Sheriff Shaq

Four South Florida floating casino enterprises are now swimming with the fishes, and two are under investigation for a delicious cornucopia of larcenies. The year went something like this for the cruise-and-lose industry:

April: SunCruz closed its casino operations in Hollywood.

June: U.S. marshals seized the St. Tropez Casino Cruise in Port Everglades four months after it filed for bankruptcy.

Under the pines, 2004
Colby Katz
Under the pines, 2004

July: The Casino Princesa, which operated out of Miami's Bayfront Park for seven years, was sold and relocated to Georgia.

August: The Atlantic Casino ceased operation from the Miami Beach Marina, where it remains parked though unused. The owners of SeaEscape, a Fort Lauderdale casino cruise company, were convicted of running a credit card scam that led to the failure of a Colorado bank in 1998. Jack Abramoff and Adam Kidan were indicted on federal charges of fraud involving their purchase of SunCruz in 2000.

September: Police arrested four suspects for the 2001 murder of SunCruz founder Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis in Fort Lauderdale. (Nicknames include "Little Tony," "Big Tony," and "Pudgy. ") Two of the four suspects had financial ties to Kidan.

But optimism dies harder than a gambler's prayers. On January 6, the Horizon's Edge, a three-level tub that can hold 500 passengers, headed out of Miami with a salsa band, a spiffy crew, and 130 hopeful gamblers. It was the boat's maiden gaming voyage, and David Zion, the goateed CEO of Horizon's Edge (the company that owns the boat of the same name) said, if things break right, he expects to be netting $50,000 a night.

The 'Pipe is holding his breath.

A Forest Called Home

It wasn't pretty, but it was a sanctuary for a few dozen homeless people. Come to think of it, it was pretty, despite the empty Thunderbird bottles and tin cans strewn around and the unwashed bodies reclining in the dirt. The huge swath of Australian pines near Peters Road and State Road 7 — known to regulars for 20 years or so as Sherwood Forest — took a huge hit in the wake of Hurricane Wilma. Its imposing thicket thinned to a sad collection of stumps, its tall trees twisted like snapped matchsticks. And now it's gone, its denizens scattered through the neighborhood and God knows where.

"The city [Fort Lauderdale] took it over, and they're clearing it," explains Paul Ferraro, whose Crystal Pool Supply shop abuts the property. "It's up for grabs."

When New Times last visited Sherwood Forest (see "A Sort of Sanctuary," Jeff Stratton, December 23, 2004), a rumpled assortment of alcoholics, unemployed menials, mental patients, sick people, and sundry representatives of the vast horde of the unlucky formed a loose community and drinking society under the pines. There was a kind of safety net there of fellow refugees who, if nothing else, would share a can of Natural Ice under the stars and listen to your sad story.

Sherwood Forest has always been city property, of course, unused land pressed up against the pump stations west of I-95, but it hasn't been a high priority, as far as land-use bureaucrats were concerned. They called it "surplus property," and someday, they said, they'd get around to figuring out a use for it.

Well, with Wilma rampaging through the forest, sending the Sherwoodians scurrying, the city recently decided to recoup the land for official purposes, to slot it back into the deep freeze of unencumbered city property, and then take the opportunity to make this ragtag collection of homeless folks move on. Keep on movin', buddy. Can't squat here. The fence around the place is now adorned with huge, eye-catching "City of Fort Lauderdale — NO TRESPASSING" signs and its once-inviting gate padlocked.

For the 'Pipe, it was a sad postscript to a week when, amid stories of bat-wielding thugs attacking homeless men, Fort Lauderdale showed itself to be one of the most coldly inhospitable cities he has visited.

RIP, Sherwood Forest.

— As told to Edmund Newton

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