A Playhouse Trojan Horse Update
These are the arrows in Question 3. I’m not sure
why they were blocked off this way yesterday.

Last week I received a call from the executive assistant of Art Noriega, CEO of the Miami Parking Authority. Because it began with a fulsome apology for not answering my email [See: The Coconut Grove Playhouse Trojan Horse; Part II], I was willing to listen. 

Mr. Noriega wanted to have a meeting at my convenience to discuss my email. I suggested Wednesday [yesterday] and, instead of meeting at his office, we meet at the Playhouse Parking lot. He was more than willing. In the exchange of emails confirming our meeting, I made one last demand: that he still answer my email. That way we could have a conversation, as opposed to a grilling, and get to better understand each other and the issues. He was more than willing to do that, as well.

Here is Mr. Noriega’s replies to the questions that applied to the Miami Parking Authority, followed by those [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff has refused to answer:

Feb 17

In anticipation of our meeting tomorrow, here is our response to your original e-mail. Really looking forward to a lively discussion.

[…] 2). When neighbours complained previously that the 45 valet parking spots rented from the MPA would bring additional traffic, they were assured there would be no additional traffic on Charles Avenue as a result. This is clearly false. Why has this been allowed to continue for the past year despite occasional complaints by the neighbours?

The MPA was not made aware of any complaints. The valet has been operating for quite some time. If there were complaints, they haven’t come to us.

3). If there was to be no additional traffic on Charles Avenue then why did the MPA, when it resurfaced the Main Street parking lot, paint a giant arrow on the ground immediately BEHIND the Playhouse directing cars to exit onto Charles Avenue?

The arrows were placed to add clarity to the ingress and egress of traffic through that area.  The traffic, to our understanding, always flowed that way even before MPA took over the management.

4). Some of these 45 spots rented from the MPA are now being used several days a week as a drive-in movie theater. How is this being done?

MPA entered into an agreement with Miami Dade County to allow this drive-in theater to operate in that section of the lot, Mon-Thurs Nights. Is there a sub-lease? Yes A contract? Yes A gentleman’s agreement? Is the MPA involved? Yes

5). What permits were needed to run a drive-in theater in that parking lot?

Blue Star Lite is the company running the drive-in theater and they pulled all the necessary permits from the city of Miami.  What are the insurance requirements and who is paying for it? The insurance requirements are detailed in the contract and is paid for by Blue Star Lite and are approved by the city of Miami risk management department.

6). When these 45 spaces are full of cars and/or drive-in movie patrons, where does the overflow parking go now that the gate on the residential lot has been locked again? [It’s been locked and unlocked as needed for overflow parking until now.]

Overflow is directed to the front portion of the lot located adjacent to Main Highway.

7). At the far west end of the MPA parking lot on Main Highway there is a chain-link fence with a double-gate that feeds onto William Avenue. Why is this gate locked most daylight hours, but quietly unlocked and left wide open on busy nights in Coconut Grove, when the Playhouse parking lot is full?

The gate should be closed at all times.  We have addressed with our security to ensure this is indeed the case.  It should not be open at any time.

8). What will the City of Miami do about monitoring these valet parking infractions going forward?

MPA monitors all valet companies working on the public right of way. Any  Valet companies working in or on private property are monitored by the city of Miami code enforcement division.

9). What will the City of Miami do to reduce all the added traffic these parking lots have caused on Charles and William Avenues?

This question needs to be addressed by City of Miami transportation division. The traffic flow there now is much lower than it was when the Playhouse was operational.



Art Noriega
Chief Executive Officer
Miami Parking Authority

Just to remind readers, here are the questions [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff has refused to answer, merely replying that the resident who complained had her complaint satistfied in 2 business days. 

 1). Why did Charles Avenue resident Cynthia Hernandez have to insist that the police do something after they first tried to tell her that there was nothing they could do since the property owner hadn’t made a complaint?

