Friday, April 1, 2011

Demolitions, Displacement Continue in LSU Footprint - "Ground breaking" set

In that past week or two, site preparation work in the LSU or UMC Footprint has ramped up compared to the relative lull that preceded it.  It appears that some houses, upon being boarded, may actually be waiting for a moving process.  I hope that's the case, and we continue to work with various parties to promote and facilitate a house moving effort.  To date, not a single building has been moved off the site.

Still, demolitions of structures and clearance of trees and other vegetation continues.  In the photo above, for example, you'll see the vacant lot that remains after the bracketed shotgun house at 1914-16 Palmyra Street was demolished in the past few days.  Crews are active in several different parcels in the lower part of the footprint near S. Claiborne.

Establishments like the Fastenal store on Canal and the Canal Street Guest House now sit vacant, devoid of life.

Residents, too, continue to trickle out.  There are few people left now.  Sam, who lives in the Footprint, looked on as his daughter's belongings were carted out of a camelback house at S. Prieur and Cleveland Avenue earlier this week.

One has to wonder about all of this.  The resurgence in site prep. activity seems to confirm some of what we've been hearing: that the effort to obtain HUD mortgage insurance (to make up the financing gap for the proposed UMC hospital) has failed...meaning the state will simply bull forward on a smaller hospital while talking fancifully about third party support and junk bonds.  HUD has not responded to my inquiry about the status of the UMC application.

The UMC Board is scheduled to meet on April 7 at 1:00 p.m. at the Interim LSU University Hospital.  If the meeting occurs, I'll be very interested to hear the latest on the financing.  If you'd like to speak at the meeting, be sure to show up at least 30 minutes prior to sign up, as it's a requirement for any public comment.

If the UMC and State of Louisiana have failed in the attempt to get HUD financing, it should not result in a redoubling of efforts to make the self-fulfilling prophecy come true in the LSU Footprint.  It should instead cause board members to wake up and ask why, given the smaller pile of cash onhand, the board isn't looking at going back into Charity Hospital.  That option, as has been clear all along, would require less money.

The belligerent resistance to that plan all along revealed the contempt that the state and LSU have for the City of New Orleans and its residents.

Now, the state has set up a groundbreaking for April 18 at 11:15 a.m. - regardless of the fact that the City of New Orleans has not yet revoked the public streets necessary for the proposed hospital to be built.  Nor has the state/LSU Board of Supervisors acquired all the property necessary.

A groundbreaking ceremony in the LSU Footprint on April 18 sounds a lot like hoisting a "Mission Accomplished" banner on an aircraft carrier.

The City Planning Commission considers the street revocation on April 12, and the City Council must also pass the measure after that.  Given the state's unwise, arrogant, and dismissive approach to this project, I encourage people to attend the April 12 City Planning Commission at 1 p.m. in City Council Chambers to oppose the closure of the streets.  When the City loses the streets, it loses its last bit of leverage over the project.  New Orleans should not lie down and take this.

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