by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. After 58% of voters rejected the purchase of Peary Court six weeks ago, some City Commissioners have a new plan: give the City’s affordable housing funds to a private company that wants to buy the entire former Navy housing complex on White Street for 60 million dollars. The City would pay the buyer 12.5 million. In exchange, the buyer would deed restrict the 157 existing units and any other units constructed on the 24 plus acre property for use as [continue reading…]
by Arnaud and Naja Girard……. Taking a look behind the scenes at the ill-fated 55 million dollar Peary Court purchase proposal has opened a door into the shadowy marshland of Key West politics. An investigation by The Blue Paper reveals possible Sunshine Law violations, officials concealing information from the public, and a blurry line between public office and the interests of private organizations.
by Arnaud and Naja Girard……. From power trip to assault of patrons, some Duval Street bouncers seem poorly trained or out of control. The Blue Paper sampled this week’s bar brawls to report on the issue. Robert Lee Klieves can’t remember why he was put into a helicopter with a brain bleed and flown to Kendall Regional Trauma Center in Miami last Saturday night. He is 60 years old, from Hudson, Florida. He came to Key West for his “first real vacation in 20 years” to [continue reading…]
by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. Even though the debate at City Hall this week was not officially about race, it shed an unflattering light on Key West’s cultural divide in ways that no journalist could express better than the passionate speakers did on Tuesday night. You’re just going to have to listen for yourself and be amazed. But before you click on the video, we need to make you privy to a few basic facts and to the one little secret that no one “in the know” that night [continue reading…]
by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. This week FEB Corporation and Roger Bernstein, the wannabe owners/developers of Wisteria Island, have lost their case before the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. When most local politicians seemed all too ready to allow real estate moguls to build their posh hotel resort, who would have thought that an old Navy letter penned almost a century ago was going to place the federal government in front of the bulldozer and save the last desert island in Key West harbor? The [continue reading…]
Wisteria, the last desert island in Key West harbor, will not be developed any time soon. A three judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that a 1951 letter from the U.S. Navy to the State of Florida was more than enough to meet the requirements to establish the U.S. claim of ownership and to start the twelve-year statute of limitation running under the Quiet Title Act. F.E.B. Corporation’s owner, Roger Bernstein, has recently spent considerable time and money lobbying the County [continue reading…]
El Galeon will be at the Historic Seaport through Sunday March 27, tours are from noon to 8:00 pm, tickets: $15.00 Hōkūle’a will be here through noon Friday March 25 [or longer depending on weather] For more information about the El Galeon and the Hōkūle’a visit their websites linked below: Website for El Galeon: http://www.elgaleon.org/ Website for Hōkūle’a: http://www.hokulea.com/ DID YOU LIKE THIS STORY? SUPPORT THE BLUE PAPER Help us continue to bring you local investigative journalism… Click on the image to make a donation [NOT tax deductible].
by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. Two years ago when we asked where Matthew Shaun Murphy was we were given records showing that Murphy was a criminal at large; his name on the FDLE “Wanted” list. When we asked to see FDLE’s investigative report we were told there wasn’t one. But after spending a month verifying rumors of Murphy’s death at the hands of a KWPD officer, we found him… in Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital. He had been there for over 3 years, left in a [continue reading…]
Commentary by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. Over 56% of voters said “No” to the purchase of Peary Court in spite of the housing crisis. The $55 Million project to save 157 units rented at $2400/month appeared an uphill battle from the start. “Jimmy [Commissioner Weekley] is saying he prays that Peary Court tenants will not be evicted by the next owner,” says citizen advocate Christine Russel, “I think Jimmy and others who pushed this should pray the mysterious next owner pays at least $55 Million [continue reading…]
by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. The image of the gray PT Cruiser parked sideways on South Beach with the huddle of Key West police officers who’d just realized the man they’d piled on top of had stopped breathing is probably going to remain in the memories of Key Westers for a long time. What went wrong on that Thanksgiving morning in 2013 has been the center of considerable controversy. “My dad always had this dream of spending a winter in Key West,” Treavor Eimers, Charles [continue reading…]
by Naja and Arnaud Girard…….. The investigators of the disappearance of over $21,000 from the HOB daycare program seem to have found a convenient “bad apple.” Thirty-two year old Tina Godfrey was in charge of collecting the money. She didn’t file the proper paperwork, money is missing, and unbelievably enough, it seems “she has done it before.” In some sort of bizarre Japanese ritual at last Tuesday’s School Board meeting Superintendent Porter stoically reprimanded himself. He gave himself a 5-day suspension for not catching the thief [continue reading…]
by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. Buying the old Navy housing project at Peary Court might be the City’s last opportunity to preserve some semblance of a working class community. However, most residents interviewed appear unable to move past a sense of indignation over the proposed sale price for Peary Court (which has nearly doubled in just two years) or their suspicion that officials did not fight hard enough to get a better deal, if they fought at all. Background: On August 30, 2013 Peary Court was sold to White Street [continue reading…]
by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. A one-room efficiency for $1,836/month, a one-bedroom for $2,097, a two-bedroom for $2,358. Those are the “affordable” rates that will prevail for the rental of 70% of the 213 affordable residential units the County Commission has approved for a Big Coppitt Key waterfront development project. Those rents are defined in the code as “moderate-income affordable.”
