In 2021, our writers examined financial problems threatening South Florida’s only historically Black university, a popular architect’s connection to the controversial Eighty Seven Park building near the Champlain Towers South, and a Cocaine Cowboy’s petition to be released from federal prison. They told you about the tech bro who thought that rent in Miami was $600 a month, and how a Congresswoman is Parkland shooting denier.
Those stories were read by thousands of new and longtime readers of Miami New Times, demonstrating the value of local journalism. Thank you for your support, and we hope you continue to come to New Times for ridiculous, informative, and interesting things to read.
Here’s a countdown of our ten most-read news stories of the past year.
10. Architect Kobi Karp Was Involved With Condo Constructed Next to Champlain, by Joshua Ceballos and Jessica Lipscomb
Records obtained by New Times show that Karp was involved in the development of Eighty Seven Park, a luxury condo tower located immediately south of Champlain that some Surfside residents suspect may have caused some harm to the collapsed building. While Karp had no legal obligation to disclose his connection to the Eighty Seven Park project in media interviews, his history with the development might influence the way he speaks about the disaster, and his failure to provide that key piece of information could result in an incomplete picture for viewers who watch or read his commentary.
In two lawsuits filed against the Champlain Towers South Condo Association, surviving residents of the tower have brought up the construction of Eighty Seven Park and noted it as a possible contributor to structural damage at Champlain Towers South. Completed in 2019 and designed by renowned Italian architect Renzo Piano, the 18-story condo is located at 8701 Collins Ave., within Miami Beach city limits.
9. We Can’t Stop Thinking About the Tech Bro Who Thinks Miami Rent Costs $600, by Alexi C. Cardona
Most recently, entrepreneur and investor Jack Abraham, who moved to Miami last year, tweeted about how great the city is.
“One of the defining characteristics of Miami is happiness and optimism. People are happy here,” he tweeted last week. “You see smiles on the street. Everyone says hi. There is a buzz and energy in the air.”
We’re not sure who he’s been meeting. Trees are filling up with mangos this time of year, so maybe some people are happy about that. But most days, the kindest greeting you can expect to receive in Miami is a furrowed eyebrow, suspicious glare, or curt nod from someone who was unfortunate enough to look up from their phones just as you were making eye contact.
Yet the biggest lie in the tweet came at the end, when Abraham gushed, “There are even apartments here with balconies, water views and pools for just $600 a month!”
8. Here’s a Video of the QAnon Congresswoman Harassing Parkland Survivor David Hogg, by Jessica Lipscomb
In the video, Hogg politely ignores Greene, who follows him for a block or two while addressing the teen.
“He has nothing to say because there really isn’t anything to say, you guys,” Greene says to the person filming. “He has nothing to say because he’s paid to do this. He has the walkway [sic] march, he’s got the Women’s March, and they’re funding all this. Everytown Gun USA. They’re all funding this stuff, OK?”
7. After Enjoying Miami Winter, New Yorkers Tell Bloomberg Florida Is Stupid, Cultureless Wasteland, by Jessica Lipscomb
Of course, it’s easy to fall in love with Florida when hurricane season has ended and a glorious winter has begun. But now, as temperatures rise, vaccines proliferate, and the promise of a return to normalcy beckons, Bloomberg reports our New York transplants are already reverting to an Empire State of Mind. Yesterday, the news outlet published a story foretelling a mass exodus.
“The main problem with moving to Florida is that you have to live in Florida,” one especially perceptive hedge-fund manager told Bloomberg. “New York has the smartest, most driven people, the best culture, the best restaurants and the best theaters…. Anyone moving to Florida to save a little money loses out on all of that.”
6. #FreeSalMagluta: Cocaine Cowboy Seeks Compassionate Release From Federal Prison, by Jess Swanson
In the recently released six-part, narco-documentary Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami, Sal Magluta is portrayed during his prime in the 1970s and ’80s as a drug kingpin so rich, powerful, and conniving that he not only repeatedly flouted the justice system, but took on a mythological status as “Robin Hood” and a man who “walked between raindrops.”
But after being sentenced to 195 years in federal prison in 2002 for money laundering and obstruction of justice, the 66-year-old is described in court records and anecdotal accounts by family on social media as a shell of the person he once was, an elderly man now suffering from chronic kidney disease, Type 2 diabetes, ulcerative colitis, major depressive disorder, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress. His mental and physical health is said to be “rapidly deteriorating.”
