Archive for the ‘Rants’ Category

No Fishing From Bridge (Except For You, Of Course)

fishbridge01

Guy fishing from the North Bay Village/Miami Beach drawbridge.

In general I’m a very laissez faire kind of person; do your thing as long as it’s not illegal and it doesn’t bother other people. When it breaks those two qualifiers, I tend to get grouchy. Like now.

I travel the JFK/79 St Causeway between Miami Beach, North Bay Village and Miami daily, both on car and on bike. On every bridge along this route there is a sign that clearly, in plain English, states NO FISHING FROM BRIDGE. There is no way to misunderstand that message. And yet, daily, at all hours of the day, there are people on each of the bridges, with rods or lines or nets, that apparently have a card that grants them an exception from this mandate.

I honestly don’t care that they fish (I personally would think twice before eating anything that came out of the waters around these islands, considering the amount of pollution clearly visible in the water, but hey, knock yourself out), but come on, it’s clearly stated on the sign that you can’t do it from here! Plain and simple, you and all your equipment are in the way of pedestrian/stroller/bicycle/skateboard/rollerskate/etc traffic. It’s just the same as if you were doing it from one of the lanes on the road. Of course, there’s also the issue of fishing lines and flying nets squarely in the waterways, and while most of these bridges have clearly marked channels for boats to go through, there are tons of idiots that have an exception card for that as well and cross under the bridges wherever they choose to.

fishbridge02

This one has several rods cast and smiled for the camera.

What bothers me is that I have never, in 7 years of living in this area, have seen any cop do anything about it. I mean, there’s a bridge right across from the North Bay Village Police Station and people fish right in front of them with impunity. Nothing. I don’t know that this is a ticketable offense, but at least get them moving from there.

I’ll lay a bit of blame on the cities as well; find these guys a place with public access to the water so they can go and fish there. We live near the water, fishing is just a reality of our way of life, so just embrace it and make it safer for all. Miami Beach just recently opened a small park in Normandy Isle, at the south end of Trouville Esplanade, with access to the bay for the walking public, a fantastic move on their part. Why not do something similar for fishing? The City of Miami should rehabilitate the wooden pier at the south end of Pelican Harbor Park which was partially destroyed during a recent hurricane. North Bay Village should also find a couple of spots to grant public access to the water (how about one of the two empty lots next to the Western Inn?), both for fishing and for the general public.

I’d love to say that I expect some improvement here, but I tend to take the cynical route and not expect anything. Still, I’d love to see the cops enforce the No Fishing From Bridge rule and for the cities to find ways to channel this activity to proper areas.

No More Bike Miami?

It started this morning with a status update on the Bike Miami page on Facebook:

Bike Miami Days Team: Working hard to bring Bike Miami Days back on Sunday, October 4th. That’s just around the corner… will you help us get the word out?

Cool! There’s been rides all summer, but we weren’t sure when the whole-day events would be back. Shortly thereafter, however, a blog post comes through the RSS feed from the Bike Miami Blog, being echoed almost immediately as a comment on the status update above (fourth comment down):

UPDATE: Friends, we apologize for the over-excitement. Bike Miami Days is seeking sponsors to cover the extensive costs associated with keeping this event FREE, FAMILY-FRIENDLY and FUN, all of which requires a great deal of services and financial support that we do not yet have. If you or your business would be able to sponsor the Set Up, Clean Up, Sound, Public Service Aides and Police or any other part of Bike Miami Days, please contact the Coordinator here. Thank you.

Baffled, I sent an email to the aforementioned coordinator, Kathryn Moore and after a short phone call she gave me the bad news: there’s just no money for a Bike Miami Days.

The October date was to be covered via private sponsorship, but the company in question seems to have pulled out, leaving the event still missing the close to $25,000 needed to hold the 6-hour event. This money, for the most part, pays for the City of Miami police officers present at the event, as well as other costs associated with closing a huge chunk of Downtown Miami.

The City of Miami just released also it’s proposed budget for the 2010 Fiscal Year, and try as I might, I cannot find any mention of Bike Miami in the future tense; it is mentioned a handful of times as part of the past year’s accomplishments, but nothing’s there about future iterations of the event. Add to this the fact that Bike Miami has been the brainchild of the Mayor Diaz administration, and that his term comes to an end in November, and it is easy to see how this community event could fall prey to the shifting political winds in Miami.

Plainly, this sucks. Here we are, just a couple of days ago celebrating the first victory of Miami 21, and now the event that is meant to foster the bikeable lifestyle Miami 21 seeks to facilitate is in danger of not happening. After coming from the dumps in the rankings of Bicycling Magazine’s Most Bikeable Cities two years ago to where they actually declare Miami a BikeTown less than a month ago, could it be that we’re headed for another nosedive?

