Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Inside the high fences...
...that ring the old Pan-Am building (seized via expropriation by LSU), the VA prepares for its symbolic "groundbreaking" - even as dozens of people, if not hundreds (and some veterans), remain living inside the proposed VA hospital footprint and dozens of historic homes remain standing. What a farce.
I would normally be a supporter of a move like this - bringing veteran care back on line is a worthwhile goal, speaking generally. But the tortured specifics of forcing a terribly incompatibly designed structure into the residential neighborhood lakeside of S. Galvez - an area smack dab in the middle of a National Register Historic District - has been flawed, unwise, deceptive, and inconsiderate from the start. It's been a classic abuse of power by the federal government - no matter how much process the various officials can point to, they've never actually thrown a single bone to the legitimate interest of historic preservation, an interest that's far more relevant in a city like New Orleans than it is in many American cities. There has been no effort to compromise to accommodate legitimate competing interests in a massive project that will impact the community in major ways.
And there's still no word on what the massive existing VA Hospital complex that's currently sitting vacant in the CBD will be used for now or in the future. Nor are there assurances that the LSU portion of the complex will ever be built given the lack of funds.
With the exception of Mayor Landrieu's recent 45-day halt on LSU street closure to review the design, I really can't name a politician, aside from State Treasurer John Kennedy, who's actually taken a hard look at this project and publicly raised concerns about the many ill-conceived twists and turns in this saga. All they seem to see are raw federal dollar signs floating before their eyes..."think of the economic development!" And in doing so, they demonstrate their willingness to sell the city's soul. It's being sold, it's being demolished. And nobody seems to give a damn.