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.
When I came to New Orleans more than a decade ago and first drove by the present City Hall, I guffawed. The boring lackluster modern design of it should be expected for municipal buildings built in 1957. The pebble concrete exterior is darkened with decades of mold and dirt. A yearly pressure wash was never in the budget, apparently. Add to that the incredibly tacky and poorly installed neon signage that crowns it, which equals cringe-level architecture. The city is forced to lease additional space in nearby buildings to accommodate workers. Perhaps it is time for a new City Hall.
A few large vacant buildings could be renovated to house the city government. The phallic shaped eyesore Plaza Tower, located at 1001 Howard Ave., comes to mind.
Recently, shards of the neglected facade that have come crashing to the ground only highlighted the urgency to do something with the building. This month, proposals have been brought forth for high end condos and hotel space. Hopefully it will come to fruition, unlike previous proposals. It’s in the best location, not far from the existing municipal buildings.
Purchase use the old Charity Hospital and renovate that. The building is not only structurally sound, but a beautiful example of Art Deco design built in 1939. Sure it would be costly to renovate it to current standards, but it would be preserving a historically significant structure that is important to the appeal of New Orleans.
The mayor is proposing to move City Hall to the vacant Municipal Auditorium in Treme next to Congo Square. The square was sanctioned as a location for enslaved Africans to congregate in 1817 and was considered by many in the Afro-Caribbean community as a “sacred place.” If New Orleans is the birth place of jazz music, then Congo Square would be the birthing table. The significance of the site cannot be overstated.
There is a strong opposition from the Treme community with concerns of the municipal building changing the essence of Congo Square and Armstrong park area, as well as the neighborhood over all, should it be converted into City Hall’s new location. Nearly 1,000 parking spaces would be added, including a five-story, 700-space parking garage.
There have been comparisons made to the construction of the I-10 overpass that runs over Claiborne Avenue in 1966. The overpass destroyed a tree lined commercial district in the predominately black neighborhood. Opposition to the project had no political clout to prevent it. There is still bitterness in Treme over what was lost to progress and to deaf ears.
The proposal has gotten a lot of push back on social media from residents’ objection to the idea. Latoya Cantrell has tried to smokescreen the controversy by pointing to other infrastructure projects involving a few street repairs and the Sewerage and Water Board working with Entergy to update the power sources for the pumping stations.
The Municipal Auditorium was built in 1930 and had many uses over the decades, from concerts to basketball and hockey games. It was heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and has been vacant ever since. The 7,800 seat auditorium is just that, an auditorium. The amount of re-design and modification to turn the large open space into a multi floor efficient office space would be staggering. It could be done, but at the cost of destroying the interior beauty.
Certainly one appeal to the city is 40 million dollars that FEMA had earmarked for the building following Katrina. It wouldn’t cover the entire cost of renovation but would be a nice offset. Local governments love that federal money.
Cantrell’s proposal has brought a heated backlash from the Treme community over the impact on the area. Cantrell’s response was that Congo Square will not be touched. There is no dispute the overall area will be impacted by additional traffic and parking.
In this day and age we should also consider that moving City Hall there will change it from a cultural space to a political space. Expect to see protests and rallies to spill over into adjacent areas. Congo Square and Armstrong park could easily turn into “Occupy” camp ground if enough outside protesters were bused in. Sounds far-fetched? Look at such public spaces in many cities around the nation.
The mayor relied on her favorite political catch phrase: “Time to re-think the use.” The same jargon she applied to the idea of turning streets in the French Quarter into pedestrian malls.
If you are dating someone and they say “It’s time to re-think our relationship,” just leave. It’s never a positive term. Whoever may be running against her in the next election should use the campaign slogan: “It’s time to re-think our leadership.”
Mayor Cantrell posted on social media on April 21,9021:
“Canal Street lake-bound is officially reopened to vehicle traffic for the first time since the Hard Rock collapse. Even as the challenges piled up in the last 18 months — the work never stopped. We grieve for the lives lost, and we are grateful for the progress that has been made. We thank our businesses and our residents for their patience.”
To read the Mayor’s words it would sound as if she is proud of the work her administration has done in clearing up the collapse site. ” Even as the challenges piled up in the last 18 months — the work never stopped. ”
A little perspective here: The entire World Trade Center disaster site was cleaned up in only SEVEN MONTHS. The Twin-fucking-Towers and several other buildings hauled away in less than half the time of one 18 story building.
“…the work never stopped ” The collapse occurred in October of 2019, demolition didn’t start until May of 2020. Correction, there was about seven months of nothing but thumbs up collective asses trying to un-cluster this fuck. The last body wasn’t recovered until 10 months after the disaster. Even by a Big Easy metric, this was slower than shit through a funnel.
There has been a long history of a corruption and incompetency with the New Orleans building inspectors going back to the Landrieu administration. There was a Federal investigation into bribery involving city inspector Kevin Richardson and charges were filed. He was dismissed from his position by then Mayor Landrieu.
Just months prior to the HRH collapse, the city leadership blustered about holding the permit inspectors accountable using the latest in GPS tracking and digital records. City building inspectors Julie Tweeter, Eric Treadaway were suspended and Thomas Dwyer resigned before he could be suspended (What a pussy).
With all of the current social outrage over the behavior of law enforcement recklessly taking lives and being held responsible, I ask why aren’t all government employees held to the same level of accountability? Officials, employed by the city failed at their positions whether by negligence or corruption and it resulted in the deaths of three construction workers and dozens more injured are just allowed to resign and walk away?
Would everybody have been cool with Derek Chauvin just handing in his resignation and walking away? I didn’t think so. Is it comparing apples and oranges? City employees fucked up and people died. In one case the city government throws the employee under the bus in the face of public opinion, the other city employees are quietly ushered out the back door of city hall.
