienates the public and discourages us from frequenting the park. I often wonder if any of this is even legal.

February 27, 2014 2:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the park is truly public then cut the lock. However, about 12/18 months back as I was running by one of those "certain demographic" homeless, who I knew called me over and about 1/2 dozen other "certain demographic", one so far gone she attempted to physically attack me, another became hostile and the one I knew was having some kind of fit of anger/rage attack, while the other sipped from brown bags, one returned with some agreed upon substance purchased by most of those sitting around as they tried to share whatever it was - - - - and their collective complaint was focused upon the police who had ordered them out of this locked portion of Peacock Park, one got up and urinated behind a tree; it was about 9:00 AM - - - - I advised the one who knew me because I had been nice to him [homeless] to take a bath, put on clean clothing and to pick up "their" trash when sitting around drinking in a public park where there are families with children - - - - I had to depart as they generally became a tumult causing several officer to move closer! Is this M. Sarnoff or was it St. Stephens protecting their wards? An officer warned them all to stay out of that section of Peacock Park.

February 27, 2014 3:30 PM  
Blogger Michelle Niemeyer said...

There needs to be an organized ceremonial lock cutting and pick-up soccer and basketball event. This isn't so different from Stallonegate. That wall came down, fast, and didn't come back. Grape, are you up for helping get the word out? Is it against the law to cut a lock off something that blocks access to property that belongs to you, as we residents have a right to access our parks? Do we have teams to play, and people willing to risk the wrath of the Smarmoff? Does someone have a good lock cutter? If not, I bet they would have one at Home Depot. Oh, the irony! :)

February 27, 2014 3:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michelle, I believe the park should not be locked, and I find it outrageous that this deal was negotiated with the City.

That said, I think you ought to check the law. I do not believe individual citizens have the right to enforce public rights unilaterally.

Something could have changed, however, since I was in school.

February 27, 2014 4:08 PM  
Anonymous David Villano said...

The comments and actions attributed to me by "anonymous" are so far from reality that I assume they were posted with malicious intent. If you believe you have a factual basis for making such defamatory claims in a public forum please state them so they may be held up for scrutiny. And why are you hiding your identity?

February 27, 2014 4:10 PM  
Anonymous Dexter said...

I think someone should give one of the local news channels a heads-up.

February 27, 2014 4:15 PM  
Blogger Brian Breslin said...

The fence is necessary for the soccer courts, that's how short-field "futsal" fields are designed. though there is no need for them to have padlocks on them...

Could someone setup a little hut that houses someone who administers renting the field? I'm sure many would be happy to pay if they could reserve the field for league/game play.

February 27, 2014 4:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The word is that this deal was cut by Peter Gardner, Chairman of the St Stephen's school board. Peter is the principal of Pointe Group a development company that has been actively acquiring properties in the Grove (Johnny Rocket's/Guess buildings and the Florentine Plaza - Fuddrukers/Knife property. They have also been trying to redevelop the six blocks of Grand Avenue but have been unsuccessful thus far in making the #'s work and are trying to renegotiate the terms of their original deal. They are also the successful bidder for the recent Glass House RFP. Bottom line is that the "taking" that has been allowed to occurred at Peacock Park is unacceptable. Not dissimilar to Steven Perricone, Sarnoff's BFF, and Perricone's use of the the adjacent Allen Morris park in Brickell for outdoor restaurant seating. They had a temporary use agreement for a small area with a half dozen tables that morphed into decks, fixed canopies, air-conditioning, and now 40+ tables. And they don't pay hardly anything for the privilege of using our public park. (See Al Crespo's blog for details). Now they want the Allen Morris family to rescind the gift of the land for the park so they can knock everything down and build another condo tower on the site. Our politicians and government employees are to be stewards of the public's asset's. Our park land and waterfront properties are not theirs to hand out to friends and family as they deem expedient. Regardless if they are convinced that they are doing the right thing and it's in the best interest of the city, as Sarnoff is oft to suggest. The citizens of Miami need to be at the table for these back room negotiated deals.

February 27, 2014 4:29 PM  
Anonymous That Guy said...

I am willing to meet at the park, and be part of the lock cutting ceremony. Civil disobedience is necessary, and yes, a cop could charge someone for cutting the lock, as "destruction of public property", since the lock is claimed by St. Stephens to belong to the city.

here's the twist though, someone from the city would have to show up in court to say the city owns the lock in order to prosecute. Who from the merry band of fools down at the old pan am hangar is gonna do that? None of them have the guts to admit that they are the a**hole in charge of stealing from the citizens of Miami. Also, that person and the city would then be subjected to civil liability.

