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Sunday, May 25, 2014


    Years in the making, Miami's Museum Park will open in three weeks.  This morning I snuck inside to take a few pictures.

   The park is just north of the Arena, on Biscayne Bay.

   A spacious basin separates Museum Park from the basketball venue.  We just spent $15 million to
rebuild its seawalls.

Looking south to the Arena and Downtown Miami

Here, the Freedom Tower seems to be dancing with park's new Cundo Burmudez statue.

North of the basin are hills, trees, and acres of luscious, green open space.  Just beyond is the new Perez Art Museam and the Frost Science Museum.

    If this sounds too good to be true, you may be right.   Local officials now want to plop a huge soccer stadium in the middle of this beautiful public space .

  Soccer guy David Beckham leads the investment group that wants to take our public land to build their pro-sport edifice.
   Our City of Miami and county mayors support Beckham's plan.  No word from our commissions yet.

   It is such an awful idea. It will be a disaster for everyone who enjoys open space, public parks and sensible urban design. 

We must stop David Beckham and his hair-brained proposal. 

We began the effort today 

with a demonstration on Biscayne Boulevard, just next to the park.


       Yes, that's Francesca holding her sign and flexing her muscles on the building beyond.

    We were just a few dozen people shouting by a road but if we can grow into a majority of voters to fight this, we can save Museam Park.

Last week, fellow demonstrator Greg Bush wrote this op-ed piece for the Miami Herald.


Preserve public waterfront open space

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Who wouldn’t want a waterfront site for their stadium or for a Cuban Exile History Museum?
John Henry of the Marlins surely did back in 2000 when he spent millions trying to secure space for a stadium in Bicentennial Park. Yet led, in part, by the Urban Environment League, multiple forces coalesced to stop his powerful and expensive lobbying team, stimulating a unique public design process that eventually saw two museums being placed in the park.
A real park was also supposed to be part of the plan — but that has yet to materialize after more than a dozen years of inattention. Then, after endless negotiations, public officials finally made a very bad deal to pay billions for the Marlins Stadium — though thankfully not on the waterfront. Can’t we do better this time and stop obsessing about taking even more waterfront space for a stadium or another museum at more unknown costs to the public? Sometimes it seems we are reliving an old story in a region whose memory is so notoriously weak.
Some considerations in this debate:
• Public open space has long been particularly vulnerable on Miami’s waterfront. Miami has among theleast amount of park space per capita of any major high-density city in the country. Politicians have promised to expand waterfront park space time and again in the past, but when have they delivered in recent decades? Parcel B? Bicentennial Park after 1976? What has happened to the funds to buy other waterfront land derived from a portion of the profits from Bayside — as prescribed in city and state legislation?
Impact fees are inadequately collected for new park space even though the downtown area desperately needs new parks as one hears from the recently created Downtown Neighborhood Association representing more than 27,000 new residents.
• Soccer will only play 25 games a year in a soccer facility, yet how would investors make money out such a stadium in the FEC slip? Clearly big profits are central to their plans.
• What happened to the idea of smaller ships in the slip or tall ships that could bring people to the waterfront? Do we live on a real waterfront for residents and tourists or a stage set/theme park in today’s news? Other great cities around the world cherish and expand their waterfront parks; Miami generally has event spaces with little regard to human-scale relationships to the natural world.
• A critical problem in assessing our waterfront involves the jurisdictional complexity of these waterfront spaces — leading to public cynicism. The slip is city property; Parcel B is county property subject to city zoning regulations; the Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve and the Shoreline Review Committee also have jurisdiction — and more. Public understanding of these complex issues remains minimal. The Florida Inland Navigation District — public tax money — provided millions to upgrade the seawall of the slip and Parcel B in the last few years. Was that money totally wasted?
• From an urban-design perspective, this site would block even more views of the waterfront for local residents and the public unless one walks along the nonexistent baywalk — originally promised to residents back in 2001. That’s aside from the height and noise of a stadium.
• Above all else, the question of density including traffic congestion should remain paramount in the discussion. Even now projects in the downtown area and Biscayne Boulevard more generally are driving residents, commuters and others crazy — before new buildings come online. Traffic studies have, quite obviously, become even more of a fraudulent inside joke.
• Other sites for both the soccer stadium and the Cuban Exile History Museum have been inadequately examined with public input. Maybe the port site works, or doesn’t, but David Beckham and local politicians should certainly look at other sites.
• Above all, we should not be rushed by private interests in this media frenzy but demand an orderly public process in which a clear set of criteria to preserve public waterfront open space remains paramount. Public debates should include new ideas in a thoughtful urban design process. What a concept!

Gregory Bush is the director of the Institute for Public History at the University of Miami.

Saturday, May 24, 2014


     Imagine a newspaper article on America's greatest cities that didn't include New York.  It was like that this morning when I read the Herald's story on Miami's new old motorcycle scene. 
    The article mentioned three local shops that sell the aging bikes but not the granddaddy of them all, Long's Motorcycle Sales on NW 12 Avenue.
     It is Disney for vintage bike fans.  

Long's has been on the south shore of the Miami River since 1938. My buddy, John Long (above), inherited it from his dad and he will probably pass it on to his son, Barrett, someday.

   The boxy structure is crammed with almost every old motorcycle that ever was. On my first visit I was thrilled  try on all the bikes I'd ever owned... the Ducati, Gilera, and numerous Hondas.                  
                                       Me and my Ducati 125 
Back in the saddle with great memories.

