Bike Miami Days on Sunday, May 17

Bike Miami DaysAfter six awesome months of Bike Miami events, this coming Sunday we’ll have the May edition of Bike Miami Days, the last of the current season. It’s already getting way hot out there and in typical Miami fashion, Summer months are indoor months. In the Fall, the bikes come out again and invade Downtown.

In the meantime, it’s time to bike all around and enjoy a car-free Miami, so mark your calendars and fill up your tires.

You can find more information about May’s Bike Miami Days at the Bike Miami blog, or check out this pretty flyer designed for the event.

See you there!

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Miami An Overpriced City? Nah!

Aerial View of Miami BeachForbes.com, via NBCMiami.com, has just released their list of “America’s Most Overpriced Cities” and our dearly beloved hometown has ranked #3, right behind Los Angeles, California and Chicago, Illinois. The article explains that “the cities are ranked by average salary for workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher, annual unemployment statistics, cost of living and the Housing Opportunity Index.”

I’m sure this comes as a complete surprise to each and every resident of the Magic City (I’m still wondering who named it thus).

Florida should feel especially proud, since it has four spots in the Top 20: Miami (#3), Tampa (#13), Orlando (#15) and Jacksonville (#17). So pretty much every major urban center in the state is there (I don’t want to see you get smarmy, Fort Lauderdale, cause I’m sure you’re not that far behind). Are you proud enough yet?

I have to agree with the Forbes article, though: at least we have beaches and sunny weather (and heat, oh the heat) year-round; sucks for #2, Chicago, with their Siberian-like winters.

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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.

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Flight of the Conchords @ UM

Flight of the ConchordsWhy the heck did I not hear anything about this before today?

New Zealand “two-man novelty band” (name the song title) Flight of the Conchords will be performing at University of Miami’s BankUnited Center tomorrow Tuesday, April 7, 2009. Jermain and Bret are also the stars of a self-named comedy show on HBO, now in its second season, where they portray (strangely enough) a two-man novelty band from New Zealand trying to make it in New York City. The show is hilarious, as are the Conchord’s songs, all of them original though many done in the style of various pop artists, such as Pet Shop Boys (Inner City Pressure), Marvin Gaye (Think About It) and David Bowie (Bowie). You can check out their entire debut album at Last.FM.

Tickets to the show are $38.50 (ouch!) and there is assigned seating. See TicketMaster to purchase.

Seriously, why hasn’t this gotten any promotion? I heard about it on Twitter from my wife who saw the tweet from @UnivMiami. Then again, considering the geek cult following of the Conchords, hearing about it on Twitter is perfectly acceptable and expected.

If anyone out there goes, let me know how the show goes, yes?

Right now, though, it’s Business Time.

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The Blessing of the Sun

sunriseYou might miss it if you blink or look the other way, but this Wednesday morning, April 8, will be a very special day for Jews all over the world, not only because it is the morning before Passover, but because it will be the time to celebrate one of the rarest mitzvahs (commandments), the blessing of the sun. As Chabad.org explains:

Every 28 years the sun returns to the same position, at the same time of the week, that it occupied at the time of its creation—at the beginning of the fourth day of creation. A special blessing – called Birkat Hachamah, “the sun blessing” – is recited to mark this event.

The last time this happened it was 1981, the next will be in 2037, so this is a pretty big deal. Wednesday morning (up until noon, at th every latest), if you see Jews standing outside, praying towards the morning sun, remember they are blessing the sun and thanking G-d for giving us that magnificent engine of life here on Earth. If you are a Jew, perhaps you could find a local synagogue where to take part of this momentous ocassion; if you are not Jewish, perhaps you can take a moment to reflect on creation as well.

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Pass Over the Passover Coke

Consider this a Jewish PSA, if you will.

When you go to local supermarkets and see the yellow-capped bottles of Coke and Diet Coke, if you are not Jewish, please don’t buy them. Those yellow-capped sodas are Kosher for Passover, so leave them for those that need them. My local Publix just put up the display sign above stating this info, but most places don’t have anything telling consumers what the heck is up with the yellow-capped bottles.

On behalf of hundreds of Jews in the area who will then be able to have Coke/Diet Coke for the week of Passover, I say thank you.


Fergus MacFoo: A House Rabbit Looking For A New Home

I am totally going to abuse my power here for my personal benefit.

Fergus

Check out Fergus at BunSpace.com

My wife and I have a house rabbit named Fergus MacFoo. We’ve had him for about two to three years and for most of that time he has been by himself (he came to us as a mate for our rabbit Nuala, but she died just a few months after that). Fergus is a really nice bunny, quiet but with a great personality, not to mention litter-trained.