Let's go cut it. Pick a day and time.

February 27, 2014 4:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This action, giving public property to private entities (entities that pay no property tax no less), is our city commission in all of its glory. The only thing missing from our city commission dais are, robes, crowns and scepters.
Miami needs a revolution. Skip Van Cel

February 27, 2014 4:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That lock doesn't look too beefy. Home depot has 2 relatively inexpensive ones in stock: $17 and $23

More public disobedience by tax payers is necessary to get local government back in line.

February 27, 2014 4:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My previous price quotes were for bolt cutters. Omitted the word by mistake

February 27, 2014 5:00 PM  
Blogger F. said...

Hey guys, let's organize this together.

I'm in for a pick up soccer game. How about this coming Monday, March 1 @ 6:00 P.M. Spread the Word.

I'll bring the soccer ball. Who's in?

February 27, 2014 5:16 PM  
Anonymous Bruce S. said...

WOW!

Really glad I didn't enroll my kids in St Stephens, or I'd be getting tarred and feathered along with Dave Villano and Peter Gardner.

Who are all of you ANONYMOUS weasels?

If you want this to be a community forum, then you shouldn't hide behind a cloak of invisibility when you accuse others.

Reveal yourselves...

February 27, 2014 6:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"There needs to be an organized ceremonial lock cutting and pick-up soccer and basketball event. "

I'll be happy to contribute as Point Guard, even coming off the bench. Also, if they ever, finally give us our Grove Trolleys, I'll freaking drive one around City Hall once a week.
CI

February 27, 2014 6:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just this afternoon, dozens and dozens of Policemen and their cars marched around, went to City Hall, to voice their demands.

We, as residents and tax payers, should do the same: Get together and demonstrate. Demand our Park back and our trolleys to go play in the park.
(and while we're at it, cut some freaking "windows" on those 'sacred' mangroves, as promised years ago, to see the bay from the sports courts. I also volunteer for that, I would use the same cutters from Home Depot.)
CI

February 27, 2014 6:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anybody know who Bruce S is? I looked in the white pages and there are lots and last people with a last name starting in S. Some are even listed as Bruce.

But I think what he is suggesting is that government workers, vendors, those that object to the dog park and thus and such ought to risk their jobs to comment on a public park? I mean, it is not exactly to insane to think that some politicians and political types might take reprisals. Some of them seem to be that petty.

Oh, I'm Robert C.

February 27, 2014 7:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This seems like a one-sided article. St. Stephens has no responsibility to open the gates after 4:30, it is the City's job to open the gates after 4:30. Someone needs to talk to the city about this and not blame St. Stephens. St. Stephens did pay for the construction of the courts, and they also pay a fee to reserve it during their school and after school hours.

February 27, 2014 7:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who opens it for St Stephens everyday?

February 27, 2014 8:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Court hog"? Stephens is no saint, it is a Court Thief. THe church has stolen what belongs to the public. It should be banned from Peacock Park for five years for this screw job (as well as our city officials who made it happen.
After five years, we'll let them rent it during school hours, 8 am to 3 pm. We'll hold the keys this time and charge them a reasonable fee.
It is outrageous that the City of Miami has given a piece of our bayside park to Steven the saint.

February 27, 2014 8:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is what happens when our politician engage in public private partnership schemes.

February 27, 2014 8:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If a time and date is set I'll be there to show support.
But some have suggested it's the City's responsibility to open/close the park? If so who specifically in the city?
PS I sent an email to St Stephens today and haven't heard back...Here's the address if any others care to join in. school@sseds.org

DF

February 28, 2014 12:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Basketball court was open yesterday and full of kids when I ran by at 6:30pm
CI

February 28, 2014 9:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Peter Gardner and David Villano are both Saint Stephen's alumni and they both supported and helped orchestrate the demolition of Saint Stephen's historic 1912 Chapel with Marc Sarnoff so that a tacky retail building could be built in its place. This gives you a sense of the kind of low quality education and moralless fortitude that Saint Stephens is in the business of producing(and for a hefty price), so the takeover of the public park comes as no surprise, considering the players in this scam. Considering the illegalities of the situation, charges should be filed against Villano, Gardner, Sarnoff and the pastor of Saint Stephens.