Perhaps indicting those building inspectors for negligent homicide would open up a Costco-sized can of worms for city hall that they would prefer not to see the light of day. Disclosure would involve emails and records from with in the department and the depth of the incompetence would reveal more that there were more people involved in the endemic corruption of city hall. Where were their supervisors?
What do these three men have in common? Think whistle-blower. Think targeted.
Why was Delmer Joel Ramírez Palma deported back to Honduras after giving an interview about HRH construction safety issues? How did ICE get suddenly involved with a migrant who had been here for 17 years? (Washington Post from 11/30/19)
Why would a federal agency (ICE) deport a material witness to an investigation of a serious construction accident that killed three and left 20 injured?
The French Quarter Economic Development District, which includes all six members of the City Council, voted unanimously to approve measure, which heads to a April 24 election and would levy a $0.245 sales tax on purchases made at businesses (minus hotel rooms) in the Vieux Carre.
The tax would last from May 1, 2021 until April 30, 2026 and the first $2 million raised would pay for supplemental police patrols in the French Quarter, while the rest would go towards other public safety-related programs, such as homeless assistance.
French Quarter voters rejected a similar measure, with 67% voting against it, on Dec. 5.
The measure was introduced by FQEDD and District C City Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer and supported groups such as the French Quarter Business Association and the Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents and Associates.
But the best part of the FQEDD’s Jan. 14 meeting wasn’t the discussion on the ballot measure resolution, but the fine lesson City Council procedure.
Before members could actually vote on the ballot measure, they had to first vote on three amendments: two by District E Councilmember Cyndi Nguyen and one by Palmer.
Palmer’s amendment added language that would equally split the remaining cash for public safety programs (after the initial $2 million was collected for police patrols) and allow the sales tax trust fund to be administered by the French Quarter Management District, which is an unelected body, although it would be subject to quarterly budget and expenditure reports to City Council.
Nguyen’s amendments included: not letting the FQMD administer the funds and amending Palmer’s amendment to eliminate the 50/50 split requirement for more patrols and other public safety programs.
“[Gisleson Palmer] offered an amendment to the resolution, the original one,” said Lora Johnson, the council clerk. “In order for her amendment to be adopted, Councilmember Nguyen offered an amendment to that amendment. I will read Gisleson Palmer’s amendment first, but it can’t be adopted because Councilmember Nguyen offered an amendment to that amendment. So we will take up the original amendment and then I will read the amendment to that amendment first, and if the body chooses, we will adopt Councilmember Nguyen’s amendment first. After it’s adopted, we go back to Gisleson Palmer’s amendment, and adopt it as amended.”
Did you get all of that?
Here’s what happened:
1. Read resolution for ballot measure resolution and amendments. 2. 10-minute break to allow public comment. 3. Read public comment. 4. Read Gisleson Palmer’s amendment. 5. Read Nguyen’s amendment to Gisleson Palmer’s amendment. 6. Adopted Ngyuen’s amendment to Gisleson Palmer’s amendment. 7. Adopted Gisleson Palmer’s amendment as amended. 8. Read Nguyen’s second amendment resolution. 9. Adopted Nguyen’s amendment. 10. Adopted the ballot measure.
Addendum, Jan. 20, 2021, 12:22 p.m. CST: Nguyen’s second amendment failed by a 4-2 vote.
We have seen countless examples around the country of clueless Governors, Mayors and political hacks being oblivious to public optics. Locking down cities, closing businesses and placing Draconian regulations on the general public all the while exempting themselves from the very rules they institute. Hypocrites? Perhaps they just lack the self awareness that they are not above those that they govern.
Mayor Cantrell posted the following on Twitter:
An alter holding a prayer candle with her photo on it “Phase 2, What did I say?” What kind of an arrogant mindset would think that this was appropriate? I’m only barely religious and never have been a Catholic, but I was shocked by this. If it was given to her as a gag gift, fine. Just keep it in your kitchen as a chuckle for friends and family. To place it on a shrine surrounded by crosses and a relief of the Last Supper and post it on social media is totally oblivious the optics.
I recognize that the leftist Democrats hold things like religion and God in contempt. It’s all open to ridicule. Except for Islam which they are quick to defend. You know, the religion that oppresses women and still openly practices slavery.
Previous posts of hers have shown her view of New Orleans to be homogeneous city of just the African-American culture. No recognition of the dozen or so other cultures that are woven together that make up the city. Catholicism is a major influence in this community. To place herself in the same position as Saints shows not just narcissism, but insensitivity to the beliefs of others. Whether she intended to mock a major religion or not, that is how it came across.
The tweet was deleted after a few of us commented on how clueless she seemed to be concerning the beliefs of others.
Take a look at how she proposed to handle Mardi Gras 2021. To have the floats be set up stationary and small groups to be allowed to approach the floats (while remaining six feet apart) while those on the floats hand them throws. They could not be called “float riders” since they would be stationary and also standing at a safe distance. Also no alcohol. Add to that ingenious plan the arrow stickers on Bourbon Street intended to keep opposing foot traffic on opposite sides of the street. Has she even been to a parade or walked Bourbon Street?
Mayors in every major city around America are showing what power crazed tyrants they want to be. Evidently being a political tyrant isn’t enough, now they have to strive to be a deity. I get a kick out of some of her sycophantic followers on social media praising her lock down and chastising those of us who want the city to re-open. “Do you want people to die?” Well, Latoya can just wave her hand and bring them back to life I now assume.
Mayor Cantrell, if you really want to be viewed as a religious figure, might I suggest Shiva the destroyer.
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