Letter to the President:
March 20, 2010
The Honorable Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
My name is Dan Reiter and I live in Cocoa Beach, Florida. We have a charming little town here, rich in history, culture, and scenery, but poor in most everything else. Once––a half century ago ––the Mercury and Apollo missions launched from these sands to stir the hopes and dreams of the world. For a shining instant, we stood at the edge of human imagination, gazing out into a future bright and unknown. Sadly, those days have passed.
At the very heart of our town stands a building known as “The Glass Bank.” It is a curiosity of Mid-century modern architecture with I.M. Pei-style curvatures and ranks of windows on all sides. This lonely monolith stands in the center of the city, towering high over the cabbage palms and low-lying roofs surrounding it. In its time, the top floor of the Glass Bank was home to Ramon’s Rainbow Room, where luminaries such as Gus Grissom, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Walter Cronkite sipped cocktails over the moonlit stillness of the Banana River.
In recent years, the Glass Bank, like Cocoa Beach itself, has fallen into disrepair. Hurricane Frances took out many of the windows, which remain boarded up to this day. The commercial tenants folded up shop long ago, skipped town, and the place has been abandoned now for over six years. The absentee owner of the building has allowed the façade to rot, and a thin layer of black mold festers over what stucco remains between the windows. In places, the raw steel bones of the structure show through gaping holes. This cracked and ragged edifice has become, unconsciously, the symbol of our city’s decimated property values. One look at this slouching giant is to see in material form the toll the recent recession has taken on all of us.
Our City Commissioners have tried to take measures to remedy the eyesore. Maximum fines and penalties have been levied upon the owner, who continues to amass a glut of code violations. Legal avenues have been explored as well, to no avail. Apparently, eminent domain can only be invoked when the values of the fines surpass the appraised value of the building. I am told this will come to pass in the summer of 2061, should the current pace continue. I spoke at length with the City Superintendent about this issue, along with the Mayor, two State Senators, the Clerk of the County Court, and the proprietors of three local surf shops. The general consensus is that the best and cleanest resolution to the problem of the Glass Bank would be to bomb it into oblivion.
Therefore, I write to you now humbly requesting the use of an idle V-2 missile. If a V-2 is unavailable, similar tactical ballistic weaponry would be acceptable.
In the event that no missiles are readily obtainable for this purpose, I hope that you might allow me to propose another, less costly, alternative.
The current owner of the Glass Bank has stated that he would part with the historical building for a price of $5 million. Two years ago, the City of Cocoa Beach considered purchasing it for their city offices, fire department, and police headquarters. Contractors were called in to estimate the cost of repairs. They deemed that an additional $2 million would have to be spent to get the thing back to respectable shape. The total price tag of $7 million was only slightly out of range of the city’s budget. Instead of trying to drum up the remaining $6.7 million, the deal was inexplicably shelved.
I would propose the following:
A federal grant be issued to the City of Cocoa Beach to purchase and restore the historic Glass Bank building.
Green construction methods will be used in the reconstruction. Rooftop flora, solar windows, renewable materials, and the leading Florida technologies will be implemented, and the process held up as an example to all builders as to what can be accomplished in the coming age of environmental responsibility.
The City of Cocoa Beach, upon completing the construction of the building, will relocate its own offices to the first floor, and issue 20-year leases for the remainder of the units. A focus on green construction methods, space exploration, and alternative energy research will be promoted in the selection of tenants, who would occupy the space for a nominal rent.
The boon to the local economy would be tremendous. As you know, the Space Coast has staggered under the weight of the housing crash; massive layoffs at Boeing, United Space Alliance, Northrop Grumman, ATK, and even NASA continue to cripple our workforce. With the purchase of the Glass Bank, engineering and construction jobs would be created immediately. Vibrant and educated labor personnel will be employed and remain within our community. Surrounding businesses will thrive. Our downtown area will be revitalized. The tourism industry would benefit. Brevard county, and all of Central Florida, will stand up and take notice of the building. Here, in the form of a single, remarkable structure, we have the opportunity for instant, tangible results in a land full of skeptics. And all this, for less than 1% of the cost of the high-speed rail! Think of the far-reaching implications. The restored Glass Bank will stand as an iconic symbol for a green future and a fresh, rejuvenated space program. Once again, our little seaside village has the opportunity to ignite the imaginations and hopes of Florida.
I am enclosing with this letter two photos of the Glass Bank. The first depicts it as it appeared in the 1960s, during the apex of the Apollo missions. The second shows the structure in its current state of decay.
I hope you will consider this unique proposition. The people of Cocoa Beach await your decision with the highest of hopes.
With deepest regards,
* Note to the locals: this letter failed to mention the fact that the top two floors of the Glass Bank are currently occupied by an eccentric recluse, a man by the name of Frank Wolfe, who refuses to part with his property, and who has blocked in all the windows of his pied-a-terre. Ironically enough, Wolfe once served as city attorney during the “flush times” of the early ’60s. This trifling fact was either too unseemly, or else too unimportant to bother the President with — the reader is free to decide which.
** A second note to the locals (October, 2014): Frank Wolfe committed suicide at the Glass Bank this past February. The Glass Bank is still for sale. The City of Cocoa Beach continues to seek alternatives to the V-2.
*** Third and final note––to the locals (January, 2015): Her skirt walls have been shorn away. A track-hoe is chipping her down from the top. She is turned to sunlight, to windblown dust.