Peddling the Park
The Garden of Eden it ain't, but Lake Worth's Old Bridge Park, a characterless acre and a half of parking space along the western edge of the barrier island, is a thing of beauty to locals. Beach parking? Hell, the gardens at Versailles could never look sweeter.
Now, here's Mayor Rodney Romano with a scheme to sell Old Bridge. He wants to turn the asphalt-covered tract over to real estate attorney Leslie Evans for -- what else? -- a condo development. If you live in Lake Worth, you may know Evans as an extraordinarily well-connected developer (he's a long-time pal of Romano's) who's had big plans for the city's land for years. In 2001, he proposed a $100 million project on the site that has been caught up in bureaucratic jockeying ever since.
Well, here he comes again. This time, Evans has State Rep. Mary Brandenburg (whose office is in an Evans-owned building) shilling for him with the Florida Department of Transportation, which has partial control of the land. In a letter dated October 2003, Brandenburg insisted that "the city should be allowed to sell the property to Leslie Evans."
But the developer is getting even more generous assistance from Romano and other members of the Lake Worth City Commission.
On January 20, the commission, over a frantic outcry from opponents, approved a call for bids on the park. Evans was ready to go, with a slick brochure and $25,000 worth of plans. Less than a month later, a virtual blur in terms of land-use planning, the city accepted the only Old Bridge Park bid it had received: Evans' offer of $2.6 million for the 1.5 acres of waterfront property. If that seems like a bargain, well, you were free to bid too. (Tailpipe considered it, but he was just too busy belching smoke with scantily clad spring breakers.)
Evans points out that he's offering almost three times the plot's value of $920,000, the amount Lake Worth will have to pay the Florida Department of Transportation to secure its claim on the park. That's fair market value, according to appraisals the city ordered last year. But the number doesn't take into account the fact that Evans owns three-quarters of an acre adjacent to the park, across the city line in Palm Beach, allowing him space to build a pricey, 86-unit condo with a marquee address. Instead, the appraisers judged it as if it were going to hold a modest 10 or 15 residential units.
Evans, by the way, was a generous contributor two years ago to one of his pal Romano's pet causes: a political action committee to push for a bond issue that would have raised millions for commercial development of the beach. (It was voted down.)
For the moment, the contest is in the court of the Palm Beach County Commission, which controls the land.
"This is one place where there's a break in the condos, and there's air and sun and space and light," says bartender Laurence McNamara, one of the most zealous defenders of Old Bridge Park. "And that's a park."
Twenty-eight years after Hollywood resident Alan "Ollie" Gelfand invented the skateboard trick that bears his nickname, the Oxford English Dictionary has finally caught on to what's been a household term for the past three decades. Appearing in OED Online, the term ollie is described as "a jump executed by pressing the foot down on the tail of the board to rebound the deck off the ground." Ollie can be used both as a noun ("I can bust fat ollie tail-grabs over the pyramid!") or a verb ("Dude, you ollie like my grandma!").
The ollie is the literal foundation of skateboarding -- the real American pastime. Yet the geniuses over at Oxford decided newer words like bling bling and jiggy somehow took precedence; both beat ollie to the dictionary. And when ollie finally entered the OED, equal credit for the trick was given to snowboarding. That's right -- a sport in which the board is strapped to the rider's feet. A sport that even presidential candidates engage in. Ugh. You can meet the 40-year-old Ollieman himself at Olliewood, an indoor vert ramp/bowl Gelfand owns in Hollywood. (For a request to skate, fill out the contact form on www.ollieair.com.)
OK, skaters, you got your props; now it's time to make good and invent some new ollie variations. Ollie kickflips are so commonplace. It's about time someone invented the Ollie Baba. Or how about the Muhammad Ollie or the Ollie, Ollie Oxen Free? And when you do, be sure to deluge the OED offices with requests for inclusion. Just give 'em some time.
