News Hits dropped in on a hearing at Detroit's 36th District Court last week to catch the latest action in a controversy involving the city's Riverside Park and the Ambassador Bridge Co., owned by reclusive mogul Manuel "Matty" Moroun.
As previously reported, the issue involves park land — a swath about 150 feet wide — blocked off by the bridge company to create a buffer zone supposedly intended to protect the span from terrorists. Thing is, the city's saying it never gave permission for the company to erect the fence. And it certainly never said OK to the company treating the property as its own, using it a storage space for construction material.
At last week's hearing before Judge Beverly J. Hayes-Sipes, Bridge Co. lawyer Jeffrey Stewart says the equipment was being removed. But Stewart also contended that a 2003 City Council resolution allowing the company to block off a few city streets in the area extended as well to the parkland.
City attorney John Nader contended the fence put up on parkland isn't supposed to be there, period.
The Bridge Co. wants the barrier to remain, saying the terrorist threat that prompted it hasn't abated at all. Nader said he checked with Homeland Security officials at every level and could find no one saying the government authorized the fence.
And so it went, back and forth, with much confusion about what the council actually authorized, and when. A television camera was there, and at one point Stewart said that if case went before a jury, some information would need to be kept secret because national security issues are involved.
There's reportedly been some talk of a land swap that would allow the company to keep control of the parkland, but such a deal would take time to work out.
The judge told everyone involved to keep talking, get things straight and come back in two months.
We'll keep you posted.News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]