[To their credit, but only after additional phone calls, the police finally ordered the residential lot to be emptied of cars; a process, I am told, that took 45 minutes and created the 2nd traffic jam of the night on Charles Avenue. The first was filling the empty lot with some 40-50 cars in the first place.]

[…] 10). Considering Gino Falsetto is one of the owners of Aries; and considering he also has financial interests in the empty residential lot being used for the last year as overflow parking to the 45 spaces rented from the MPA; and considering he is also part owner of Paradise Parking; and considering it’s his 3 restaurants that use the valet parking; and considering that his brother Andrew Falsetto is a part of South Park, the company that took the fall for Friday night’s parking fiasco; isn’t all this circular finger-pointing just a little too convenient for everyone to duck responsibility by blaming this ongoing situation as a one-time event?

The E.W.F. Stirrup House on February 18, 2015
after nearly a decade of Demolition by Neglect.

11). And, most important of all: Considering all I have uncovered and written about Gino Falsetto’s shenanigans — his Demolition by Neglect of the 120-year old E.W.F. Stirrup House; the destruction of the old trees on that property without the proper plans and permits; the interior demolition of the E.W.F. Stirrup House without permit or historic plan on file; the destruction of the wall that separated La Bottega from the current construction zone of the E.W.F. Stirrup lot without the proper permits; the removing the roof of the Bicycle Shop without a demolition permit; his alleged squatting on the Playhouse parking lot for several years; etc., so forth, and so on — isn’t it time that Falsetto, and the series of companies he hides behind, are held responsible for the downgrading of the quality of life of your West Grove constituents who live around his fiefdom?

The residents on Charles Avenue may be gratified to learn that Art Noriega suggests they call Miami Code Enforcement for any further valet parking shenanigans and they’ll take care of it, especially now that he’s on the case.

The Charles Avenue Historic Marker is right across
the street from the E.W.F. Stirrup House and immediate
behind the Coconut Grove Playhouse. Any restoration that
doesn’t pay attention to this rich history is an insult to the
Black folk that have lived in the West Grove for generations.

I didn’t bother to ask Noriega any questions about the Blue Star-Lite Drive-In because it will be kicked to the curb, literally, when — and if —  the Coconut Grove Playhouse becomes a construction zone. However, Norienga did mention, in an off-hand way, that all the valet parking companies sharing these lots will be in trouble when — and if — the Coconut Grove Playhouse becomes a construction zone.

My sense of Art Noriega is that he’s a nice guy with a difficult job. He has to balance Miami’s need for more and more parking spaces with a sensitivity to neighbourhoods, traffic patterns, and culture. I did my usual sales job on him about the rich cultural history of West Grove. I think I impressed him with my sincerity. More to the point: I hope I made him understand that what was being ignored in all this talk of a revival for the Coconut Grove Playhouse is the neighbourhood immediately behind it.

Noriega seemed genuinely pained when he spoke of the Coconut Grove Playhouse being dark for all these years. The way he described it, back in the day, made it sound as if The Playhouse was the stable cultural center of a swirling art scene that encompassed the entire Grove. He contends its shuttering created a black hole for businesses throughout that entire south end of downtown Coconut Grove, from which Commodore Plaza is only just recovering.

Noriega also said that any talk of how many parking spaces will be needed [200-300 is what I’ve heard] on the Playhouse footprint is premature. They still don’t know how much of the building can be saved, if any, how big the theater will be, and whether there will be one theater or two, as a recently floated plan suggests.

He seems genuinely concerned to see that forward progress continues on the Playhouse Renovation/Revival. His biggest fear seems to be that the State of Florida (which owns the land) gets tired of waiting for something to happen and sells the land, as it has always had the power to do once the Playhouse board went bankrupt.

It’s been a year since Miami-Dade Cultural Czar Michael Spring cut all the deals that allowed the Playhouse Renovation to go ahead. Since then, and only recently, Arquitectonica was chosen to oversee the project. How long will Florida wait for plans to arrive on a builder’s drawing board is anybody’s guess, but it certainly won’t be forever.

About Headly Westerfield

Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.