Little Haiti site NO LONGER imperiled

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Post by admin » Sun Mar 06, 2005 9:37 am

[quote]The project is to be funded out of a parks bond issue approved by city voters in 1991, but unless the city begins spending the money soon it faces substantial penalties on Wall Street, Zyscovich said.

''It's a very unfortunate situation, that this loved building is going to have to come down,'' he said.[/quote]

Follow the money... Americans bombed near a museum in Baghdad which contained antiques dating back to the birth of civilization and then did not protect it from looters, while the soldiers' first mission was to protect the Ministry of Oil... In South Orange, New Jersey, the city planners most deliberately created a bottleneck (that is a traffic nightmare) in the center of towo by reducing the four-lane main avenue which goes from Newark to Morristown and many charming towns in between to a ridiculous two-lane street and not one good traffic alternative. The ra
tionale was the building of a planned performing-arts theater in the center of town would require lots of leisurely walking space, for theater goers and an influx of shoppers who surely would patronize the sophisticated boutiques and restaurants surrounding the theater. Ten years and several millions of tax-payer dollars later, the only results have been the center of town from hell during rush hours, sidewalk benches that nobody sits on, precious few new and inadequate parking spaces, the closing of a supermarket for a promised replacement that has never materialized, and the groundbreaking of the site of the imaginary performing arts-theater that nobody but nobody knows if it will ever see the light. Ten years, folks, and essentially all we got was mud and traffic. But foot traffic has improved for the local Blockbuster Video store and no doubt, some vacation villas have been purchased by those in the Village administration and the lucky contractors who benefitted from throwing sand in people's eyes.


Follow the money, not the logic... this is the Dick Cheney-Halliburton and Enron era. Often there is more money to be made in removing culture than preserving it. What you see is what you lose.

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A Dream Dashed

Post by admin » Tue Mar 29, 2005 1:54 am

A Dream Dashed

Caribbean Marketplace's impending demolition is a symptom of throwaway society

BY BETH DUNLOP
bdunlop@herald.com

Charles Harrison Pawley's Caribbean Marketplace is a once-in-a-lifetime building. It tugs at our emotions, conjuring images of another place far away. It is a building that speaks of both place and displacement, of hopes and dreams. Once it was the centerpiece of all our aspirations for Little Haiti, the cornerstone of renewal.

To see it today is to see hope lost. A once-beautiful building, it is now forsaken, its brilliant paint faded and peeling. Plants grow from the gutters. Cables and wires dangle over water-damaged walls.

When it was completed in 1990, Caribbean Marketplace bedazzled the eye, painted in the sun-saturated hues of Haiti, its metal roof gleaming in the b
right daylight. More, it was a symbol of Miami's commitment to the thousands of newly arrived Haitian immigrants who had settled, largely, in the historic neighborhood once known as Lemon City. Soon after it was finished, Caribbean Marketplace won a national honor award from the American Institute of Architects, the highest award a building can garner.

In its prime, it was a heart-stopping sight, both sophisticated and ingenuous. Pawley purposely left the finishes a bit rough to give the market a handmade quality, as if it really had been crafted by Caribbean hands. He chose to exaggerate the building's turrets and gables, which give it a distinctive folkloric roofline. Operationally it was also drawn from a pre-technological age with roll-up garage-door openings, easy-to-assemble market stalls and ceiling fans to keep the air moving. The trim was all gingerbread, so typical of its -- and the community's -- architectural roots.

Now, inexplicably, it is to be torn down.

Of course, the M
arketplace has endured years of indignities, municipal mismanagement among them; over the years (Little Haiti has never been high on the radar screen at the City of Miami), the building was allowed to languish. And now -- though one study, which Pawley undertook without pay, shows a $3 million cost to repair and restore it, the city's plan is to tear it down and replace it with a much more expensive ($11 million) complex that would include a black box theater, a city ''NET'' office and more.

There is much to say about this -- about the ways in which cities, not just Miami -- misspend money, misapprehend local needs and local culture and abuse and ignore local resources. It is also a classic statement on a throwaway society. And all that aside, it is still, even in dereliction, a magnificent work of architecture that should be preserved for its aesthetic, historic (not because it's old but because it was momentous) and cultural importance. But first, some history:

Pawley designed the buildi
ng for a competition held in 1984. It was a ''blind'' competition, with jurors drawn both from the world of architecture and the local community. Intriguingly, Pawley -- an almost lifelong Miamian from a family with deep roots here, not to mention a distinguished career in architecture -- was born in Haiti and had sustained a connection to the country and its arts over the years. His design derived much more from knowledge than nostalgia, an important point to make here. From start to finish, this was a labor of love.

Even before setting pencil to paper, Pawley traveled extensively in Haiti, studying vernacular architectural styles and building techniques and luxuriating in the vivid Caribbean color palette. The result was a proposal for a building that was at once bold and delicate, intricate and yet simple. The jury, selecting the competition winner, called it ''a grand vision'' for Little Haiti, which it was.

The original plan (based architecturally and conceptually on the famed Iron
Market in Port-au-Prince) was for this market to cover two blocks with an array of shop stalls and activities at a cost of $1.5 million, but that was scaled back to the building's current configuration as a restoration of an old antiques shop. The project was done for $550,000, with government funds and money from the Local Initiative Service Corporation. It was built by the nonprofit Haitian Task Force, but eventually was taken over by the city. Opened with both fanfare and expectations, it never succeeded financially and ultimately it was closed.