Any private company/non-government organization/individual donor wants to sponsor part or all of Bike Miami Days, please come forward, please speak up.

Miami 21 – Round 2

Back in August 6th, the ambitious and forward-looking plan known as Miami 21 was presented to the City of Miami Commissioners for a vote. It should have been a day of celebration, yet it turned into a bittersweet stalemate when one of the up-to-then supporters, Commissioner Joe Sanchez, voted “No” on the plan, achieving a 2-2 result (the fifth City Commissioner was undergoing surgery that day), citing weak “zoning laws litigation” reasons for his vote. Since a 2-2 vote does not actually mean a defeat, Miami 21 has a new chance to go before the City Commissioners, and that is happening tomorrow, September 4.

Residents of the City of Miami that support Miami 21 are urged to attend the public hearing at City Hall, starting at 10 AM. This is a case of “the more, the merrier,” and Mayor Manny Diaz wants you there, as he has made known via the Miami 21 Facebook group and other media.

Miami 21 presents a new zoning code known as form-based code which seeks a more organic separation of zones and encourages mixed-use spaces. It would be a great simplification on my part to give a layman’s interpretation of Miami 21 as a plan that seeks to create spaces that are people friendly and encourage walkability/human-powered transportation use instead of the blocky urban sprawl Miami (in general, not just the city) has tons of, and yet I would not be that far off the mark.

Miami 21 also represents a precedent for all of South Florida, arguably the most populated area of our state, as we move into the future; it is a plan to which other cities can look as they work on new urban designs for our congested living spaces. I know I would love to see Miami Beach follow a similar route to what Miami is doing on the other side of the causeway, for example.

Support Miami 21 tomorrow at City Hall, and if you’re not a City of Miami resident, spread the word about Miami 21 and its innovations towards a more livable city to everyone you know. Who knows which city will be the next to be inspired to follow suit.

There Goes Our History: Coconut Grove Edition

No better way to welcome me back to Miami from another trip to Puerto Rico than to read about this atrocity happening at the Grove.

The Miami Herald reports (with video!) that the oldest church building in Miami, the original 1912 Mission-style chapel at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Coconut Grove, is being demolished to add new classrooms for the school (ok, semi-understandable) and retail space (you’ve gotta be friggin kidding me). All this even when local historians asked for a one-week stay of demolition to seek a better solution and put it on the table.

I wish I could say I am surprised, but I’m not. In my experience, the prevailing attitude in the general South Florida area, and in Miami in particular, has been one of complete lack of respect for what little history we have left. When I walk the Grove, I continue to be amazed that The Barnacle is still there, so that this piece of Grove and Miami history has been demolished to build new classrooms that could have been, I assure you, built somewhere else on the premises, and (to add salt-loaded insult to bleeding injury) retail space — because the Grove needs more retail space! — is just another log to add to the fires of my apathy.

Jewish Hatred on Miami Beach

And just in time for Channukah. Last Thursday, Dec. 18, Dovid Hazzan, an Israeli immigrant who is a teacher at a Jewish Day School in Miami Beach, was viciously attacked by three unknown assailants.

WSVN: Man hospitalized following hate attack

The attack occurred at night, just off 87th Street and Collins Ave. in the North Beach area of Miami Beach. That is just about 10 streets north of where I live! What the hell! I feel so much sympathy for this man, who is suffering serious bruising on his face and swelling of the brain thanks to these [insert explaitives here] who attacked him simply for being a Jew. 

I rarely walk around with a hat and I always wear my kippa (yarmulke) as well. I ride my bike around the beach at various times of the day and I just go about my business as usual. Am I next? I could be, simply because of my religion. This is ridiculous and it needs to stop now.

This attacked happened in one of the areas with the largest Jewish communities in South Florida, a place with many families living their lives, children playing as normal, not some backwater neighborhood hidden deep in the county. This isn’t an issue of concern only for the Jewish community either; those who today beat up Jews simply for being Jews tomorrow will beat anyone simply for being anyone. 

To Dovid Hazzan I wish a speedy refua sheleima (complete recovery). To the assailants, I wish you to have remorse for your actions and courage to come forth. To everyone, I wish peace.

Bike Miami Days 2.0 Report

At Bike Miami DaysOn Sunday, Dec. 14, we had the second instance of Bike Miami Days, the City of Miami’s now-monthly event turning part of Downtown Miami into a car-free zone for cyclists, skaters and pedestrians to run around and enjoy. Mayor Manny Diaz and his office have been working hard to build this up as Miami’s own cyclovia, and their efforts are greatly appreciated.

