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Letters to the Editors

Mall hat episode teaches children the wrong lesson

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 21, 2000


Re: Tip of the hat sends Tyrone mall over the top, by Howard Troxler, July 19, and related stories about the young man ejected from Tyrone Square Mall.

How is it that an alleged man of God allows his child to wear a hat, in a gang-related manner, with the word "pimp" printed on it?

Had I worn such a hat in such a manner with such a message, my butt would not only have been kicked out of the mall, my father would have kicked it all the way home, too. I can't believe that this supposed minister is trying to rationalize his son's behavior by simply explaining that "pimp" means "in control." How ridiculous! No wonder these young men grow up with such little respect for women. Just listen to today's rap music to understand my point.

This young man could have learned valuable lessons from this experience. He could have learned respect for women and his elders. He could have learned that your appearance can and will define who you are. He could have learned to accept responsibility for his poor decisionmaking. But due to his father, Howard Troxler and the so-called civil rights bunch, this young man is going to learn what so many children today chant as their mantra: "Aw, c'mon, man, it ain't my fault!"
-- J.M. Touger, Tampa

The rules need to be obeyed

Re: The stories about Ephraim Sykes at Tyrone Square Mall.

The Rev. Manuel Sykes complained about the treatment of his son at Tyrone Square Mall after his son had sung there in his tuxedo. I, too, am a minister, and I have two sons who have traveled in the United States and in Europe singing in their tuxedos. If my sons went to Tyrone Square Mall, or any place else, and broke the rules, I would expect them to be asked to leave. And I would thank the security personnel for teaching my sons that they will be held responsible for their actions.

The Rev. Sykes appears to be teaching his son that if you get caught doing something wrong, just yell racism. Then everyone will get mad and suddenly you haven't done anything wrong, and it is the other guy's fault.

I hope Tyrone Square Mall does not apologize or change its rules. If the mall officials do, they might as well throw the rule book in the garbage because they will no longer be able to enforce any of the rules.

Columnist Howard Troxler should be made to go and apologize to his high school principle and then not be allowed to write any more columns like the one on Wednesday (Tip of the hat sends Tyrone mall over the top). Things are bad enough without his fanning the flames trying to make them worse. We sure don't need him teaching our children that it is okay to stand up to authority and break the rules if you don't like what they tell you.
-- The Rev. Ted Bambrough, St. Petersburg

Remembering a nice young man

A little over a year ago, I said goodbye to one of the most polite, respectful and hardworking young men I had ever had the privilege to teach. Ephraim Sykes was in my wind ensemble and jazz band at John Hopkins Middle School. I have a hard time picturing quiet and sweet Ephraim as some unruly gang member looking for trouble at the mall.

I strongly believe that the mall security people have a tough job, and they do it well. Although I was not there, I also believe that this is an unfortunate case of poor judgment of a very nice young man.
-- Mrs. Calista Zebley, director of bands, John Hopkins Middle School, St. Petersburg

Mall should apologize

Regarding the incident between the Tyrone Square Mall and Ephraim Sykes, I believe that the security guard clearly overreacted to the situation. Did Sykes walk around with several "thug" type people, all with there hats turned sideways? No! Did he do anything against the law! No!

I am a white person, and I believe that one clearly should have to do something unlawful in order to be evicted from the mall. What is next? Back in the '50s, white boys were also depicted as gangsters because of the way they combed their hair. It was an expression of one's one feeling then, just as it is for kids wearing their hats to the side today. God forbid that the next gang-related craze should be bald heads, then many of us baby boomers would be in jeopardy.

I believe the mall should apologize to young Ephraim, and he should be offered a $100 shopping spree to go with it. All security personnel should also be briefed on the proper handling of incidents such as this.
-- Robert D. Bates, Clearwater

Direct an apology to women

Re: Mall ejects teen over cap, July 18.

Ephraim Sykes wears a cap with the word "Pimp" (one who procures prostitutes for others) and his father is upset because the mall ejects him for not following rules. The Rev. Manuel Sykes needs to focus on more than his son's ejection from the mall.

When will the good reverend address the enslavement and denigration of women?

There is nothing more prejudiced than the words that males call women. The N-word may inflame the blacks. There are words that inflame women, and they are used all too frequently in rap music, on clothing and in language in public places.

