You are on page 1of 6



Rock Starchitect James Corner Finally Applies for Florida License

29 October 2015
By David Arthur Walters MIAMI MIRROR
The Master Plan for the landscaping of Miami Beachs famed Lincoln Road designed by New
York landscape architect James Corner d.b.a. James Corner Field Operations has been approved
by the city commission, much to the consternation of tenants who believe the majority regime
of Mayor Philip Levine in concert with Lincoln Road landlords are shoving the project down
their throats.
James Corners initial $500,000 design was deemed mediocre or too bland for South Beachs
peculiar culture. He was receptive to public criticism, however, and considerable revisions were
made. So the design is not so much the problem as the high-handed manner in which it is
expected to be executed by a regime that is literally bulldozing historic South Beach out of
The rush to invest surplus capital of powerful and wealthy entities in immediate construction
over the protest of local residents and merchants is reminds us of Tamerlanes (Timur) policy,
Page 1 of 6


acting as the Sword of Islam. He was famous for his advertisements at the gates of conquered
villages: the mounds of skulls of anyone who had protested his advances. He was illiterate
himself, but appreciated art, kidnapping foreign architects to build Samarkand. Tenants who
objected to the restructuring of his shopping center were beheaded.

The Lincoln Road Retail and Restaurant Association, a new association of Lincoln Road tenants
on Lincoln Road, petitioned city officials, begging them to defer or put on hold the planned
landscaping of the mall, because, stated the informal document, The plan fails to indicate how
to keep the businesses economically viable while disrupting improvements are made, and it
also fails to indicate how the City of Miami Beach will deal with Business Interruption to the
Lincoln Road Retailers and Restaurants. The plan also failed to include the Local Businesses in
its planning.
Prior to the submission of the petition, the manager of a major Lincoln Road business, speaking
anonymously, he said, because of the certainty of retaliation against his business, said that big
corporations, whose special interests the mayor and his colleagues on the commission serves,
are destroying the historical character of the popular mall established by its founders.
The inconsiderate politicians are selling our city to big developers and landlords who support
them, he said. It is not only what they are doing, but how they are doing it. The city is
obviously badly managed. The timing is awful.
A meeting was held with the public on 29 September for the revelation of the revised plan,
announced to be final although, according to the Miami Herald, Public comments and input
from the City Commission and Historic Preservation Board can still lead to adjustments to the
plan. Construction would not begin until the plans clear the usual hurdles at City Hall.
A member of the Lincoln Road Retail and Restaurant Association who attended the meeting,
speaking privately and anonymously, referred to the leadership as a gang of liar (expletive
deleted) piles.

Page 2 of 6


He said that Jimmy Morales promised at a meeting that he would work out the scheduling with
businesses on the road, and that there would be plenty of time to do so because it would take
from eight to twelve months to finish the design and other matters, set the times for execution,
and then get it approved. Instead, the plan was approved on 14 October.
The president of the Lincoln Road Property Owners Association lauded the plan, but the Miami
Herald, serving to boost what it considers to be civic improvements, did not interview the
tenants organization, the Lincoln Road Retail and Restaurant Association.
Other than the public areas, Lincoln Road Mall is owned and/or controlled by a handful of
people behind a few corporate fronts financed by major banks. For instance, Stephen Bittels
Terranova Corporation reportedly owns or controls nearly half of the mall. Mr. Bittel is a
member of the Democratic National Committee. According to a New York Times report he has
been retained to co-chair its national finance committee for the 2016 elections.
A bizarre Miami Herald editorial, chided by local pundits for its utter hypocrisy, endorsed Mayor
Levine for reelection after castigating him for his scandalous behavior. The ulterior, perhaps
unconscious motive of the editors may not be civic pride at all, but guaranteed access to the
probable winner of the election; that is, the quid pro quo is access to an authoritative news
source in exchange for endorsement.
Rumor has it that Mr. Levine, a personal friend of the Clintons and contributor to their
foundation, will be appointed an ambassador by Hillary after she wins the presidency. His
general strategy, as a professional propagandist who got his start hawking cruises, is to ignore
naysayers and pitch the positive whether true or not.
A cursory search in July of Internet pages quickly revealed that the James Corner firm was
representing itself in Florida and designing projects as a landscape architect although it did not
have a license to do so.
The City of Miami Beach resolution awarding the contract with a preliminary value of $500,000
was signed by Mayor Levine on 10 September 2014. The resolution states that city manager
Jimmy Morales conducted due diligence before making his recommendation. A routine
practice in the awarding of municipal contracts is to make sure contractors are in compliance
with state licensing laws. Backgrounds should also be checked for criminal records, tax liens,
lawsuits, and so on.
The absence of a license check proves that was not done by Mr. Morales, perhaps because of
the international stature and prestige of James Corner, considered by New Yorkers as the Rock
Star of Landscape Architecture subsequent to his wonderful design of High Line Park, the

