|More about Trolleygate and Soilgate|
Back in 2013, when Soilgate was just getting off the ground (pun intended), the big surprise was that Esther Mae Armbrister Park was NOT one of those ordered closed IMMEDIATELY.
That’s because Armbrister Park is immediately adjacent to where Old Smokey had been belching out black and acrid smoke for close to 70 years. Old Smokey is also where the contaminated soil dumped in the Miami parks ordered closed had originally come from.
Despite the relative clean bill of health, the football field at Armbrister Park was immediately remediated by having the topsoil scraped, removed, and the whole thing capped with AstroTurf. Even the children’s playground was capped and covered with a rubberized material, which almost immediately started to flake and disintegrate.
Everybody thought that was the end of that. Until September 7, 2016, that is.
That’s when my phone and text started blowing up. Several of my faithful readers wasted no time to tell me that they heard Armbrister Field was being closed because it was found to be contaminated with toxic soil. However, none of my sources had first-hand knowledge at that moment in time. [Documents started winging their way around the internet a few hours later.]
To get confirmation, I thought I would go straight to District 2 Commissioner Ken Russell. He and I originally met over the issue of toxic soil long before he ever considered running for office. At the time he was locked in battle against the [allegedly] corrupt former-Miami commissioner, Marc D. Sarnoff over the remediation of Merrie Christmas Park. This is the park right across the street from his house. It — and 6 other parks — were suddenly closed without any notification after the soil had been deemed toxic.
The residents living around Merrie Christmas Park hired a lawyer (bankrolled privately) to see the park was remediated to their satisfaction. And, it was. That also led to the removal of the Brown Field Site Designation that had been illegally applied to their neighbourhood.
Tangentially, and no less important, is that the park immediately across the street from [allegedly] corrupt former-Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff was also remediated. In fact, it was the first to be remediated. What’s more is that it’s been remediated twice already.
My point being that it’s bad optics when the park in front of your house is fixed, but there are still entire neighbourhoods waiting nearly 4 years for their parks to reopen.
|Ceremonial ground breaking for the remediation
of the toxic soil at Douglas Park – July 6, 2016
On July 6th I attended a groundbreaking for the eventual reopening of Douglas Park, a park that is still not renovated after being closed for nearly 4 years.
Back in November of 2014, [allegedly] corrupt former-Miami District 2 Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff was assuring residents round Douglas Park that the city was on top of their toxic soil problem. However, the work did not start until July of this year under the administration of his successor. It’s estimated that it will take 2 years before the park reopens. And, we know how solid these kind of estimates are.
But I digress.
My call to Commissioner Russell’s office seemed to take everyone by surprise. For laughs I decided to go through his main office number. Speaking to the receptionist, I made it clear that I was a reporter, I needed to speak to Chief of Staff Eleazar Melendez, Anthony Balzbre, but more importantly Commissioner Russell, for an ON THE RECORD response. She dutiful took down all the info, said they were all in a meeting, but asked me to hold on.
Within a minute Eleazar was on the phone with me. This was the first he had heard of Armbrister Park being closed and could not confirm. I told him I needed an ON THE RECORD comment and confirmation from his boss. He said he’d get back to me as soon as he learned more. [In the meantime, I was still getting phone calls and info from other sources.]
Less than an hour and a half later Commissioner Russell called me back personally to confirm what I had heard. He knew little more than the park was closing due to elevated levels of arsenic, but promised to keep me up to speed.
Unlike the parks that were found to have toxic soil, Armbrister Field was not contaminated with the same Old Smokey landfill that was spread around all the other parks. While this appears to be a case of “what goes up, must come down” further testing is needed to determine where the toxins came from. Old Smokey belched out smoke and particulate over a wide area for around 70 years. It was carried wherever the prevailing winds blew. That’s why everyone was surprised that Armbrister Field had been given a clean bill of health when all the other parks had closed.
Or had it?
During the Trolleygate fiasco, this reporter wrote about how [allegedly] corrupt former-Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff had been using new AstroTurf at Armbrister Field as a bribe bargaining chip to get the Trolleygate diesel bus garage built. Apparently, [allegedly] corrupt former-Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff convinced Astor Development to cough up $250,000 out of the goodness of its corporate heart to cover Armbrister Field with AstroTurf. However, there appeared to have been strings attached by [allegedly] corrupt former-Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff. He wanted the West Grove ratepayer groups to drop their challenge(s) to Astor Development building what would eventually turn out to be the illegally constructed polluting diesel bus garage on Douglas Avenue in their community.
The Now Now Silly Newsroom has published several stories that called into question Astor’s motives in proffering a $250,000 bribe incentive in the form of a new AstroTurfed football field. In the end, who did pay for the AstroTurf at Armbrister? And, why was the amount $250,000?
In the last 2 days this reporter has had several conversations with officials, both on and off the record. I think I am finally closing in on the quid pro quo. There will definitely be a Part Two to this story as I learn more, ferret out more documents, and as more people go ON THE RECORD. Eventually I hope to answer the following questions:
manage to fly under the radar until now?How did Armbrister Field get remediated so quickly
when several parks that have still yet to reopen?
Did Astor Development pay a quarter of a million
dollars for the remediation of Armbrister Field?
Who received the $250,000?
What part did [allegedly] corrupt former-Miami District 2
Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff have in all this jiggery-pokery?
My Freedom of Information requests from the City of Miami are beginning to add up, not to mention all the other costs of researching systemic racism and corruption in Coconut Grove