As a woman, I would expect that the Rev. Sykes would have his son apologize to women everywhere.
-- Roberta Yancey, St. Petersburg

Discrimination of another sort

Re: Mall ejects teen over cap.

I would sincerely hope that if I were to appear in a public place in a cap sporting the N-word that I would be speedily ejected for inappropriate behavior in a public place.

Ephriam Sykes appears to favor an occupation that is not only heinous and degrading, but also sexist in the extreme. How his father, a minister of God, can permit his minor son to wear such apparel is beyond me.

I was taught that people who wish to litigate are expected to have clean hands. I suggest that before one cries "racial discrimination," one needs to look at one's own attitude of "sexist discrimination." Dissing people is not funny.
-- Elvira R. Niles, Valrico

Values in decline

The Pimpgear Web site says, "Make sure everyone knows that you're a pimp, not a ho!"

Does the Rev. Manuel Sykes want to send the message that this verbiage is okay? Everyone knows that the word "pimp" demeans women! Sadly I regret that the values of our great country are declining rapidly, with our "great" leader Bill Clinton leading the way.

Wake up, parents!
-- York T. Somerville, Pinellas Park

Not buying it

Re: "Pimp" means individuality, not sex, July 19.

Have the words "pimp" and "ho" become less offensive because they have managed to be marketed to children on articles of clothing? A test might be to ask: Would anyone be comfortable with having themselves or a family member labeled a "pimp" or a "ho" in church or in public? The sane guess is: probably not. If that's what being marketed to children, should we be buying it?

However you spin them, the words are degrading to women. Would any parents be comfortable seeing their daughters walk around with a member of the opposite sex wearing such a hat? Once again the sane guess would be: probably not. Any parent/reverend who would allow his child out in public wearing clothes from "the Pimpgear collection" is complicit in that child's delinquency, should it occur. If you are preaching anything else, we are not buying it.
-- Charles Platania, St. Petersburg

Embarrassment seems in order

Why is a minister's son wearing a cap that says "Pimp"? I know if it were my son (and I'm not a minister), he'd be grounded for a month.

If I were the father, I'd be too embarrassed to make a big deal out of the whole event. If he has a daughter, would it be okay if she wore a T-shirt that said "Ho"? Makes you wonder.
-- Bob Dalzell, St. Petersburg

Democratic activist responds

The July 5 article Condo commandos face fight misinterpreted and misquoted my remarks in order to cast an adversarial shadow on Broward County Democrats. I have often stated that technology is the new wave and if we in the party do not get on the leading edge of that wave, then we will be buried by it.

I made it clear to your reporter that I have great respect for the people who have led Broward Democrats to victory so many times over the past decades. My efforts as president of the Broward Young Democrats have been focused on recruiting members outside the retirement communities using e-mail, e-groups and Web sites to improve communications and lay the groundwork to get out the vote.

My candidacy for president of the Council of Club Presidents for Broward Democratic Clubs was launched because of discontent among many of the newer club presidents with the stagnation and lack of organization in the council. The election that was scheduled on May 6 was officially postponed because after three consecutive years in office, neither the chair nor any of the officers had a copy of the current by-laws and they could not decide who was eligible to vote. (Actually, if the vote had been taken that day, I could have won, which could be the real reason the vote was not held.)

I rose to a parliamentary point of order, quoting Robert's Rules, which state that an organization without by-laws should first elect a chair. I never stated that "the current club presidents . . . didn't know how to run things" as published in your article. My motion was denied by the chair, who had prearranged selection of a by-laws committee to circumvent the election process.

I am neither "foaming at the mouth" nor trying to "create an issue" as others were quoted in describing my efforts. I have been working hard to register voters, improve communication and get out the vote to elect Democrats in November. The Broward Young Democrats are the largest Young Democrat club in Florida and we are one of the largest Democratic clubs of any kind in the state. I invite you to surf our Web site at www.byd.org and get more involved in the political process.
-- Randy A. Fleischer, president, Broward Young Democrats, Davie

Rage proliferates

Re: Parent rage at youth sports, editorial, July 14.

Last year I attended my 50th high school reunion in Reading, Mass., so I felt special pain about the father of a hockey player beating to death another player's father at the rink in Reading. This is a beautiful, quiet, prosperous town north of Boston. How could such a tragedy happen?

