(Photo: CC Flickr)
Members of the New Orleans City Council on Thursday unanimously approved a motion that temporarily stops City Hall from moving to the Morris F.X. Jeff Sr., Municipal Auditorium located in Louis Armstrong Park.
The motion, proposed by District C Councilmember Kristin Palmer, places a one-year ban on the Department of Safety and Permits from allowing construction on things such as offices, parking lots or garages inside the park or until City Council removes the ban.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell proposed moving City Hall, citing several problems over the years with the building located downtown at 1300 Perdido St. Her administration submitted a request for qualifications on April 23, seeking vendors to begin construction, but Thursday’s motion prevented the request from moving forward.
“This Council made it very clear that we are standing with Treme residents and protecting our City’s Black history and culture,” Palmer said. “This motion takes immediate action and goes into effect today to stop the move of City Hall to the Municipal Auditorium and intruding on the sacred space of Congo Square. Even considering putting a parking garage near Congo Square is offensive.”
In addition, Alonzo Knox, a local community leader, said the motion will protect Treme, which is described as the first Black neighborhood in the U.S.
“Treme is a community that has already been traumatized by decades of destructive development,” Knox said. “Armstrong Park only exists because whole blocks of Treme’s Black-owned homes and businesses were ripped up to put down a park that is behind a locked gate.”
Cantrell said she is exploring other options to relocate City Hall and vowed to repair the auditorium, which seats nearly 8,000 and has sat empty since it was damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“I am open to feasible alternative proposals, but I will not allow the auditorium to be demolished by neglect,” Cantrell said.
Nearly $40 million in FEMA grants were set aside to repair the auditorium. The money must be used by the end of the year, according to Cantrell.