By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
The fate of one New Times sidewalk distribution box doesn't amount to a hill of beans in this cockeyed world of ours. It's there one minute — on the sidewalk in front of Donald Trump's brand-new Trump International Hotel & Tower on A1A — and gone the next. Mysteriously gone. But so what? It was just another one of those abused metal boxes that passersby kick, bump their cars into, or sometimes use for its intended purpose — to pick up a copy of the latest issue of this newspaper. Its absence meant 40 or 50 people wouldn't get the paper. Big deal, right?
Still, when circulation director Chris Terrell noticed the empty space on the sidewalk two weeks ago, he had to stop to investigate. It was his job. And he has a big stake in the 50 or so circulation boxes on Fort Lauderdale streets. The city just put new regulations in place requiring, among a lot of other things, new black boxes (you probably remember the red ones) and a $125 licensing fee for each location. You see, New Times is invested in Fort Lauderdale.
Terrell started poking around Trump's building site, where 298 "ultra-luxury" apartments will be available for occupancy some time next year. He lifted the lid of a construction Dumpster, and there lay the box. Like a corpse. Not only had it been torn from its moorings but its display window had been smashed, and there were hammer dents on its side. It was slathered with drippy white plaster and covered with construction debris.
Workers on the site told the aghast Terrell that the person to talk to about the box was Mick Fournier, project executive for the Trump Organization. "Mick's the man to speak to," said a man in the general contractor's office.
Terrell couldn't find Fournier, but a man in the Trump office questioned whether any newspaper had a right to place a box in front of the Trump project. "Go ahead, get the attorneys involved," he said to Terrell. "We've got a gang of them." Terrell did contact New Times' legal counsel, and he filed a police report.
There was much the same reaction from project executive Fournier himself the next day. In a telephone conversation, he told Terrell, "Listen, we don't want it there. It's unacceptable to us. We don't want a box in front of our $200 million project."
Terrell pointed out that the box was on a city sidewalk at a location that had been approved by Code Enforcement.
Of course, this is no ordinary hotelier that New Times is dealing with here. This is the dude with the most celebrated comb-over in civilization. The Donald is not used to being impeded by mere city ordinances or by snippy newspapers unimpressed by his celebrity heft. So it came as no surprise to Tailpipe when he learned that Fournier complained to Fort Lauderdale's Code Enforcement Office, saying there should be an exception to the policy of newspaper distribution. 'Cause it's like, you know, Trump!
The 'Pipe is also proud to say that code enforcement officer Deborah Hernandez reportedly reaffirmed city policy (New Times' box was on city property and, as such, Trump's minions had no right to remove it). This old car part would like to point out that there are also constitutional issues here (the First Amendment guarantees freedom of the press), making Terrell's battle all the more important.
As of now, there's a new box in front of the Trump site (with a notice that its theft will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law), and New Times issued a demand that the Trump organization reimburse the newspaper for $660.40. This, in fact, is cheap, representing just the cost of a new box. It doesn't count the expense of re-bolting a new box to the sidewalk and the loss of revenue from lack of distribution, among other things.
So, Donald. Our lone but determined lawyer will see your gang of lawyers in Small Claims Court.
Last Thursday, parts of the South Florida coast looked like scenes out of Waterworld. Waves crept far past the normal high-tide line, and water in the Intracoastal rose so high that it flooded up over seawalls, gushed onto roads, and nearly floated a bunch of yachts into the streets. At Joe's Market in Hollywood, the whole parking lot was submerged under about five inches of water. In Fort Lauderdale, four blocks of A1A were shut down, and a few streets in Victoria Park were almost impassable.
Among the laid-back, flip-flop set, it was the talk of the town.
Marc Weiss, the greeter/salesman of the Frequent Flyer fishing boat near Las Olas Boulevard, said that water was rushing the wrong way through storm drains, from the Intracoastal backward, to submerge rather than empty the roads. Small fish rose with the tide onto grassy banks and got stuck in the dirt, he said. "I kicked a few of 'em back in."
At Ed & Elaine's Tiki Hut, a semisecret hangout on A1A just south of the Dania Beach bridge that functions more like a backyard than a bar, owner Ed Colville said his whole property was pretty much underwater. "In 31 years, I've never seen it that high," he said.