Sunday, August 27, 2023

ANNALS OF DeSANTISTAN: New state law allowed demolition of Al Capone's mansion. What's next?

Under Governor RONALD DION DeSANTIS and one-party rule by Dull Republicans in Tallahassee, local protection for historic protection has evaporated if you're near the coast.  

Congratulations, one-party rule supporters, you utterly unjust stewards of historic preservation.  This means you, Governor RONALD DION DeSANTIS, House Speaker PAUL RENNER and Senate President KATHLEEN PASSIDOMO.  Your legislation flunks the laugh test. 

For the schemers, schlemiels and scoundrels who run our state for the benefit of end stage capitalist conmen, here's your legislation's first victim -- Al Capone's mansion: 

Faster than a speeding dump truck, what we know and love here in St. Augustine, our Nation's Oldest City, is being destroyed.  Thanks to demolition and demolition by neglect, and the influence of wealthy property owners, there's already been a veritable demolition derby of historic  structures demolished under dodgy circumstances, including:

ECHO HOUSE (1927 community building demolished by disgraced for St. Paul A.M.E. pastor Rev. RONALD RAWLS, JR. for church parking, with parishioners stating that God told Rev. Rawls to destroy the building for parking for his "business"). In 2014, RAWLS asked me to stay after the visiting Rabbis left the church; he asked me to support demolition of ECHO HOUSE.  I told him that he was wrong and that history would rue the day that an historic African-American church would demolish an historic African-American community center.  In 2017, City Commission voted 3-2 to allow the demolition.

CARPENTER's HOUSE (demolished based on false testimony that it was unstable, benefitting the property owner, Harrisburg Pennsylvania lawyer-speculator DAVID BARTON CORNEAL, to allow construction of a pool at his "exclusive," high-end fancy-bears hotel, "The Collector," formerly the Dow Museum of Historic Homes, sold by the Daytona Museum, violating the donative intent of Kenneth Worcester Dow).  Overbearing overweight CORNEAL once stomach-bumped me at City Hall, after I filed paperwork to challenge his demolition.  (Our St. Johns County Property Appraiser later investigated CORNEAL for homestead tax fraud, taking a 100% homestead property tax exemption when he was renting out rooms in his mansion.)

DON PEDRO FORNELLS HOUSE (62 Spanish Street, 211-year old Spanish colonial building demolished by CLAUDE LEONARD WEEKS, JR., ex-Mayor, then-Chair of the Historic Architecture Review Board, working without permits, for which WEEKS was fined only $3700 by Code Enforcement Board, and never prosecuted by federal OSHA for violation of  OSHA law, which OSHA saying it won't prosecute cases of building collapses unless there is a worker death or injury).  WEEKS has a Master's degree in construction from the University of Florida and acts like Republican Lord of All He Surveys in historic downtown St. Augustine, where he was long a commercial landlord, construction contractor and frequent beneficiary of City favors (like expecting City staff to put his application ahead of the lines of other applicants for archaeological and construction inspections.

So now they've massacred the former mansion of Al Capone, perpetrator of the St. Valentine's Day massacre.  Is nothing sacred here in Flori-DUH?

As the Army's Boston attorney Joseph N. Welch asked Senator Joe McCarthy at the Army-McCarthy hearings in 1954, have our legislators and property owners no sense of decency?

Are historic building demolitions a crime, a sin or a tort?  You tell me. 

What WEEKS, CORNEAL and RAWLS have in common is a Donald Trumplike anger at being questioned. (CORNEAL once stomach-bumped me when I filed paperwork to challenge his demolition.

In fact, I spoke out against all three of their demolitions.  And I would do it again.

Now, demagogic DeSANTIS and his new legislation will make these demolitions flourish, as greedy businessmen get their way with our history.  This is despicable.  

From Miami Herald:

Al Capone’s mansion in Miami Beach has been demolished. Why wasn’t it saved? 


Miami-Dade College history professor Dr. Paul George reveals his favorite spots inside Al Capone's Palm Island mansion, the home where he passed away in 1947.