My wife has always been allergic to our rabbits, but over the last year it has gotten really bad, to the point where she cannot be in the same room as the bunny. We’ve tried everything we can to be able to keep Fergus but the time has come to find him a new home. Easier said than done.

We are looking for a new home for Fergus. Our ideal candidate is/has been a house rabbit owner who knows how to deal with rabbits. We’d also be happy to hear from people who would like to become bunny parents and who understand all that having a house rabbit entails (ask us, we’ll tell you). If this sounds like you, please take a look at Fergus’ BunSpace.com profile for more information, pics and contact details.

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Whatever Happened to Lincoln Road?

So call me an old-timer, but whatever happened to Lincoln Road Mall?

Last week my wife and I went to see a 3D movie down at the Regal South Beach Cinema, and afterward I asked to take a stroll down the mall, just for old-time’s sake. It had been quite a while since our last time at Lincoln Road and I wanted to experience it again. It wasn’t ten minutes into our walk that we remembered why we stayed away from it in the first place! The mall was just disgustingly overcrowded. It was like a wall of people moving in front and behind you, barely giving you space enough to breathe, let alone enjoy the stroll. The restaurants and cafes have multiplied and they all spill out onto the walk way, barely giving you space to pass by, and never without being harassed by the eatery’s host/hostess (here’s a hint for all Lincoln Rd. restaurants: none of you are Kosher, so if you see a Jew with a kippah walk by, don’t waste your breath trying to get them to eat at your store).

I remember a Lincoln Road Mall that was busy but not overcrowded, that offered options but did not assault you every few steps, full of small stores dripping with personality and charm, not with endless branches of the brands of consumerism. And I’m not even going to talk about the monster that is the Regal Cinema. I miss that more bohemian Lincoln Road Mall. The current one makes me want to stay home and never visit it. I fully realize I am in the minority here, but I wear that badge proudly.

About the only cool thing I saw at the mall was the new location of Books & Books, back where the Cinematheque used to be years ago. Maybe I’ll talk about that next time.


This Weekend: Bike Miami Days

Bike Miami DaysThe excellent folks at Miami Bike Scene have put together this PSA for Bike Miami Days showing the activity at a Bike Miami event and promoting the upcoming dates:

Bike Miami Days PSA
* I’d embed the video here if WordPress weren’t such a pain when it comes to embedding flash media without the use of a plugin, one I have on my personal sites but not here.

Bike Miami Days happens this Saturday, March 14, at the usual location in Downtown Miami. You can visit the Bike Miami Blog for up-to-date info (which they are extremely good about providing).

I was in Puerto Rico for the February edition, though it wouldn’t have made a difference since, much like this one, it happened on a Saturday, so this Shabbat-observing Jew would have had to miss it. Again, much like this one. I can’t wait for the April event (Sunday, April 26), though that one will be at Coconut Grove, not Downtown Miami (which is cool, since it gives us riders a new area of the city to explore).

Drop by Downtown Miami this Saturday and enjoy Bike Miami Days!

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Just Got Back

I had to fly to Puerto Rico for family matters and I just got back. I need to catch up on all my backed up stuff before I can start posting again, so hopefully by next week.

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A Foggy Morning at the Beach

My cameraphone simply could not capture the amazing sight of the sun rising through the dense fog rolling out across the bay from North Bay Village.

A Foggy Morning in Miami Beach

Remember to grab your coats for the one-day cold front we’re supposed to get tonight.

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Miami’s Public Market, Part 2

In Part 1 I talked about the Public Fish Market building by the Miami River and how it got my wife and I thinking of a possible new Miami Public Market. In Part 2, I share that daydream with you. I should tell developers that if you use any of these ideas, I fully expect to be compensated!

Imagine this:


Click to View Larger Map

A new Miami Public Market space centered around the old Public Fish Market, only seconds from Downtown Miami, in the middle of this historic neighborhood. The old fish market building restored, it now serves as a welcoming area to the new market, showcasing an information kiosk and visitor’s center, a short visual history of the Miami River and the public fish market, and selling branded Miami Public Market merchandise, all this alongside space for other Miami entities to promote themselves to locals and tourists alike: Bike Miami, Miami River Commission, local galleries and festivals, etc.

