Arriola: USS Mohawk 'just a rusty old tub'
By Charlotte Libov
Miami city officials decided not to give the USS Mohawk a permanent home as a maritime museum because the ship is "a piece of crap," said City Manager Joe Arriola.
"It's a piece of crap. I would have expected something terrific," he said. "The city deserves something really attractive. This was an old, beat-up, rusty ship. It was just terrible. It was just a rusty old tub, and they wanted to put it in Bicentennial Park
"The city deserves something big, beautiful and important," he said. "No offense to the owner, but it looked like it belonged more as a reef than in Bicentennial Park."
Owner Frans Boetes moved the Coast Guard cutter to Key West, where it was welcomed with fanfare. Madeline Burnside, executive director of the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum there, said it will probably become part of that museum's collection docked at Truman Waterfront.
Mr. Arriola said he declined to bring a proposal to the Miami City Commission to provide a permanent home for the ship to spare the feelings of Mr. Boetes and supporters. "The commission would have laughed in their face," he said.
"I think a maritime museum is a great idea, but really, this was a horrible ship. It was old and rusty and beat-up. With all the history that Miami has, you would think we could find a better ship. The idea of a maritime museum is wonderful, and it would make all the sense in the world, but it has to be meaningful, not built around a rusty old beat-up frigate," Mr. Arriola said.
The vessel had to be towed into Key West Harbor.
The cutter, which protected the US coastline in World War II, was dedicated as a museum in March 2005, when supporters of the Miami-Dade Historical Maritime Museum, founded by Mr. Boetes, pledged to raise $500,000 for restoration work. Mr. Boetes said he bought the boat and funded initial restoration.
Mr. Arriola initially supported the idea, Mr. Boetes said.
William D. Talbert III, president and CEO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, said this week that the city missed a tourism opportunity. "This would have added to our tourism infrastructure and contributed to the mosaic that is Miami."
Bud Park, vice president of advancement at the Historical Museum of Southern Florida, said he was surprised that city officials rejected the ship.
"There was never any problem. It just didn't click, but I think that's too bad. The city did not come through and support it as they should have.
"People who have any interest in history, particularly World War II, and people with an interest in engineering and science really go for these things," Mr. Park said. "Like any historical exhibition, there's a fascinating background. And it's also just plain fun. It's an attraction, and it's a real loss to the community.
"We're the largest seaside community in the country that doesn't have a maritime museum," he said. "A museum like that will bring in six to seven times the visitors as an historical or art museum.
If attractions are grouped, "it brings in visitors that will flow into the historic, science and art museums," Mr. Park said.
"Who knows: Perhaps another ship will become available," said Mr. Park. "The city really missed the boat."