by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. Donald Roberts lives in Peary Court with his mom Ruby. They rent one of the 48 deed restricted “affordable” units. Their situation is puzzling. With a combined annual income of under $55,850, they qualify for “low-income affordable workforce housing.” Their rent should be $1,571/month, yet they pay around $2,400/month. At that price, their 2-bedroom deed restricted affordable unit at Peary Court is pretty much market rate. So what happened to the hard fought victory that nearly four years ago “saved” 30% [continue reading…]
Commentary by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. The School Board is still scrambling to unravel the mystery of $20,000 in day-care funds that went missing over a year ago. Let’s put this amount into perspective. The annual 2015/2016 budget for the Monroe County School District is $163.7 Million. This amount includes 95.1 Million for operations and 26.8 Million for capital improvements. How seriously is the School District guarding that money? Meet Joseph Clements.
Commentary by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. Key West’s City Commissioners are considering the purchase of the old Navy housing at Peary Court. According to Commissioner Weekley, the real estate deal will relieve some of the effects of the dire housing crisis that bleeds the island of its workforce. Yet The Blue Paper discovered this week, that the City is also discretely considering loosening its land development regulations, easing the requirement that developers provide affordable housing.
by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. Some recent independent home inspection testing at Peary Court has brought a worrisome result. “My mold assessment led me to advise the tenants to vacate the apartment,” says Hugh Johnson. Johnson is the owner of “Inspect Key West.” He’s a Florida licensed home inspector and mold assessor. On March 15th voters will decide whether the City should purchase the White Street property, including the 49 buildings that were once used as Navy housing.
Commentary by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. **UPDATE Jan 5, 2015 6:15 pm** City Manager pulled the item from the agenda… ~~~~~~~ Surveyors hired by the City want $29,116 for travel, meals, and hotel expenses to inspect the housing units at Peary Court. The survey is part of the due diligence process associated with the possible purchase by the City of the old Navy housing on White Street. As part of their $165,951 cost estimate, Saltz Michelson Architects, a Fort Lauderdale firm, also wants $61,610 to perform [continue reading…]
Medical Examiner: Human Tissue Found in Dog Feces by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. It was 6 months ago. A local liveaboard boater had made an emergency call to the U.S. Coast Guard in Key West, reporting the gruesome discovery of a man dead inside his sailboat. The scene was not for the faint of heart. The body had been decomposing for days and a severed limb was found on the cockpit floor. Left open was the question of cause of death. Speculation ran wild – fanned by [continue reading…]
by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. It was not the Sistine Chapel, but the ceilings were painted with beautiful scenes of Florida Keys’ waters, with schooners and fishermen. The artists had been Cuban refugees who long ago paid for their stay at “The Kerr House” by redecorating the inside of the old conch house. When we visited the house at 410 Simonton Street seven years ago there were seven apartments bursting with local residents. Today we read in a redevelopment plan that the house will soon become [continue reading…]
Commentary by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. Two years ago, on Thanksgiving morning, paramedics were called to assist an old man on South Beach. KWPD officers on scene told them that the man had been running away from police on the beach and had suddenly collapsed in the sand and when they got to him he had no pulse and they began CPR. An investigation by The Blue Paper was going to bring to light a very different story, including two bystander videos showing the suspect, [continue reading…]