Friday, March 11, 2016

Key West changes 2016

When you have not been somewhere for two years you you really notice the differences. And wow Key West has changed a lot in the two years I've been away.

This quote from the Key West Aids memorial summarises what made Key West so great - i.e. because it was different:
Two roads diverged in a wood and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference. Robert Frost

I'm afraid, Key West heads even more rapidly and inextricably towards being the same as every other town.

A perfect example was when I went into one of the shops mid-Duval and asked the sales lady a question. She was Latvian, which is fine, but her unfriendly, aggressive attitude was horrible. I left the store immediately. Wow!

Of course, another example of this downward trend, one which is close to my heart, is the continued widespread permanent vandalism by the Tree Commission in allowing the chopping down of historic trees in Key West. You know, I just don't get why this happens - beauty is Key West's number 1 selling point - or how locals stand by and allow it to happen.

It's been a continual trend in the Citizen's Voice:

"This weekend we took our visiting guests to legendary spots. Our guests pointed out the beautiful trees surrounding these properties, including many trees growing straight through the roofs and canopies. I laughed because the current Tree Commission would allow those trees to be cut down like the beautiful trees on the corner of Southard and William, which now looks like an open parking lot.” 

and again...

"The Florida Keys are the best place to live in the USA and maybe the world! Yeah for us who live here. Sadly, since we realized our dream and moved here, the crazy, fun, shopping, eating, drinking, galleries of Duval Street are changing, and not for the better. More funky shops and restaurants have closed. So, leaders find out what’s going on and stop it. Losing Fast Buck Freddie’s was a devastating blow and each month more closures. Pretty soon Duval will look like every- where USA. Not a big deal, but charm does not equal for-rent signs!”
citizens voice 7 july

“It’s that time of year again when we can walk or bike around Key West and remember how beautiful and shady it used to be before our Tree Commission cut down all of the Poinciana trees. Thanks for the memories, tree butchers.” 
may 24 2016

“I appreciate the editorial regarding the 150-plus trees being removed at Fort Zachary to build a road. It is outrageous. However, your editorial failed to mention that 35 other requests to remove shade trees all over the island were also approved at that same meeting. Keep in mind that only a few requests even make it to the Tree Commission. Most are approved by staff or do not require permits since they are not native. My guess is we are removing more than 1,000 trees every year. Our tree policies are a failure.”

“Key West used to have a large eautiful canopy that brought much needed shade in the long summer months. I imagine all the people cutting them down live in The Hamptons on Long Island in the summer. It was so much cooler in the summer before the deforesting and pav- ing of the city. Save some money and get rid of the Old Town Tree Commission.” 

citiizen april 2016

“It looks like there are plenty of jobs in Key West for the season. But at $12 an hour average, who could pay $2,400 in rent? The situation hurts the small business mostly not the corporate gentrification of Duval Street. Visitors don’t want to see franchises they have back home. Keep Key West character unique"
nov 27 2016

And finally an excellent editorial in the Citizen itself ....

At every Tree Commission meeting, approval is routinely granted to cut down dozens of beautiful mature trees, including mahogany, Royal Poinciana, sea grape, banyan, mango, avocado and many others. Often landscape firms simply declare a tree is infected or obstructing a pipe; no evidence is required and, of course, the profit motive is clear.
Not long ago, the commission approved the removal of more than 150 trees, which provide migratory bird habitat near Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. Community outcry, sup- ported by the Audubon Society, resulted in a partial amelioration of this plan. There are now plans afoot to cut down way too many trees near the Indigenous Park.
The Tree Commission in its entirety is appointed by Mayor Craig Cates; they usually rubber-stamp the recommendations of the city arborist, Karen DeMaria. They are adhering to rules the city has imposed on itself, apparently in commitment to allowing only native trees to persevere in Key West. Recently, city workers erroneously cut down many button- wood trees on private land that then had to be replaced. We have a “tree-ridding” city mentality these days.
We question this policy and also the definition of a native tree. Photos of the Keys from 1900 and before show mostly mangroves with scrubby, small bushes and grasses on open areas. A photo from 1900 of the area around the Custom House shows scrawny palms and a few trees in the yards of houses. Pictures and records from that time indicate homeowners were planting ornamental trees such as poinciana and plumeria, along with mango, avocado and other tropical fruit trees. They were eager for food, shade and beauty — not a bad policy today!
When one flies into Key West, it is already possible to discern there is less density to our tree canopy. Particularly noticeable in blooming season is the loss of so many Royal Poinciana trees. At this rate, we’ll have to see them in the pictures by Mario Sanchez or other Key West artists who depicted earlier times in Key West.
We need to become active in planning the cultivating and replacing of our once abundant tree canopy. It has served this island city well over decades, providing shade and beauty.
citizen editorial - sun 27 nov 

On other matters, many retail stores have closed and of course they tend to be more interesting, different pleased that close. Key West T-shirt factor has closed at 316 Simonton:

Although I was not a visitor, Key West Dolls and it's great neon sign has closed:

It's a great shame that the two owners of Key West Towels and the next door cocktail shop have moved out of Key West back to their home. This shop was one of the oldest businesses on Duval Street, opening in 1986. And their towels and t-shirts were fantastic.

It would be ok if the shops that replaced the old ones were are good. But they mostly are not. Fast Buck has finally a new occupant - CVS. Like we needed another drug store on Duval Street.

It is very strange going into the ex-Fast Buck's CVS. You try to remember the Fast Bucks layout. It looks much smaller now too!

Does it matter all these interesting plces closing. Yes, I think it does. Tourist and locals alike miss the fun eccentric stuff of old. It matters:

There is some new. The Side Bar on Angela. 915 is apparently under new management.

Side Bar Key West on Angela Street

Make the most of the Truman Waterfront before it';s turned into a rock venue or whatever horrendous decelopment is planned. Again. I don't get why Key West wants to do this. Here are pictures of the area that will be ruined (sorry, developed):

And just to prove the quality is moving out of Key West: Key West's best restaurant host, David Case has retired from Sarabeth's and Stuart has left Nine One Five. All change, as usual!!
This is the latest in a series of annual posts:

2015 Key West changes

2014 Key West changes

2013 Key West changes

2012 Key West changes