Wednesday, April 20, 2011
A Packed VA Neighborhood Meeting
Last evening, over 35 people attended the VA's neighborhood meeting for folks who live in the neighborhood of the proposed VA Hospital. Months ago, when I started attending the meetings, that meant people who lived in the VA Footprint itself. Now, it means the people who live on the periphery - in the area between S. Rocheblave and Broad Street. The people who've been dealing with issues stemming from the hospital construction for months.
I've never seen so many people at one of these VA neighborhood meetings.
Derrick Morrison of the Committee to Reopen Charity, pictured below in full question mode, has been instrumental in organizing residents and pushing city hall to address the problems caused by the city's association with VA and the state.
Strangely, as much as the VA has destroyed in its push for a hospital, I have to say that at least it holds a monthly meeting for residents. The state and LSU/UMC have never done such a thing for those in the LSU Footprint facing similar problems. Additionally, Clark/McCarthy, the contractor who is actually constructing the VA - the joint venture was not responsible for site prep thus far - seems to try to address and head off issues proactively. To my knowledge, a person from Jacobs Engineering, prime contractor for the site prep, has never once attended a VA neighborhood meeting through the many, many months of site preparation despite an occasional request.
Last night, the refrain that I kept hearing was this: the City of New Orleans has not been doing its job of standing up for residents in all of this. People have continued to ask the same questions and express the same concerns over and over. Residents noted that a city contractor working on streets and utilities to service the VA Hospital is rejecting their claims for structural home damage from construction activities. They took umbrage at the idea of having to pay to get their homes photographed by the VA's contractor to provide recordation of any future damages from pile driving - test pile driving is set to begin in the site next week and continue for a month.
Various property owners complained that they had not received notice of the recordation offer, that lead testing had not been done, that dust continued to be a significant problem, that vibration concerns were real, that neighbors were still getting sick from conditions caused by the VA hospital and surrounding street construction. Mary Howell, whose office is in the neighborhood, took the city to task.
Additionally, we learned that the VA has officially taken over the VA Footprint property from the state (except, it seems, the Dixie Brewery site). One VA representative expressed concern that one bay of the brewery building may fall during the test piling phase. It's not clear that any extra bracing will be in place to prevent damage to the building.