This sophomore effort, however, had a smaller turnout than the brand-spanking-new one in November. Considering the time of year, the at-home Dolphins game and that fact that this lacked the novelty of the previous one, I found it understandable. There were, however, quite a few participants, even at 1:30 pm when I finally arrived, so it wasn’t a wash-out by any stretch of the imagination. 

The Green Mobility Network once again offered free bike valet services at both Bayfront Park and Mary Brickell Village (the two bookends of the route), and as before, there was a small army of volunteers riding around ready to answer any questions. The Everglades Bicyle Club held a toy drive in conjunction with the event, which was very cool. There were also a few changes from the previous event, all of them for the better: the route was extended along the waterfront towards the AA Arena (though I was never able to find this extension), the entire route was marked with sandwich board signs with arrows marking the directions to follow, and possibly the best addition, water stations were setup along the route for participants to freshen up. Bonus points go to Kirk Jewelers for handing out water during the day as well.

After the event, TransitMiami hosted a party at Tobacco Road. A bunch of the volunteers gathered there and I had a great time just chillin out after a fantastic day of bike riding around Downtown Miami. You can read my personal report over at Slow Bike Miami Beach.

The one complain I have about this event has nothing to do with Bike Miami Days, the City or the Mayor, it has to do with the local mainstream media:

Where the heck were you?

I never saw representatives of any of the local mainstream media outlets, televised or print, covering the event; if (IF) they were there towards the start of the day, they quickly took off afterwards. No local newspaper promoted the event leading up to it, and I have yet to see any mention of it pop up on the website of any local news show, let alone on the air. I mean, not even Deco Drive!

What’s the matter with you, Miami mainstream media? You’ll cover any gory event no matter how stupid it is as long as there is enough blood and/or scandal, but an event that actually builds up community pride, highlights the city in a positive light, can be a boost for local tourism and the local economy, and shows the commitment of Mayor Manny Diaz towards making Miami an improved city doesn’t get anything? Not even a micro-post on Twitter? Shame on you.

Bike Miami Days will return in January (date still to be determined). I plan to be there with my wife, and I hope everyone else joins us as well, including you, local mainstream media.

Kosher for the Publi(c)x

Anny's ChallahYesterday afternoon I was running a bit late for preparations for Shabbat, so I decided I’d just got to Publix (Collins Ave. and 65th Street, Miami Beach) only, instead of my usual Friday afternoon trip which also includes going down to 41st Street where there are a couple of Kosher stores. I wouldn’t be able to get challah, but I could live with that, since I could at least get some Kosher bread (frozen baguettes in this case). Imagine my surprise when I enter the supermarket and right around the corner I almost run into a tall display of Anny’s Bread Shoppe challah and breads.

This Publix had once carried Anny’s products, but they stopped after only a couple of months and I was never sure why, since the breads actually sold all the time. Naturally I grabbed two challahs (one regular, one chocolate chip [great for French toasts]) before it all disappeared like a mirage. Needless to say, this made my day, as I was able to do my Shabbat shopping AND get the most exquisite challah in Miami (seriously, if you see this display, grab some and be taken to bread paradise).

Kosher Sushi at QFCUltimately, however, you might be wondering why I was so excited to see Anny’s challah at the store. It has something to do with my recent trip to Seattle. The Jewish community in the greater Seattle area is smaller than that of Miami, especially the Orthodox segment, yet they enjoy an amazing availability of Kosher food in regular markets in the heavily-Jewish neighborhoods. I visited an Albertson’s that has a Kosher Deli & Sushi Chef, Bakery and Butcher, not to mention a whole Kosher mini-market rivaling the ones in Miami. I later visited a QFC (think their version of Publix) that had also just in the last 3 months expanded their Kosher section to include a Deli and Sushi Chef. Why is it that I, living in one of the largest Jewish communities in the US, arguably the largest outside of New York, have to go clear across the country to Seattle to visit a supermarket that gives me my choice of about 15 to 20 different breads, including artisan varieties, all Kosher? And I’m not even going to get into the topic of prices, which are way cheaper in Seattle than here, where there is a lot more availability.

Frankly, it’s our own fault. We, the Kosher-keeping Jewish community, have settled for whatever we can get from the local merchants, be they gentile or Jewish. We need to demand better products in our markets, and then purchase them to show our support and encourage thier continued presence. I realize that this means that many Kosher-keeping Jews will have to break out of their (IMO bland) comfort food zones, but it will be worth it, I assure you.

