McLoskey informed Levy about the plan. The youngster acted quickly, contacting the park employee heading the project, Ralph Gonzalez; and city Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, who as the Omni CRA chairman fully supported the skate-park idea. In 2008, Sarnoff tapped Levy to serve on a park committee to study the skate facility's configuration and on a bid selection committee tasked with choosing a contractor to build the park. "I am not tied to any design companies," Levy says. "One reason I got involved is to make sure the city builds the best possible skate park."
But some of the folks opposing the skate park's location question the skateboarding ingenue's seemingly innocent intentions. Temple Israel's past president Stanley Tate, a wealthy real estate developer who started a college scholarship program for underprivileged kids, accuses Levy of having a conflict of interest because he owns two properties one block west of Biscayne Park. According to Miami-Dade County property records, Levy purchased a three-bedroom duplex at 67 NE 19th St. for $100,000 in July 2009. Seven months later, he bought a two-bedroom house at 85 NE 19th St. for $70,000.
Tate says he met Levy one time at the office of downtown Miami capital fund manager Peter Bermont, another synagogue member with clout. "This young skater was pretty cocky about his role with Sarnoff," Tate claims. "He said he had bought the two vacant houses and that he was going to build a facility to sell skateboards and accessories. I was shocked."
Bermont concurs. "The young man knew what was going on before anyone in the public did when he bought the properties," he says. "If you have information before anyone else, doesn't that give you an edge?"
Tate says he offered to buy the two parcels from Levy. "I never heard from him," he adds.
The straight-edged skater, which means he doesn't use drugs or drink alcohol, admits he contemplated redeveloping one of the properties into a community center for skateboarders to hang out. "I don't think having me or someone like the guys at M.I.A. Skate Shop set up a retail center is necessarily a bad thing," Levy says. "In fact, it would generate tax revenue for the city. But I don't want to ruffle any feathers, so I have no intention of changing the zoning on either property."
The structures, which Levy eventually had demolished, were overrun by crackheads and prostitutes. "I found needles and used condoms all the time," he complains. "I had a homeless guy chilling on the second floor of one house. He offered me heroin."
Levy plans to build a new home if the project moves forward. "My only conflict of interest is raise my property's value," he says, "and that I have always wanted to live next to a skate park."
How would you like to visit a dead relative and hear kids with boom boxes and smoking marijuana, because that is what they do in the park." Tate, the Miami skate park location's number-one hater, is being interviewed by WPLG-TV Local 10. It's June 30 at 11:15 p.m., and the gruff 82-year-old, dressed in a white-and-black checkered jacket and black tie, is cramming as much opposition as he can into the two-minute segment.
An influential real estate developer credited with pushing through state legislation that in 1987 created the Florida Prepaid College Plan, Tate has been on a mission to kill the skate park since facing off against Marc Sarnoff in December 2009 at Temple Israel. "The commissioner told me he didn't care who I was," Tate says. "He was real obnoxious and nasty. I've worked with presidents Clinton and Bush. Neither of them has ever acted the way Sarnoff does. He wants everyone to kiss his ring."
Tate, who contributed $100,000 to the Republican Party and GOP candidates in 2008, wasn't about to back down from the city commissioner. The old man loves a good scrap. Last year, he took on the state Legislature, Gov. Charlie Crist, and 11 state university presidents to stop tuition increases. He spent $500,000 of his own money on ads against the hikes.
During a telephone interview with New Times, Tate stands by his negative generalization of skaters that was tailor-made for the evening news. "I absolutely meant it," he says, noting he and Bermont stopped by the Coconut Grove skate park, which coincidentally is operated by a nonprofit company that lists Levy as a director on its state corporate records. "Not only did I see boom boxes, I heard them," Tate hisses. "There is no question about the marijuana because I could smell it."