      The yard outside seemed like a huge mess until I realized it was John's sculpture garden.  He has arranged his collection so vines can easily snake around the rusting hulks.

I took a few friends to John's place earlier this month.

Monkeyman decided 13 was his lucky number


while Bobby wanted to ride the red moped home.

We loved our visit to the motorcycle museum.  It took us back simpler times, when you started a bike with a swift kick.  Now most bikes are fat, nasty and much too loud.   Pushing a button to start one doesn't seem right.  
      Long's is open five days a week (if John and Barrett aren't off racing).  Call first, 305-325-0775.  Tell John the Grove Guy sent you and he might let you wear the blue monkey mask.

Monday, May 19, 2014


      Pencils are a big part of my life.  I see hundreds of art students every week and it is often a struggle to have one in the hands of every kid.   They love to watch them grow smaller in the class's electric sharpener.  
      When they get too small they use to ask, "What do I do with it now?".  Several years ago I gave these pencils purpose, I created  my art room's "Tiny Pencil Museum".
       In a corner we display art made from small, unwanted pencils.

( Every white rip mark represents a stolen pencil.  It is no problem to hot glue replacements.  When it gets too ugly we start over).
As long as there are more pencils there will be more tiny pencils.

  They can be arranged in designs, pencil cartoons, or the all time favorite, "The World's Smallest Pencil" (currently the left one in the top photo).

       Kid's know value and the planet's littlest pencil often disappears.  When it does, its is easily replaced, much like The World's Oldest Person (another popular subject for elementary school students.  "Why", they ask, "do they stop at 117?").

      I thought we might be doing something original until I stopped by a Wynwood art gallery last year.  There I was humbled by an artist who really has a pencil thing going.


Inspired, we are now collecting these small pieces of threaded wood for our next pencil project.

Saturday, May 17, 2014


        I couldn't get no satisfaction practicing law; it seemed kind of useless to me.  As an art teacher I have fun and many more opportunities to make good things happen.   
   I'd been reading about how cell phone addiction causes thousands of car accidents.  This week I turned the problem into an art project. 


My 600 hundred students are making posters asking their parents to "put the phone down".  Attached to each on is a Miami Herald article with statistics (using a cell phone while you drive increases you chances of hitting something four fold. Texting?  Geez. You might as well put a TV on your dashboard.  43% of teens admit doing it while driving).
     We're also making these paper bracelets for parents. On each is written messages ranging from "Don't drive distracted" to "Your cell phone might kill us".  

      It's not problem for me.  I am happily one of the 9% who does have one of those buttoned, buzzing things in his pocket.  

      If I was lawyering I'd be spending two years suing some tortured soul who ran over my client while on his cell phone.   For two weeks I'm the pied piper of posters encouraging people not to do the same thing.

Thursday, May 15, 2014


  I showed up at my school today and saw no students.  "Is it Saturday?", I thought as I caught sight of a fellow teacher.  I asked her, "Where is everyone?" and she told me it was Crazy Day. That's what I call the day set aside for parents to take their kids to work.
    The thing is, they don't.  Many can't. Tomorrow we'll see a local story of a kid who spent the day watching his mother do dental surgery but most young students in Miami spent the day at home playing video games.  At best, 10 percent of my kids were with working parents.
   Crazy Day always catches me by surprise. I usually teach 165 kids on Thursdays. Today I had none in the morning and 12 in the afternoon.  I asked my dozen, "So why aren't you at work with your parents?" knowing full well that most employers do not not allow kids to accompany their parents on the job.  One told me, "I could go but it would be more boring than school" and another, "She stays home and cleans all day.  I didn't want to do that".
   When I taught in the inner city most students came to school because they could not join their parents on their jobs, and, there was no one to watch them should they stay home.  It was a "regular day".  
  At my West Kendall job site it was just another Crazy Day, cleaning up and teaching twelve kids.  I assume the folks that keep scheduling "Take Your Child to Work Day" pretended, once again, that the day was something it wasn't.

Friday, May 9, 2014


    Some kids have no fathers. I was fortunate to have several, my own and those of close friends. The last of them, Ernie Motsinger, died this week at 93. His son, Kim, is my "blood brother".
    In the 60's, "Mr. Mots" listened to my crazy ideas and helped me build things. He was my go-to guy for most things mechanical. In the war he'd been a PT boat mechanic in the South Pacific.
    Years later he had his own machine shop in Hialeah. As an adult I'd visit him there amongst hulking machines that could turn metal into almost anything.  He smiled a lot but seemed happiest at his shop.
    In 1978 he agreed to star in my pseudo-documentary probing life's big questions. "How Do You Really Crack an Egg?" had a scene in which he studied an egg thoughtfully, drew a few sketches, then ordered his son to place it in a 20-ton hydraulic metal press.
     When Kim hit the pedal it really cracked.

Mr. Motsinger did the welding on my mini-bike

     and the go-cart that preceded it.

 In the 80's Ernie began to build a huge sailboat inside his metal-clad kingdom. Taking his time, he completed it 12 years later but sold it soon. He found out he enjoyed building much more than sailing.
     Retirement at 70 meant leaving for work a little later that usual. The strong aroma of lubricants and shaved steel were too good to pass up. He really retired at 85 when he and his son sold the business. It's a shame he can't be buried there surrounded by the tools and the smells he loved.