A century-old mansion in Miami Beach that was gangster Al Capone’s final residence has been demolished, despite the efforts of local preservationists to save it. The home at 93 Palm Avenue was torn down last week, eliminating hope for those who had pushed for it to be saved ever since demolition plans were announced in 2021. 

Nearly 26,000 people had signed an online petition to preserve it. “What we believe is that we need to remember all the different parts of our history, whether they are good or bad,” said Daniel Ciraldo, executive director of the Miami Design Preservation League. “This is now a cautionary tale of what happens when we don’t have the right protections and incentives in place.” 

Debris is removed from Al Capone’s former mansion on Palm Island in Miami Beach on Monday, Aug. 14, 2023. Carl Juste 

The Chicago crime boss bought the 30,000-square-foot Miami Beach property for $40,000 in 1928, six years after it was built. He returned frequently and hosted lavish parties there during the Prohibition era. After spending most of the 1930s in federal prison, he returned to the home for his final years. He died there in 1947. The property, whose ownership has changed hands several times since Capone’s wife sold it in 1952, consisted of a main house, a guest house and a pool house. It was one of the first homes built on man-made Palm Island, now an enclave for wealthy residents.

The main and guest houses were demolished last week, Ciraldo said. The demolition was first reported by WPLG. Al Capone’s former Miami Beach mansion was located at 93 Palm Ave. on Palm Island. The mansion’s fate became almost certain late last year, when the property owner, the Claramonte family living next door, requested a demolition permit from the city of Miami Beach. The city issued the permit July 20. Prospects to save the home have been bleak since the state Legislature modified its property laws last summer to prohibit local authorities from stopping demolitions of low-lying houses in designated flood zones. Previously, owners of single-family homes built prior to 1942 needed to go through a tedious approval process that included meeting with the city’s Design Review Board for approval of any new construction set to replace an existing structure. The demolition continues as debris is removed from Al Capone’s former mansion despite the efforts of preservationists on Palm Island in Miami Beach, Florida on Monday, August 14, 2023. Carl Juste The new state law prompted the Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board to cancel a long-awaited hearing last July to decide whether the house deserved historic designation. The City Commission would have had the final say.

“It was determined by the city attorney that the Historic Preservation Board did not have the authority to consider the application without the consent of the property owner,” city spokesperson Melissa Berthier said. Some city commissioners questioned the property’s historic value. At a March 2022 meeting, Commissioner David Richardson said he was troubled by “the notion that we would somehow celebrate” a notorious mobster once dubbed “Public Enemy No. 1.” Locals weren’t thrilled to have Capone in town at the time. In 1930, with the public up in arms, Dade Public Safety Director S.D. McCreary ordered police to arrest Capone “on sight” whenever he left the Palm Island home. Now, with most of the site relegated to a pile of rubble, it’s not clear what’s next. Albert and Karise Claramonte, who acquired the property in 2021 for $15.5 million and placed it in a trust, could not be reached for comment. Toni Alam, the family’s trust representative, also could not be reached.

The property is listed for sale on real estate website Trulia for $31 million — with no mention of the infamous mob boss who once lived there. Instead, the listing boasts of “the chance to build your dream waterfront mansion.” “Don’t miss out on the incredible opportunity at 93 Palm Ave,” it says, “the ultimate waterfront paradise on Miami Beach!” Famed mobster Al Capone is shown in a family photo provided by Deidre Marie Capone, Capone’s grand-niece. Deidre Marie Capone owns copyright; not for resale. handout from Deidre Capone Miami Herald Staff 

This story was originally published August 14, 2023, 5:16 PM. AARON LEIBOWITZ 305-376-2235 Aaron Leibowitz covers the city of Miami Beach for the Miami Herald. He was previously a municipal government reporter covering cities around Miami-Dade County.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Republicans are good at destroying things. Just look at the last 23 years of our history. What have these people touched that hasn't turned to ashes including democracy here and abroad?