Sunday, November 29, 2009

"We're leaving if they take our house."

A story in today's Times-Picayune highlights the sad absurdity that passes for reality in The Footprint:

Louisiana Recovery Authority data shows that Road Home paid owners of 41 properties at least $3.2 million and perhaps more than $3.4 million to rebuild in the neighborhood bounded by Tulane Avenue, South Rocheblave Street, Canal Street and South Claiborne Avenue.

Those properties are among the 432 residential, commercial and vacant parcels the state is in the process of expropriating to make way for the hospitals. The state plans to build the 424-bed successor to Charity Hospital between Galvez Street and Claiborne Avenue. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs plans a 200-bed facility across Galvez. It's unknown at this point how much the buyouts will cost.

Homeowners suffered the devastation of Katrina and were intrepid enough to return and rebuild with state and federal assistance...only to have the city, state, and federal governments turn around a few years later and force them out of their homes, spending more government dollars to acquire the same properties. 

I can understand how someone faced with that prospect would feel betrayed enough to leave the city for good, as Bobbi Rogers, a resident, expressed in the quote at the top of this post.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Different Angle

At Wally Fest, I had a chance to meet a number of people who work for The Phoenix of New Orleans, or PNOLA, a rebuilding organization that channels volunteers and resources to low income homeowners in New Orleans.

Based on Broad Street just blocks from the VA footprint, the organization focused specifically on rebuilding Lower Mid-City since Hurricane Katrina.

It was interesting to hear about Lower Mid-City from a different perspective.  As individuals who had invested a great deal in bringing the neighborhood back after the storm, they had built up an intimate knowledge of the people and structures that comprise The Footprint.

I also learned that the building and repair moratorium for area, instituted in December 2007, did in fact expire at some point.  I noticed that a building, an old store of some sort, directly across from Outer Banks Bar at the intersection of Palmyra and S. Tonti had very recently been spruced up and painted a bright salmon pink.  It's not clear to me whether the owner is looking to use the building, or if he or she is merely taking advantage of the lack of moratorium to obtain a higher buyout price from the state when it comes down to expropriation.  Here's a Google Streetview look at the building

As a side note, it's interesting to peruse the Streetview images inside the footprint, as they all come from a time closer to Katrina where damage is much more extensive than one would see today.

Since I mentioned the state buyout, though, I should note...several properties in the VA footprint have been successfully purchased by the state in the past month.  I hope to do a more extensive post focusing on those purchases and what they mean soon.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Same Face, New Body

220-222. S. Johnson St.
Notice that the entire rear of the house has new windows and siding--at the very least.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


2000 block of Cleveland Ave.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009


I've seen this building from Claiborne in the past. But until recently, I had never viewed it from any other perspective. I was surprised to find out just how interesting the building was when I came at it from another angle - the second story is offset from center in a manner that seems almost more post-modern than early twentieth century Arts and Crafts.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Closer to a Reprieve for the VA Footprint?

There's certainly a glimmer of hope to be found in the big news out of Baton Rouge today:

Moments ago, by a 7-3 vote, the Commission on Streamlining Government passed a motion ordering an independent study weighing all possible alternatives to, and the efficacy of, the proposed $1.2 billion LSU medical complex. The study will represent the first ever independent analysis in the ongoing controversy over the abandonment of Charity Hospital and new plans to expropriate and demolish private property in Lower Mid-City to make way for a sprawling new medical center campus.

As Save Charity notes, this will be the first state-commissioned independent study on the issue.

Additionally, any potential delay or alternative is a good thing for the residents of the VA Footprint who don't want to be forced out of their it makes the ultimate destruction of the neighborhood less likely.

It's a very positive development, but its significance should also be tempered just a tad because there is still work to do to ensure that it's a meaningful development.  As the Times-Pic article on the Commission's vote notes, providing some context:

It is far from clear whether another study will change anything -- or if it will ever be conducted, as it would first require the Legislature to allocate money. But the hearing gave further evidence that many state leaders, including allies of Gov. Bobby Jindal, are still not comfortable with the administration's plans for building a 424-bed, $1.2 billion academic medical center at a time of financial strain in state government.

1926 Canal Street

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Party in The Print

Head Inside the Footprint next weekend to stand, literally, with residents of Lower Mid-City.  Dubbed "Wally Fest," it promises to be a memorable birthday bash, as the gents over at Save Charity note:

We're planning an 80th birthday party for Wally Thurman - a veteran and life-long resident of LMC (also lead plaintiff in the suit against Mayor Nagin) - next Saturday, November 21st from 6pm-9pm. We'll have music and special guests, including Hot 8 Brass Band and Charmaine Neville. It's going to be a great time and a celebration for a wonderful man.

I know Mr. Thurman lives near Outer Banks Bar on S. Tonti Street at Palmyra, so I'm sure the festivities will be underway in that vicinity, as the flyer below from Derrick Morrison of the Committee to Reopen Charity outlines.  I'm looking forward to the party - feel free to stop on by, full details follow (click to enlarge):

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Charity Proposal Goes Before Streamlining Commission Today

According to Derrick Morrison of the Committee to Reopen Charity, the Commission on Streamlining State Government will consider Treasurer Kennedy's suggestion supporting the renovation of Charity Hospital for the LSU teaching hospital.

Here's the relevant item from the Commission's agenda for today:

AGEB #17 To rehabilitate and use the currently unoccupied "Big Charity Hospital" building as
a public teaching hospital if the State of Louisiana decides to go forward with its
plans to construct such a hospital in New Orleans.

I hope the Commission supports the measure.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

329 S. Miro Street

Under the proposed plan, this location would be part of a large parking lot.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Times-Picayune Gets it Wrong on the VA Hospital

After news broke yesterday that the VA site wouldn't be cleared until summer of 2010, the paper's editorial board offered its unequivocal support for hastening the process of preparing the site of the proposed VA hospital in "downtown" New Orleans, by which it appears to mean Lower Mid-City.

It's unfortunate that the board utterly failed to qualify its stance.

While pretty much everyone agrees that a new VA hospital would be a good thing for New Orleans and for veterans, it's disturbing to see no mention whatsoever of other concerns in the editorial.  There's not a single mention of another interest in play: the rights and treatment of residents of Lower Mid-City.  The editorial is wildly imbalanced in this regard.

What the board fails to understand is that the lack of progress in acquiring properties it laments has some underlying sources.  For one, as a state historic preservation official stated recently in a speaking engagement at Tulane, there are only two properties in the VA footprint that are actually looking at moving at this point given all the complications.  This is not just some issue that can be overcome by applying greater willpower - it's an intractable problem.

Let's not forget that there are residents who have made it clear that they will fight to the bitter end.  Making the VA footprint "construction-ready" will require full-out expropriation by means of eminent domain in the end.  The board's editiorial fails to address the negative consequences of having to resort to that remedy - even if that tenuous option is arguably constitutional after the unfortunate Kelo case.  There's still the Louisiana constitutional amendment, passed post-Kelo, to keep in mind:

‘property shall not be taken or damaged by the state or its political subdivisions: for predominant use by any private person or entity; or for transfer of ownership to any private person or entity,’ (La Const. Art. I § 4(B)(1)).”

Monday, November 2, 2009

VA Footprint Update

The VA has agreed to give the City of New Orleans an extension on clearing the VA footprint - the site need not be construction-ready until July of 2010.

Sunday, November 1, 2009