Overgrown and vermin-infested, the old school caretaker’s cottage at Annunciation and Arabella becomes more of a nuisance and a danger to its neighborhood with each passing year of neglect, one frustrated neighbor said, prompting the Audubon-Riverside Neighborhood Association to pledge Tuesday evening to find out why the local school board appears to be letting it rot.
“It’s blight,” said Terry Gay, who lives on the same block as the caretaker’s cottage. “I’m not taking a position on whether they should tear it down or restore it. I just want them to do something.”
The house was once the caretaker’s cottage for the school building at 401 Nashville, the former site of the Arthur Ashe Charter School. Earlier this year, the Orleans Parish School Board put the property up for auction, but then quickly struck it from the list of available properties prior to the auction date.
At the time, OPSB Chief Financial Officer Stan Smith told the Times-Picayune that the cottage sits on land controlled by the Recovery School District, so Orleans Parish was hoping to find a buyer willing to move the house elsewhere. That uncertainty over responsibility the property led the Audubon-Riverside Neighborhood Association to decide Tuesday night to write Orleans Parish School Board member Seth Bloom, new Recovery School District Superintendent John White, and even City Councilwoman Susan Guidry in search of a status update.
Gay told the association board that the house is infested with rats and stray cats and open to birds. It’s a large side-hall cottage on a corner lot in a desirable neighborhood, however, and should fetch a high price with or without the house, she said.
Board member Scott Wolfe agreed with Gay’s frustration that a government-owned property could be allowed to fall to such ruin.
“Either fix it, remove it or auction it,” Wolfe said. “If that was our property, yours or mine, they’d take us to court.”
After the meeting, Katrina Badger of the city’s Office of Neighborhood Engagement said she planned to ask the association to copy her on the letter. The city has made reducing blight a top priority, she noted, and she said she would find out what tactics might be available on the caretaker’s cottage.
The Orleans Parish School Board has another auction planned for July 28, but the caretaker’s cottage is not mentioned in the list of properties for sale.
Update, July 7: The Orleans Parish School Board says “Baby Ben” Franklin Elementary will be expanding into the old Danneel School on Nashville, according to reporting by Scott Satchfield of our partners at WWL.
Tuesday evening’s meeting also included a number of organizational issues regarding the association’s meeting place, committees, bylaws and upcoming events, as well as brief updates on the Walgreens and Whole Foods issues. To read our live coverage of the meeting, click “Replay” in the box below.