Your editorial was helpful, especially where you said, "Parents who cannot overcome such negative feelings should do everyone a favor and stay home."

We're having serious problems right here in Florida with road rage. Now it appears that we have to be alert to "parent rage."
-- Lois Cormier, Clearwater

Pleased with the paper

We just spent two wonderful weeks visiting our daughter and son-in-law in Largo. We enjoyed reading your paper every morning. Wish we had a paper up here like it.
-- Jens and Kay Ericksen, Racine, Wis.

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$STPT$

ID: +Paper: +Date: 7/21/00 +

Page: 1 +

Section: NORHTOF TAMPA+

Byline: MELANIE AVE and MICHAEL SANDLER+

Headline: Displeasure builds with all those apartments+

Notes: +

As 1,000 apartments rise yearly in New Tampa, some are wondering whether it's time to yank the welcome mat.

The question comes up all the time in New Tampa: What, more apartments?

The answer irritates many, including some of the area's calmest citizens who feel one of the fastest-growing sections of Hillsborough County already has too many apartments.

The fretful fear more apartments will worsen the area's crowded roads and schools. That they will erode property values, lessen the sense of community. And the cries go from County Line Road all the way to City Hall.

So last week, from his seat on the City Council, Tampa Palms resident Shawn Harrison said enough.

He listened to Joel Tew, a developer's attorney, pitch plans for a controversial new golf community that would include more apartments. Then he had some stringent suggestions for the developer.

"I have a problem with the number of multifamily units you are, at least theoretically, allowed to build here," Harrison said. "I want a severe limitation."

By meeting's end, Tew agreed to drop the number of apartments from 1,000 to 300.

It was a small victory for the area's anti-apartment faction. But it represented just one slice out of New Tampa's growing apartment market.

The area has averaged about 1,000 new apartments annually for the past three years and analysts predict that pace will continue for at least another two years. And as the apartment community expands, so does the anxiety.

"The general feeling is . . . do we really need any more apartments?" said Bob Van Sickler, a Tampa Palms homeowner. "There's just so many and you just wonder, why are there so many?"

Supply and demand

At latest count, New Tampa has 8,000 existing apartments. Another 1,000 units are planned in the next 12 months, according to Triad Research & Consulting, a Tampa firm that studies the apartment industry. Triad says three apartment complexes are now under construction and three more could be launched in the next year.

Additionally, 450 apartments are planned by Lennar Homes in Tampa Palms and 300 rental units are envisioned for Grand Hampton, the development north of West Meadows that was debated last week.

"The proliferation of apartments is staggering," said Tampa Palms Community Development District chairman Mark Fitzpatrick, a New Tampa apartment dweller-turned-homeowner. "Yet as a capitalist, who are we to say there's too many?

"It's supply and demand."

Joanne Devitt, interim manager of The Enclave at Richmond Place, said she feels the heat of competition at the 280-unit complex off Bruce B. Downs. Since the complex opened in December, it has rented about 42 percent of its luxury garden apartments, Devitt said. To attract renters, the Enclave is currently offering two month's free rent off a 12- to 15-month lease.

"Competition is always good, but it's getting to where there's just so many," Devitt said. "In that respect, I can see homeowners being upset."

As construction workers busily complete the 300-unit Villas at Cross Creek, newly opened complexes up and down Bruce B. Downs Boulevard beckon renters with "Grand Opening" signs.

They promise "tasteful living," "luxury apartment living" and "exceptional apartment homes."

Renters are the victors here, as the complexes compete for their business with deals and amenities galore. Free appliances and an introductory break on the rent are not uncommon.

Rental living is not necessarily cheap living: Some of the complexes are decidedly upscale, offering the square footage of a small house and charging monthly rents to match. They feature gourmet kitchens, health clubs and business centers. Some even provide personal trainers and pet care.

Apartments provide hassle-free living - no lawn to mow, no water heater to replace - right in the heart of desirable New Tampa.

That's a winning combination for Marc Stern, an airline pilot and real estate agent. He sold his Tampa Palms house two years ago and moved to The Hamptons, an upscale apartment complex.