Across the street and down NW N River Dr. there are three areas for the new buildings of the Miami Public Market. Across the old fish market/Visitor Center, Market Area 1 sits in a small island surrounded by SW 1st Street. The new building constructed here, perhaps a two-story structure, would be the new fish market building, housing vendors selling fresh fish and seafood, highlighting local and seasonal options when available, frozen as a second option to carry the vendors through the lean times. Ideally caught by local fishermen and brought to the market via the Miami River, the merchandise is unloaded at the landing right next to the Visitor Center.

Take a short walk down N River Dr. and on the other side of the SW 1st St. overpass, on the narrow strip that is Market Area 2, envision a canopied open air bazaar for local artists. It would be two rows of tables with enough space in between them for foot traffic to flow in both directions, the canopies allowing the breeze to flow through yet keeping the harsh sun or the rain out. Table space would be available to artisans for a very cheap fee, offset by private funding, grants or as unobtrusive advertising as possible; a membership fee might be another way to go on this. The idea is to give local artists a prime space outlet to sell their wares for as nominal a fee as it can be managed. In this way we nurture the local art scene and draw foot traffic, especially the touristy type. (Did I mention I’d want non-stop shuttle service to/from the Port of Miami?)

Across the street, on the other side of SW 2nd St, is Market Area 3, the location for the multi-story (at least three) main building of the new Miami Public Market. Here are housed the produce vendors, especially the local farmers and CSAs, which would receive an incentive for their presence, selling fresh and seasonal fruits and veggies. Include here (perhaps in a different floor) space for meat vendors selling non-mass-farmed (and ideally grass-fed) meats. Rounding out the selection would be locally-made foods, such as honey or jams or whatever as long as they are local and do not need to be cooked on-premise, as well as flower vendors.

I’d open up some space for non-local vendors as well, but my main objective would be to get as much support going for local farms as possible (I roughly define “local” as being within a 250-mile radius, but considering our particular geography in Florida, I’d be happy to include the entire state, giving us the widest variety possible). I know this may sound a bit punctilious, but I cannot stress enough how important promoting and supporting local farmers is to the mission of the Miami Public Market.

You might’ve been wondering about parking space for all the visitors the market would get. The wonderful thing is that, the parking space is already there. Wisely using the space under I-95, there are a number of large parking lots, currently closed for the most part (frankly, in 14+ years in the city I have never seen them used, though I’m not a constant presence Downtown by any stretch of the imagination).

So there it is, our idea for a new Miami Public Market in the Downtown area. Would it ever get made? I don’t think so. I’m trying not to be as cynical about progress in Miami as in years past, so I’d like to think that perhaps part of the idea could be implemented at some point in the near future (and if we take the report from the Miami River Commission at face value, it seems they want to do something along those lines in this area). So, here’s hoping.


Miami’s Public Market, Part 1

One of the advantages of Bike Miami, the ability to explore Downtown Miami in a slower, more leisurely way, was never more evident for me than during this last iteration of the monthly event, when a new route extension was opened from Downtown to Lummus Landing, right on the Miami River. I’ve lived in Miami for almost 15 years now and I just never knew that was back there, hiding coyly from the bustle of I-95. Getting the chance to explore this area on my bike was fantastic, and I got to see things I did not know we had down here, like the stables of the Miami Mounted Police, Ft. Dallas, the Scottish Rite Masonic Temple, and Lummus Park & Landing. Then there was also the Public Fish Market. Wait, the what?

Public Fish MarketA nondescript building in faded tones of pink, the Public Fish Market sits on NW N River Dr, almost under the SW 1st St bridge and ideally accessible from SW 2nd St. The building is obviously abandonded, not necessarily falling apart, but very much unused for years, all painted lettering almost unreadable at this point. When I first rode by I completely ignored it; it just didn’t exist in my peripheral vision, a phenomenon, I dare say, happens to most passerbys. It was only when we were riding back into Downtown that my wife took notice of it. She read something written on the wall out loud and that’s what made me look right and see the derelict structure for the first time.

The message on the wall read:

Capt Tom says:
This market was built for the benefit of the general public so they may buy fish at reasonable prices.

Public Fish Market

A lot of questions went through my mind as I turned around to read the inscription myself: We had a public fish market? I wonder how many know of this? Who was Capt. Tom? More to the point however, I wondered how come this building is not in use anymore!

