Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Asinine, Deceptive, and Wrong: LSU, UMC, State Continue to Destroy New Orleans Heritage
I've witnessed many things inside the Footprint, many of them rather depressing. But today marked the first time I felt I was actually going to throw up. The sheer accumulated enormity of the waste, the destruction, the displacement, and the general contempt for people and the city's architectural heritage hit me all at once as I heard once again the groaning sounds that an old house makes as it's wrenched apart. It literally made me sick.
As part of the demolition rampage that launched on Monday, crews destroyed another movable house today in the LSU Footprint in Lower Mid-City at 1921-23 Palmyra Street - without even salvaging basic architectural elements like quoins and window frames, as the photo above clearly shows. Someone on site mentioned worker health concerns, but I don't think that's the real reason. I think it's wanton indifference and a desire for speed.
It's the seventh building to be demolished in the LSU Footprint by my count. And that's in spite of the fact that the University Medical Center that is proposed for the site...still does not have adequate financing to build the proposed hospital.
Additionally, the City of New Orleans has not revoked the streets in the neighborhood where people continue to live. The failure of the Mayor and City Council to take actions to protect New Orleans residents and historic architectural street fabric continues to baffle me.
The demolitions also continue despite state officials' assertions that they just can't wait to move houses:
"State officials, meanwhile, are clamoring for the $3.2 million program's conclusion so they can use any leftover money to move historic houses from the adjacent footprint slated for the successor to the Charity Hospital. Andy Kopplin, Landrieu's chief administrative officer, said the city, after several weeks of requests from the state, has agreed that the remaining balance will pay to move houses from the University Medical Center site."
Clamoring? More like Jerry Jones bluffing - and blowing smoke. If the state officials actually wanted to move houses, they wouldn't be demolishing movable houses. I'm calling that bluff. The photos of what the State's contractors have done this week call that bluff.
Also, the State says it wants the balance of the funds - but will there even be any money leftover now that more houses are being moved off the VA Hospital Footprint than envisioned in October?
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Here's a photo of the house from before:
As with a number of houses in the LSU Footprint, it was not in absolutely perfect shape. The neighborhood did experience the floodwaters of Katrina after all. But the house appeared quite structurally sound, it retained many of its historic architectural attributes (fishscale shingles, original doors, quoins, transoms, drop siding, brackets, apron overhang, fleur de lis verge board), it was a contributing property in the Mid-City National Register Historic District, and it could have been moved off site for rehabilitation elsewhere like the homes in the VA Footprint. It was not yet dead by any means, especially by New Orleans standards.
Instead, the city lost a potential piece of the tax-base today. It lost a part of its streetscape. It lost a potential home for a developer or family to rehabilitate. It lost another little part of itself - a part of the incomparable tout ensemble.