In recent years, more attention has been paid to Little Haiti. In 2001, Miami voters approved a $225 million bond issue from which the city allocated $25 million for a new park for Little Haiti; the park plan, an ambitious one, involved assembling a total of 60 acres worth of land, including 112 business and 262 residences. The new ''cultural center'' building, which would be done by architect Bernard Zyscovich (it is not designed yet) would be funded w
ith a portion of this bond money. Though Zyscovich -- whose body of work includes nearby Toussaint Louverture Elementary school -- was originally charged with incorporating the Caribbean Market into his new plan, he decided against doing so.

It is the wrong decision. It is wrong architecturally, urbanistically, historically, socially. The building has been determined to be structurally sound though it doesn't meet the stricter post-Andrew building codes. It's not a sleek-slick building, nor was it ever intended to be. It was aimed at being a market (and as such, an informal community center) and a tourist attraction (and as such, an economic magnet).

Oddly, back when it opened, the sociology and the economics of Miami were probably not right for such a venture. Little Haiti is showing small signs of its own renewal these days -- a new restaurant here and there, fresh paint -- but the steps forward are still incremental ones.

And with the resurgence of the city's Upper East Side and the
region's growing urbanity, it seems much more likely that it could succeed: a market for tropical fruits and vegetables (not to mention prepared foods), a source of Caribbean arts and crafts and more. That would seem to be much more of a draw, and frankly much more of a life-giving force for Little Haiti, than the proposed theater would be. There are other facilities within Little Haiti (starting with Notre Dame d'Haiti Catholic Church, which is across the street, basically) and theaters (including the Joseph Caleb Center) in nearby neighborhoods. Mature cities in Europe and even in America rely on their churches (and other institutions) as shared space for the performing arts, which only makes sense.

A theater and ''state-of-the-art'' dance facility may indeed be top priorities in Little Haiti (I am not so presumptuous as to tell a community what it needs), but I would wonder about putting them at the top of the list. Performing arts complexes are, generally speaking, blank-walled and inward-tu
rning buildings that do not necessarily contribute to the energy of the city on a daily basis, and aren't really part of a vibrant street life except possibly before and after performances. And even so, there must be alternative sites that could be found; Little Haiti is a needy neighborhood full of warehouses and empty lots. Why target the community's architectural centerpiece? The logic of it all eludes me.

But put logic aside, because ultimately, what's at stake has to do with emotion. The Caribbean Marketplace is a building with the capacity to make the heart sing and the spirit soar. The intangible is irreplaceable, the passion and zeal and sheer joyousness of this building. If it goes, we won't ever get that back. That's all we really ought to be thinking about here.

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Post by admin » Thu Apr 21, 2005 9:29 am

Marilyn, "I" am of course very pleased by the reversal of the demolition plan. But sometimes, "I" cannot be on every forum, responding to every post of importance.

Why do "I" keep highlighting that first person pronoun? It's certainly not for being egocentric, as that is a human (and let me be honest, particularly Haitian) characteristic that I find deplorable the majority of the times. It certainly would have been preferable if we had heard several voices, if we had expressed our feelings as a community (living perhaps outside of the Little Haiti, Miami, and South Florida communities, but still connected to them). If this happened consistently, perhaps people would start paying attention to this little phrase: "the Haitian community" ?

What makes you think that "we" were upset? [And we might have been, in fact!] Is it because I posted the one and only non-news-article piece in this thread? I am fl
attered that you seem to value my opinion so much, but truthfully, "yon sèl dwèt pa manje kalalou".

The sense of community is not all that evident (unless the subject matter is politics, of course).

The last times I felt a vibrant sense of community were with regards to the NYPD criminal mistreatment of Abner Louima and Patrick Dorismond. And in that regard, one must pay full respect to a young and very energetic community organizer and human rights activist in the person of Dahoud Andre! Of course, Haitians will always be quick to refer to THE DAY when we spoke as One Voice, that is our celebrated march across the Brooklyn Bridge to protest the FDA's wide characterization of Haitians as AIDS carriers. But why must it always be so dire, so tragic?

Solid community bonding happens at less mediatized levels too, such as the planned destruction or revival of the Caribbean Marketplace or the case of the 13 children at PS 34 in Queens Village, which received sub-
human treatment by two adults imbued with the charge of making of them responsible, educated, fully participating members of their society. Instead those adults chose to marginalize those "savage" children who came from "savage" Haiti. The news of this scandal were posted on this forum too. To paraphrase your question: "are we not upset?" Of course, we are... and I could have marshalled my energies to write another editorial... but quite frankly, I cannot always do it by myself. I wish that it would not so matter whether I took the initiative or not (simply because, no matter how much I try, I cannot be a speaker for all platforms). I so much wish that we, as a group, would be more vocal whenever it matters, and not only in matters related to politics. When we will have mastered the art of influencing "the little things" happening to our community, perhaps we will have a network of activists that will be much more capable of influencing "the bigger things".

Thank you, M
arilyn, for reminding us that silence is not always golden, that we are often judged by our silences as well. And yes, speaking for myself and hopefully for many in the community, the decision to spare the Caribbean Markeplace from ignominious destruction and to renovate it instead as part of a cultural Haitian Village in Miami is to be applauded. Congratulations to Jean Mapou and all the others in Little Haiti who fought City Hall and showed us that where there is a will there is a way.

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