Annoyingly, I have not been able to find any mention of this building anywhere online. The closest references I have found include:

  • From City of Miami Plans & Initiatives: Miami River
    “Lummus Landing” (Riverside Redevelopment Project)

    “Lummus Landing” is another project that combines quality of life improvements in the form of a river walk, public plazas and boat slips, with the economic potential to create additional commercial activity of the River. Located on River Drive, across the street from Lummus Park (where the Pioneers Club used to sit), the City is currently overlooking the construction activities that are under way. Backed by an economic study of the Riverside district that was finished in 2000, the City eventually plans to seek a private entrepreneur to develop marine-related retail establishments, a restaurant, or possibly a fish market to serve the Riverside neighborhood. (Emphasis mine)
  • From Miami River Commission Meeting Minutes: August 24, 2004(!)
    A.  Informational Presentation on the Status of the Garcia Brothers Seafood Inc.
    Garcia stated the sites Lummus Park neighborhood was recently studied for historical designation, and his site and buildings are old enough for historic preservation. Garcia stated he is willing to negotiate new lease terms, including a raise in rent, providing improvements to the site such as a public seafood market, etc., yet wants the business to remain at the site. (Emphasis mine)

Neither of these reference are about the public fish market on NW N River Dr. though they do refer to the possible development of such an establishment in the area (Garcia Brothers Seafood now operates a fish market on premises). I’m going to keep digging to see if I can find more info on this building’s history (perhaps this will merit a visit to the library Downtown).

I am fascinated by this building, partly because of the implied history in it, but mainly because of the promise of what it could be again. Having seen the magnificent example of a public market in Pike Place Market in Seattle, my wife and I both had sudden daydreams of a similar space here in Miami. A quick look around us put us in the mindset of developers.

In Part 2 I’ll share our vision of this possible Miami Public Market.


Bike Miami Addendum

These are just a couple of things I forgot to mention when I wrote my report of Bike Miami 3.

  • Kudos to whoever thought of putting up a Bike Miami Info Kiosk/water station at Gibb Park, at the start of the Venetian Causeway bike lane. The volunteers there were asking cyclists if they were heading to/coming back from Bike Miami and handing out water bottles. Considering the centrality of this route for Miami Beach cyclists, this was a fantastic way to raise awareness of Bike Miami. I’d love to see more inter-city cooperation like this in the future.
  • Local mainstream media, in general, once again failed to support a great event that helps build up a sense of community and spotlights the efforts to make Miami a more livable city for the new millennium. Shame on you NBC 6, WSVN Channel 7, Channel 10 and SunPost.
  • That said, some local media did actually feature Bike Miami new coverage! Here’s what I found:
  • CBS4.com had a 30-second video of their mention of Bike Miami on their morning news show the day of the event. Maybe next time they’ll mention it in advance on their prime time news show?
  • The Miami Herald had an article entitled “It’ll be a free-wheelin’ Sunday in downtown Miami” that ran the Friday before Bike Miami (1/16/09), providing a small report on the event and a guide to the day’s activities. Very nice.
  • Miami NewTimes had a rep at the event snapping pics left and right that they compiled into a Bike Miami Days Slideshow on their website (my wife and I even made it into the slideshow!).
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Bike Miami 3

Yesterday was this third installment of Bike Miami Days, the City of Miami’s monthly event promoting a bicycle-friendly environment and lifestyle in Downtown Miami. This month’s event featured a new route extension all the way from Downtown to the Miami Riverfront and Lummus Landing, plus the tried-and-true route south into Mary Brickell Village, though the Bayfront Park section from previous events was shut down for this one due to a festival the night before and the lack of time to prepare the park for public use.

In short, Bike Miami 3 was a resounding success, paralleling the level of enthusiasm and attendance of the first Bike Miami in November 2008. There was a rally at Lummus Landing at 10:30 am to kick-off the day and events at Lummus and Mary Brickell, things like Yoga classes and performances by local musicians, all free. There were also free bike rentals, a welcomed addition for those who don’t have bikes of their own yet want to take part in the event. Local businesses also took part, starting a trend I’d like to see continue, bringing commercial support to the event.

Downtown Miami’s businesses also took up the banner, opening their stores en masse, and even engaging with the riders. Kay Kirk Jeweler’s was again handing out water in front of their store, and there was a live band playing near the courthouse on Flager Ave, livening up the brisk afternoon.

Once more, families made up a significant segment of the participants; it was fantastic to see all the kids riding around Downtown with their parents. I will echo something said over at Miami Bike Scene, though: cyclists need to learn the rules of riding, especially parents when they are bringing their kids over. It would be a shame to have an accident at a Bike Miami event, especially when it could be prevented simply observing common sense when on two wheels.

Bike Miami 4 will return in February in conjunction with Flagler Fest.

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