At yesterday's Miami City Commission meeting, a small group of neighborhood preservationists came prepared to do in Eric Silverman, owner of the Vagabond Motel on Biscayne Boulevard in the Upper Eastside. Members of the MiMo Biscayne Association and residents railed against Silverman's use of his property for an open-air farmer's market on the weekends. They pleaded with city commissioners to deny his request to make the venture a permanant fixture. To their credit, city commissioners did not let the irrational, mean-spirited rabble sway them. They voted unanimously to allow the Vagabond Motel's market to continue. But Silverman's clash with his neighbors and MiMo preservationists illustrates when local activists go too far exerting their will on properties they don't own, let alone invested a nickel in.
From the get go, Silverman's detractors were out for blood. You would have thought the burly salt-n-pepper bushy haired motel proprietor was running an Amsterdam-style brothel on the boulevard. The first speaker, Upper Eastside resident William Castillo trashed the market, likening it to the "Opa-Locka Flea Market." Castillo ranted about spotting a prostitute servicing her john in his car behind the Vagabond. "It's dark and dreary back there," Castillo groused. "He hasn't even put in a single light bulb."
Other naysayers included designer and architectural historian Teri D'Amico, former head of teh Urban Environment League Nancy Liebman and Fran Rollason, president of the MiMo Biscayne Association. "The market will not work in restoring the Boulevard," D'Amico warned.
After hearing Silverman's defense, city commissioners decided the naysayers would not win the day. They voted to let the market stay for two years with the caveat that Silverman make improvements to the motel before the second year. "We can put him out of business and let the bulding go dark," offered Commissioner Marc Sarnoff. "I believe we should give him the opportunity to succeed."
Personally Banana Republican was glad to see Silverman come out on top. His market, along with the clothing store and the vintage shop on the property, is going to help bring in more foot traffic to the Upper Eastside on the weekends. I stopped by the market one Saturday this past October. The place was cool. In addition to picking up some very delicious organic eggplants and zucchinis, I came upon a preserved copy of the last edition of the defunct Miami News, the afternoon daily newspaper that once competed with the Miami Herald. I snagged it for ten bucks. It's that kind of shopping experience that will make the Upper Eastside a true neighborhood.
-- Francisco Alvarado