Boca Art Museum Offers Lifeline to Old School Square, Boca Rep Announces Retirement, and More

A Boca Raton institution may soon replace part of a Delray Beach institution.

On the agenda for today’s Delray Beach City Commission meeting is an item from City Manager Terrence Moore. It is titled “Innovative and Collaborative Opportunities Involving the Boca Raton Art Museum in the Old School Square Complex”.

I had previously reported preliminary discussions between the museum and the city. Old School Square for the Arts operated the city-owned Cornell Museum, part of Old School Square, for 33 years. The termination of the lease for the Cornell and the rest of Old School Square went into effect last month, leaving Delray Beach without a group to run the Cornell, let alone the Crest Theater, Fieldhouse and Pavilion.

Boca Raton Museum of Art executive director Irvin Lippman told me Monday that he spoke with Moore on Feb. 14, six days after Cornell closed. Three days later, the museum’s executive committee “approved continued discussions to manage the Cornell Museum,” as Lippman said in an email to Moore on Feb. 18.

In a letter to Moore, Lippman and two board members said: “As advocates of the arts and their value to society, we are concerned to see such an institution close, in this experience suggests that a once closed, many never reopen.”

“Therefore, as the geographically closest major art museum, we feel it is our duty to discuss taking over responsibility for the operation of the museum on an interim basis.”

Lippman and Moore said Monday that the “provisional baseline” is likely to be at least 18 months. Lippman told me the museum would like to see the effects over a full budget year. He also said the museum does not envision the Cornell as “an annex to the Boca Raton Museum of Art.” We would focus on art for Delray Beach. Any arrangement, Lippman said, would not involve art lessons.

Termination of the lease required a vote of the commission. Mayor Shelly Petrolia and Commissioners Juli Casale and Shirley Johnson provided it last August, even though Old School Square was not on the agenda.

But hiring a replacement will apparently be Moore’s call. On Monday, Moore said he would “share with the commission” his discussions with the museum so that the commissioners could “assess the possibilities.” He called it an “ongoing process.”

Part of that “process” will be completing renovations to the Crest Theater which a private donor was funding until the city halted work on the project and then terminated the lease. Moore confirmed he had reached out to Community Redevelopment Agency executive director Renee Jadusingh about the agency — that is, the public — paying to complete the renovations. How much would it cost? A figure, Moore said, “is being estimated.”

It’s yet another sad development in recent months as the relationship that had served Delray Beach so well seems to be coming to an end. Commissioner Ryan Boylston, who opposed the dismissal, told me on Friday that it had “depressed” him visiting Old School Square recently.

For decades, Boylston recalled, anyone could walk into Old School Square during the day. It wasn’t locked. It was not necessary. Since the termination, Boylston said, the city has allowed entry for only two hours a day so artists can remove their material.

“You see all these older women doing their jobs,” Boylston said. “What are (city staff) worried about? What do they think these ladies are going to do?

Petrolia, Casale and Johnson continue to ignore the overwhelming public sentiment for the negotiation. They even refused to discuss Old School Square for the Arts’ offer to settle the band’s lawsuit alleging wrongful termination and describing a conspiracy to rid Delray Beach of the band that helped make Delray Beach.

So the trial continues, possibly heading to mediation next month. The class attorney said he plans to file an amended complaint by today, making changes after the trial judge’s comments last month.

Lippman and museum board members are aware of the policy. “We understand,” the letter says, “that there is an ongoing dispute” between Old School Square for the Arts and the city. “We have no position in this dispute and have no desire to comment on it. Our sole interest is to preserve the operations of the Cornell Museum and maintain community access to its programming and artistic resources.

Ted Deutch retires, paving the way for a new Boca representative

Congressman Ted Deutch

Boca Raton will have a new congressman in January.

Ted Deutch, who represents District 22 in the United States House, announced on Monday that he would retire rather than seek a seventh term. Deutch becomes 31st Retired House Democrat. Polls indicate that the Republicans should regain the majority in November.

Although the Republican-led Legislature and Governor DeSantis will approve new congressional districts for the upcoming election, current versions of the maps show no major effort to gerrymander District 22 or District 21, which includes Delray Beach. The incumbent for District 21 is fellow Democrat, Lois Frankel.

Deutch will become CEO of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), one of the largest pro-Israel organizations in the country. The move will mean a major financial boost to Deutch’s Congressional salary of $174,000. David Harris, who Deutch will succeed at AJC, earned nearly $1.2 million, according to the group’s 2020 tax return.

Since winning his seat in a special election in 2010, the former state senator has been one of Israel’s staunchest advocates. He chairs the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and co-chairs the House bipartisan Task Force on Combating Antisemitism.

Deutch lives near Glades Road near South County Regional Park. His successor may not be from Palm Beach County. District 22 includes not only Boca Raton and West Boca, but also parts of northwest and coastal Broward County south to Fort Lauderdale.

A likely Democratic nominee is former state legislator Jared Moskowitz. He represented Parkland and attended Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. In a crowded primary, he could face trouble because of his connection to Gov. DeSantis, whom he served as the state’s director of emergency management. DeSantis also recently appointed Moskowitz to the Broward County commission.

It will all depend on the map, including how much Broward the redesigned district includes. County Commissioner Robert Weinroth, a former Boca Raton board member, told me Monday that he would not be running. State Sen. Gary Farmer, who lives in Broward, could be another Democratic nominee.

The primary is August 23. Mail-in ballots are sent about a month earlier. Given the tight schedule — Deutch apparently didn’t give insiders much notice — the board could fill up quickly.

Delray Commissioners to Discuss Improving Pedestrian Safety

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Delray Beach City Hall (photo by Christiana Lilly)

Also on the agenda for today’s meeting in Delray Beach is a presentation on how to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety on Atlantic and Swinton Avenues.

According to the backup material, staff held numerous public forums as part of a study. Work was completed just before the COVID-19 pandemic. Nothing has happened for two years.

Among the suggestions is lane closures, to slow traffic, in Swinton-Atlantic and nearby intersections. The memo notes that the commission may need to act quickly because of “proposed developments” in the area. One of them is Sundy Village, which will run all around this intersection. Work should start soon.

Steven Abrams Remains Executive Director of Tri-Rail

The Boca Raton Tri-Rail station. Photo by Aaron Bristol

Steven Abrams, former Boca Raton mayor and county commissioner, is still Tri-Rail’s executive director, and will be for some time.

The Tri-Rail board discussed Abrams’ status on Friday after a board member criticized him for delays at the agency’s Miami station. I wrote last week that Abrams would present the board with a proposal on when he could leave.

According to Abrams, the board decided that Abrams should return with a “transition agreement.” He would remain for eight months, during which time the board would choose his successor and “compensate” him for “transitional services” to that successor.

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