Only the hard-boiled know Fort Lauderdale. It's the murder thing. You never understand a city until you find out where the corpses are buried. With that in mind, Tailpipe decided last week to join an evening tour of the city's more notable fictional and true-crime settings. The "Death on Da Nile" cruise was the kickoff event of "Sleuthfest," the mystery writers convention held recently at the Renaissance Hotel.
Fort Lauderdale, you liquor-splashed harlot, this oft-inebriated cylinder longs to know your soul.
But the event was a little short on glamour and goose-flesh-inducing mystery. About 40 people, most of them past middle age, shuffled aboard the water taxi beneath the 17th Street Bridge. Nary a hipster in sight, with the exception of a suave tubular fellow wearing his Midasized best.
"This could be called Dorkfest," one woman mumbled.
Not so fast, onion breath.
The tour turned out to be better than the usual cock-and-bull you get from tourist cruises, in part because cohost Stuart McIver, a SoFla historian and author of Death in the Everglades, has facts. McIver looked Mark Twain-ish in bolo tie and white hair and whiskers. Passing Bahia Mar, a marina along the west side of Lauderdale's barrier island, McIver noted it as the location of Broward County's last legal hanging in 1927. The hangee, Jimmy Alderman, a pirate and rumrunner in the 1920s, had been found guilty of killing two Coast Guard members. Although the trial was in Miami, the law required the execution to be held in the county where the crime was committed. It fell to Broward County officials to do the dirty work, and the commissioners avoided the nasty task for weeks by not gathering a quorum. Finally, McIver recounted, the Coast Guard took Alderman to its base on Bahia Mar and brought in the only person with experience in hanging: the one-legged sheriff from Palm Beach County.
Cruise cohostess Christine Kling, whose book Surface Tension is set in a town that's an awful lot like Fort Lauderdale, offered more upbeat sightings. Bahia Mar is also the fictional setting for one of the most popular detectives in mystery, the late John D. MacDonald's dashing detective character, Travis McGee, who moored his houseboat, the Busted Flush, at Slip
F-18 in Bahia Mar.
"That slip used to be fictional, but there were so many requests to see it by tourists that the state made it a literary landmark," explained Kling (who can still cadge free drinks from the Downtowner Saloon, near the Andrews Avenue Bridge, because one of her own characters hung out there). Kling advised mystery fans not to bother looking for the plaque. "It was taken down two years ago for polishing," she scoffed. "It must be mighty shiny by now."
McGee, that philosopher, late-night drinker, sucker for the well-stacked dame -- now, there was a guy who knew the dark side of Fort Lauderdale. Too bad the scribe who invented him is no longer around to open those creaky doors.
Reality isn't easy to track down. Back on December 6, 2002, someone submitted paperwork to run for president under the name Reality. Filing a one-page form at the Florida Division of Elections, Reality became a write-in candidate for this year's election.
Every presidential election year, a handful of unknowns files under the Florida write-in law. It costs nothing to hand in the paperwork, which then requires poll workers to tally any votes written in for that candidate. Reality, who's one of five of this ilk, appears to have an early lead.
Who, this curious conduit wonders, could match Reality? Fantasy? Surreality? Too late. The deadline has passed.
On the form filed with the state, Reality lists an address in Boynton Beach. Tailpipe traced him back to the Sand & Sea Village trailer park just off Gateway Boulevard, where he owns a white single-wide with bottle-green trim. The candidate went by Randy Stewart Samuels, before he legally changed his name in May 2002. Alas, Reality is a hermit of a candidate and didn't return phone calls. "We don't want any," a man said recently through the sliver of a window on the front door. "Go away."
A neighbor, who asked not to be named, said Reality isn't a bad neighbor, but he wasn't sure how he'd do as a president. "He's all right, I guess," the neighbor commented, "as long as he takes his medication. If he doesn't, well, it gets bad."
Politics, it seems, might not be ready for Reality.
-- As told to Edmund Newton
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