February 28, 2014 9:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a soccer enthusiast and growing up in Europe where soccer cages are as common as trees in the Grove, I was excited to see that we get a public soccer cage right around my place. I have been contacting the city's Parks and Rec department since October regarding the soccer cages and back then their story was that the cage is not open yet because they are waiting for the goals to be mounted. Here is their reply:

10/31/13:
"They will be available for public use when not in use by the school or a permitee. I believe when the goals arrive (they have been ordered) they will be opened up during the day time hours. Pick up games are allowed but any sort of regular play by groups should be done so through a permit to guarantee play time."

Unfortunately since then I haven't received any further information to my numerous emails and judging by the pictures in this post the goals still haven't arrived.

If there is anything going down on Monday, I'm ready to play!

Marlon

February 28, 2014 9:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The fact that some St. Stephens gangsters paid to renovate a public park doesn't give them legal rights to it and does not exclude them from the law. They have no rights to the public park, no matter how much money they spent on it! Don't negotiate with criminals! Its our park! What are you people thinking??? Legally they should not be able to use it for their school at all! Where is the ACLU on this?

February 28, 2014 10:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

New York City had a somewhat similar arrangement a few years back that was overturned by the courts: Court Shoots Down City Deal With Private Schools

This quote from the article stands out: "The city shouldn’t give a priority to people merely because they can pay for the use of public land. That discriminates against those who can’t pay to use the public land. We’re not saying the private schools can’t use the fields, just that everyone should be treated equally when it comes to public land."

In a way, St. Stephens did kind of pay for the park's use with their $500,000 in improvements.

And here's a link to the Herald article when the deal with Peacock park started to go down: Should private Coconut Grove school pay for Miami public park rehab?

February 28, 2014 10:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The explanation regarding waiting on soccer goals is garbage. You can play soccer with no goals, or use cones, or even t-shirts as goals.
Clearly one of the issues is the poor signage. It just says the hours of operation. But should list a ph number if you have questions. It was mentioned you can reserve it. Really? How? Again, poor signage.
Lastly, regarding the hours, my kids go to public schools. Their calendar and days off do not always coincide with St Stephens. Doesn't seem correct. Imagine all of spring break no public use of the park?

February 28, 2014 11:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everyone should email sarnoff and the school.

school@sseds.org, MSarnoff@miamigov.com

February 28, 2014 12:18 PM  
Anonymous That Guy said...

Dear Bruce S. (your are anonymous, FYI),

No one here has said a bad thing about a single student or parent of a student. They are rightfully bashing the bureaucrats at St. Stephens and City Hall for corruption, theft, or at the very least complete ineptitude.

You sir, are namecalling like a child, while not even addressing the issue being discussed. You are a disservice to the friends you are sticking up for and yourself.

February 28, 2014 12:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In all reality, when the local teens want to play, if they continue to find it locked, they'll end up just cutting the fence. Much easier to do and more complicated to fix.

February 28, 2014 1:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Meanwhile the Community Center building and it's restrooms (the only restrooms in the park and the restrooms that were purposed for the park when the original bathrooms were closed) are fenced off so not only is the only cover from the rain shut off from access, four of the only places to sit in the park have been fenced away from public use.
Let me see how psychic I am. I'm going to predict that it will remain fenced off until the Beerfest at which point there will be a gate put in and the area will be used as the VIP area. That would explain the air-conditioned bathrooms advertised as one of the perks of buying a VIP ticket for an extra $50.

Why are we being resold what our tax dollars have already paid for?
Why has almost half of a public park, built and maintained by tax dollars, been sold to a private FOR PROFIT SCHOOL run by a tax-exempt religious institution.
Why have they fenced off the Community Center and the adjacent tabes and benches for the last month? I'll bet its open for the VIP ticket holders for Beerfest.

Socialize the costs but only those who pay get to benefit. It's disgusting that a church whose very name is synonymous with martyrdom and caring for the less fortunate has bought out a public space for the exclusive use of the children of their wealthy congregation.

March 01, 2014 6:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@6:49am: you are correct, except for beerfest. They bring in the air-conditioned trailer style bathrooms for those events every time. Usually they are set up near southeast corner of the ball field.

March 03, 2014 12:43 PM  
Blogger Jukeblox said...

Just got an update from the Parks and Rec department:

"As of today (3/10) the soccer fields will be open to the public from 3pm – 8pm. However these are hours that will change over time as we figure out permits. "

I will be there today at 6pm!

Marlon

March 10, 2014 3:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I truly hate the fence around the basketball court. It was so much nicer and inviting before. Uggh..

March 12, 2014 5:37 PM  

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