Stern said living in his three-bedroom apartment is a lot like staying at a resort. With 1,700-square-feet of space, his apartment has crown moldings, hardwood floors and a kitchen with a wine rack. And there's always a party to attend.

"It's as good as it gets as far as you can have for apartment living," said 45-year-old Stern. "This has been pleasant for me."

When people ask why he would choose to rent an apartment for $1,500 a month, he replies: "It's a choice. With a house, you have to take responsibility for it."

Some apartment officials said the deals being offered are marketing strategies, not a sign that they are struggling to find tenants.

Robert Ahrens, president for Lennar Homes, said his company has sold all 400 upscale apartments planned for Tampa Palms Area 8, a future community southwest of I-75 and northwest of Bruce B. Downs.

Marge Harvey, assistant manager at The Vinings at Hunter's Green, said her 240-unit complex is 97 percent filled, and receiving applicants from all walks of life.

"As far as I'm concerned there must be a need because we're full," Harvey said. "We'd like it all to be country out here, but it ain't going to happen."

Nor is New Tampa's apartment boom unusual for Hillsborough County.

An analysis by Triad Research indicated that New Tampa has about the same number of apartments as Northdale and Lutz combined, and fewer than Carrollwood or South Tampa.

Triad president Michael Slater attributes the current worries in New Tampa apartments to simple growing pangs.

"People think, because there's lots of new construction, it's overbuilt and that's not true," said Slater, whose Tampa firm studies the apartment market. "There's just a greater demand."

A worsening traffic problem

By far the loudest anti-apartment cry comes from residents worried about traffic. Bruce B. Downs Boulevard is essentially the only way in and out of New Tampa. During rush hour, cars stack up like pancakes at IHOP.

"We're developing a traffic problem here and they're stacking apartments on each other," said Monty Bryan, who lives in Hunter's Green and sells real estate for Coldwell Banker. "We have no roads and a shortage of water. They're just building and building."

While new homes are going up faster than apartments, single-family homes don't bring as many people.

"In the same area where you might get 40 single homes, you get 300 apartments," said George Faugl, president of the New Tampa Community Council and a Pebble Creek homeowner. "Instead of getting 80 vehicles on the road, you are getting 300 or 400."

Faugl believes the city must face transportation problems before allowing developers to add more vehicles to the road. Growth already is forcing the government to widening Bruce B. Downs Boulevard from four to six lanes, build a bridge over Interstate 75 connecting New Tampa and Commerce Park boulevards, and construct a fly-over entrance ramp from Bruce B. Downs south onto I-75 southbound.

Faugl, like many others, is fed up.

"I'd be all for a freeze, a moratorium," he said, "until some of the projects are on the way."

Others say that apartments can be an efficient use of space, and that the effect on traffic depends on the type of apartment.

Denise Layne of Lutz, co-chairwoman of the Sierra Club of Tampa Bay, contends that building luxury apartments in an area already overrun by $500,000 homes leaves little room for affordable housing. That forces retail and service employees to commute to New Tampa, adding even more cars to the traffic.

"It's a white collar community, but most of the jobs in the community are blue collar," Layne said. "Home Depot, Publix, gas stations - no where in the community for the people in the community who work these jobs to live. So they have to travel."

By that reasoning, moderately priced apartments near employment centers would relieve some of New Tampa's traffic.

At least two yet-to-be-built complexes - Heritage Point by CED Construction and Oxford Glen by Regency Development Associates - are proposed as below market complexes, meaning they will offer reduced-cost rents.

Still, Harrison said he wants his City Council counterparts to carefully scrutinize any future plans to expand the New Tampa apartment market.

"We certainly, from the council's perspective, can take the position that we're not going to give free reign on apartment development in New Tampa," Harrison said. "When we have rezonings asking for increases in density . . . then we ought to really scrutinize that. I intend to do that.

"We're just allowing these huge complexes . . . to go in and we really don't have a clear idea for future."

This much is clear, the analysts say: Sooner or later, New Tampa will run out of land that is suitable for apartments. Slater predicts that, if the current pace continues, that will happen in two years.

"Tampa Palms/New Tampa is not a limitless ocean," he said.

- Melanie Ave can be reached at (813) 226-3473 or melanie@sptimes.com. Michael Sandler can be reached at (813) 226-3472 or sandler@sptimes.com.

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