After spending more than a decade in solitary confinement at the nation’s highest-security supermax prison, the ADX Florence in Colorado — a place that a former warden has described as a “clean version of hell” — Magluta has petitioned U.S. District Court Senior Judge Patricia A. Seitz in the Southern District of Florida for a compassionate release to home confinement with his 89-year-old mother, grown son, and grandchildren in the west Miami-Dade suburb of Westchester.
5. South Florida’s Only Historically Black University Is in Danger of Closing, by Alex DeLuca
Sybrina Fulton, activist and mother of Trayvon Martin, went to Florida Memorial University. So did Olympic long jump gold medalist Jeffery Henderson. And Barrington Irving, the first Black pilot to fly solo around the world.
Now the 142-year-old private institution has found itself in peril. Come next September, there’s a chance that this campus — South Florida’s only historically Black college and universities (HBCU) — will no longer be in operation, owing to a growing list of financial issues cited by its accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). In July, the Miami Times reported that FMU had been placed on yearlong probation; if the university does not adequately address its lack of “financial responsibility” and failure to comply with financial-aid program duties by June 2022, SACSCOC could revoke its accreditation.
“It’s very sad to see what the university was and see where it is now,” FMU alum and current Florida A&M University assistant professor Terrell Brown tells New Times. “There’s a lot of history, a lot of legacy there. It would be very heartbreaking, honestly, if something were to happen to the university in terms of its accreditation.”
4. From Tenant to Squatter: Meet the Hamilton’s Last Holdout, by Jess Swanson
Tenants resisted the evictions as long as they could; a small group even traveled to AIMCO headquarters in Denver to protest. Slowly they relented, moving to homes that couldn’t match the Hamilton’s views of Biscayne Bay, its spacious floorplans, price, and location.
But not Leidner.
Roughly three weeks ago, a three-day eviction notice was tacked onto his door, informing him that in addition to vacating the premises, he owed $4,637.60 in back rent and penalties. Since the deposit dropbox was boarded up at the end of August, Leidner maintains that he was unable to pay the $1,496 monthly rent for his one-bedroom apartment in September and October. Signs throughout the property state the area “is a designated construction site” and that “anyone who trespasses on the property commits a felony.”
3. Miami Professor Says Developers Built an Apartment Two Feet From Her House, by Joshua Ceballos
Now, McCarthy is suing the property owner and contractor, Silver Cove Apartments LLC and Star Brite Group LLC, accusing them of negligent construction that damaged her home.In the two years that the building was under construction, McCarthy says, she had to contend with dust and debris from the site. She says two-by-fours and nail-ridden metal fell from the worksite onto her patio and that workers broke a hole in her fence. Her patio umbrellas, pool tiles, door, fence, and walls were splattered with stucco from the construction, she says, and much of it is still caked on today, including a large blob on her washer.
“It looks like they had a snowball fight with cement on my washing machine,” she says.
Now, McCarthy is suing the property owner and contractor, Silver Cove Apartments LLC and Star Brite Group LLC, accusing them of negligent construction that damaged her home.
2. Turns Out the QAnon Congresswoman Is a Parkland Denier, Too, by Jessica Lipscomb
But, as happened in the Sandy Hook shooting, a delusional and sometimes vitriolic group of conspiracy theorists rose up to declare the Parkland shooting a hoax. Today, it was revealed that a newly elected congresswoman was among their ranks: In 2018, Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican, agreed with a Facebook comment calling the Parkland shooting a “false flag.”
Media Matters, a nonprofit newsroom that combats misinformation, found a May 2018 post on Greene’s Facebook page discussing Scot Peterson, the school resource officer who was later arrested for his failure to properly protect the students at Stoneman Douglas. In the comments, a woman named Stacy called what happened in Parkland “a false flag planned shooting.” Greene responded, “Exactly, Stacy!!”
Laura Loomer needs to be more careful what she wishes for.
Nine months ago, the anti-Muslim, anti-vaccine extremist and self-proclaimed most banned woman on the internet took to the conservative social-media app Parler to express her sincere interest in contracting COVID-19: “I hope I get COVID so I can prove to people I’ve had bouts of food poisoning that are more serious and life threatening than a hyped up virus,” she posted on December 30, 2020. “Have you ever eaten bad fajitas? That will kill you faster than COVID.”
Now, 260 days later, she has manifested her dream: a positive diagnosis for COVID-19.