Page 3 of 6


reclamation of a stretch of elevated railway, now rendered spectacular by its views of the

James Corner was also selected as landscape architect for the marvelous design of the Miami
Underline, the transformation of a 10-mile stretch under Miamis Metrorail into a linear park
and mobility corridor, to be created in collaboration with the community, whose main voice is a
non-profit organization of realtors, Friends of the Underline.
Despite his talents and skills, it appears that Mr. Corners support professionals were negligent
for not acquiring a license in Florida prior to engaging in the practice of landscape design and
signing contracts in Florida.
In addition, a check with the Florida Secretary of State in July indicated that the company had
not registered as a corporate or limited liability entity, which would probably be necessary for it
to be recognized by Florida courts in the event of litigation. It appears that the firm could have
easily obtained a temporary license or license endorsement, and could have quickly registered
as a foreign (out of state) entity with the Secretary of State.
City Attorney Raul Aquila and other high officers were notified in July of the licensing
discrepancy. The city attorney was asked whether or not contracts with unlicensed contractors
are valid. No response was forthcoming.

Page 4 of 6


A spokesperson for the Florida Department of Professional and Business Regulation has stated
that James Corner has applied for a license, but is silent as to whether punitive action will be
The State of Florida has apparently been remiss in pursuing unlicensed stars from out of state
unless formal complaints are lodged by someone, usually a competitor, and is reticent to open
up preliminary investigations based on information received that may indicate violation of state
law, preferring to monitor the subjects of that information, whatever that means. It is clear,
however, that it is not remiss in having a small fry, say, an unlicensed plumber trying to feed his
family, arrested for contracting without a license.
James Corner appears to be imminently qualified, and that appearance seems sufficient to local
authorities. Most people, given his reputation, would not care whether he had a Florida license
or not.
Suspicion arises here because a firm licensed to practice in Florida, B.I.G. Architecture DPC, was
equally ranked by the evaluation committee. Jimmy Morales, however, recommended James
Corner after his so-called due diligence. Why recommend the unlicensed bidder?

Philip King Levine and his manager Jimmy Nice Guy Morales

The city commission almost always follows the recommendations of Jimmy Morales. That may
be because he makes the recommendations at the bidding of the de facto strong mayor, Philip
Levine, upon whom he depends for his job and who has proven to be a vindictive leader.
The city has been embroiled in a scandal over contributions solicited by the mayor and a
commissioner, Jonah Wolfson, from developers and vendors to a political action committee,
Relentless for Progress, a PAC lauding everything the mayor has done. City Attorney Raul
Aquila determined that was perfectly legal; he is correct given his premises that the PAC was
used properly, that is, without earmarking contributions for the benefit of a particular
candidate. Yet the consensus is that the behavior was unethical and/or extortionate in an
Page 5 of 6


informal sense. If the F.B.I. obtains definite evidence of a quid pro quo or this for that, criminal
charges could be forthcoming.
One of the contributors to Relentless for Progress was AOMA OTC Investment, a Delaware
entity hiding the identity of the source(s) of the $100,000 contributed. Jonah Wolfson,
treasurer of the PAC, who says he has closed down the PAC over the scandal, has not
responded to my inquiry as to the identity of the persons behind the shield.
Of course neither he nor anyone else for that matter is prohibited from lying about the matter
unless under oath.
So, is James Corner one of the mystery donors to the infamous Relentless for Progress PAC?
Who knows? Should not the bulldozed public have the right to know what is really going on?

Page 6 of 6