Now, to be fair, there are some supermarkets in the greater South Florida area that do feature Kosher departments inside their stores, usually a Butcher and/or Deli. Most of these are Winn Dixie (I know of one in Aventura [at 204th St and Biscayne Blvd.] and one in Hollywood that seems to also have a bakery) plus a couple of Albertson’s in Palm Beach County. What happened to you, Publix? Catch up. Let me suggest starting with one of your stores in Miami Beach (maybe the one on Collins and 65th). And if you already have such a store, how about promoting that fact to the Jewish community? Actually, that goes for all of the markets: promote yourself to us, so we can then support you.

I long for the day that I will be able to walk into my local Publix and buy Anny’s challah (or some other artisan bread) and some freshly-made Kosher sushi to take home. I just won’t be holding my breath.

Locally-Grown Irony

I went to Norman Brothers Produce today to see if I could get some local produce to take on my trip to Seattle as a gift for my friend Patricia Eddy, who aside from being a fellow Metblogger is also the creator of Cook Local, a website dedicated to championing local foods in the Seattle area. Normally she wouldn’t order anything from South Florida, but since we’re traveling there anyway, and it is local to us, we can share our bounty without her breaking the 250-miles-radius rule she’s established as her guideline. I used to shop a lot at Norman Brothers when I lived in Kendall, so I knew they were a great place to get local produce without short of taking a trip to Homestead. Boy, how have times changed.

That sign was placed hovering above a selection of beans from (somewhere in) Florida and produce from California, Guatemala, Colombia, Peru and just a few bins down even some eggplants from Holland. I’ll let you savor the irony for a moment.

I understand some thing are not in season, but it just seemed that more than 70% of their produce stock was not local at all (unless you also count “USA” as local, but I’m not at this moment), with a fairly disconcerting sub-percentage being from Latin America. I mean, plantains from Colombia? Mangoes from Brazil? Seriously?

For the record, I did at least get two giant avocados from “Dade County,” a pound of Cubanelle peppers and a dragonfruit, these last two from Homestead. I wish I could have gotten a couple pounds of stone crabs to take to my friends, but I needed those packaged for a plane trip and this was not something they could do at the seafood counter, nor I at home since I cannot bring stone crabs into my kosher kitchen. Oh well.

Norman Brothers, if you’re gonna have this phrase as your official slogan (as featured on the front page of the website), you gotta do better than this. I’ll have to return to the store later on to see if this was a one-time fluke, so expect a follow-up post sometime down the road.

"Planned Progress" in Normandy Isle

For the last few months the Normandy Isle area of Miami Beach has been undergoing a number of construction projects all rolled into the vaguely-named “Normandy Isle/Normandie Sud Neighborhood ROW Improvements (BP-4)” project (though you have to go HERE to see a description). Now, I’m all for general neighborhood improvements and I understand that there will be inconveniences while the construction is underway, but at least as it regards my street, this is already bordering on the ridiculous.

It’s been 3 months since our street was first invaded by the construction crews. Parking, already a thorny issue on the Beach, has been made an even greater headache by the projects, most of which are started, then left unattended for days or weeks, before being picked up again. Just last week the crews returned to my street to begin the “final phase,” which so far has involved the removal of a roughly 5 ft. section of asphalt next to the sidewalk, and today, as you can see above, the removal of the sidewalk itself. I’m hoping that they will start pouring the signature pink concrete to make the new sidewalk and gutters soon. Perhaps it is a good thing I am flying out of town next week.

The big problem I have with all of this is one of communication. Though there are some signs around the area with all the legal mumbo jumbo these usually have, the residents of the area should have been informed directly about the project to be undertaken in our neighborhood. In fact, I’ll take that further and say that type of communication should not be a one-time event at the start of a project, but a constant stream of information and updates as things move along. I mean, there is already a web page for the project at the official city website, how about adding an RSS feed and regular updates? Is that too much to ask of city hall?

In the meantime I continue to stretch my patience and park my car in makeshift (and generally illegal) spaces, thanking heavens that no ticket-happy cops have passed by (and if they have, thank you for being understanding).

I’m Not As Stupid As You Think I Is…

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
– Declaration Of Independence, 1776

Equal opportunity is a descriptive term for an approach intended to provide a certain social environment in which people are not excluded from the activities of society, such as education, employment, or health care, on the basis of immutable traits.
– Wikipedia

One of the most ignorant things that come up during a debate concerning the pursuit of Happiness is that somehow everyone has a shot at attaining some fraction of what the pursuit of Happiness has to offer. People love to wash themselves of responsibility… it’s the American way… and wash themselves they do.
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