Nov 012011
 

Audubon Charter School's Broadway campus.

Audubon Charter School supporters and the Broadway campus’s neighbors generally agree on two points: that a renovation of the building will benefit everyone, but that something has to be done about traffic in the mornings and afternoons.

Where they disagree is whether the traffic plan must be finalized before the renovations can proceed, as the school seeks neighborhood support for some setback changes before the city’s Board of Zoning Adjustments this month.

School officials and parents want to see the needed setbacks pass this month so the project can proceed, while everyone continues to work on improving the traffic problems.

“I would hope we could move forward and not delay the building,” said Carlos Zervigon, vice-chair of Audubon Charter’s governing board during a Tuesday night community meeting that crammed nearly 200 people into the school’s cafeteria and occasionally drew heated tempers on both sides. “That only makes the problems worse. It doesn’t solve anything at all.”

Some neighbors, however, feel the pending zoning adjustments represent the only bargaining chip they have to get concrete solutions on traffic. John Lafargue, president of the Upper Audubon Association, said a substantial new traffic plan should have been decided either during the last year of planning for this renovation, or in the years prior as residents have requested it.

“We’ve seen these issues continue over the last five years with no change,” Lafargue says.

The traffic proposals on the table include new pick-up and drop-off procedures within the school grounds, a traffic camera on Broadway Street to slow passing cars, stricter parking rules on streets and corners and a traffic officer to enforce them. Further, school officials have proposed making Garfield one-way from Broadway to Pine, and Hurst one-way from Pine back to Broadway — effectively creating a one-way loop around the school — but that idea in particular drew more opposition from neighbors.

The board of the other adjacent neighborhood group, the Uptown Triangle Neighborhood Association, had previously voted in favor of the school renovation, but against the plan for a permanent one-way loop to be created on the streets surrounding it, said association president Patrick Tucker. A modified version of that proposal — for the one-way loop to be implemented only during pickup and dropoff — seems to have more neighborhood support, Tucker said, and the association board will be meeting again this week to discuss specifics of it.

Apparently off the table is an idea to create an off-street drive within the campus for drop-off, as consultants said it would hold so few cars at once that it would actually increase congestion by people waiting to get in, while destroying much of the school’s green space in the process.

The meeting drew a swath of high-ranking Orleans Parish School officials, including Superintendent Darryl Kilbert, Chief Financial Officer Stan Smith, and board members Lourdes Moran, Thomas Robichaux and Woody Koppel. They promised to commission a professional traffic study to provide hard data and make formal recommendations, and sought to keep meeting with association leaders to hammer out a rough agreement that would allow the renovation to move forward at this month’s Board of Zoning Adjustments meeting without further delay.

Koppel said similar issues have been solved fairly easily at other schools in his district, including “Baby Ben” Franklin on Jefferson Avenue and McMain High School on Claiborne Avenue. Enforcement will be a key component, he said.

“A traffic cop may add a little authority to it,” Koppel said. “If everyone’s reasonable, I think that’ll go a long way toward getting this done.”

To read our live coverage of the meeting, click in the box below.

  17 Responses to “Audubon Charter and Broadway neighbors seek accord on school traffic issues”

  1. Me, my wife and my son have lived in the uptown triangle since 2002, where we have lovingly renovated our small bargeboard shotgun house. I found it very curious that Erik Jungbacker, the vice president of the Uptown Triangle Neighborhood Association claimed the UTNA board had voted ‘unanimously’ for approving the Audubon renovation when in fact two board members claimed that wasn’t the case. So exactly who is UTNA representing? It should also be noted that both the president and vice-president of UTNA have a child attending Audubon.

    • First of all, Eric did not say the UTNA voted “unanimously” for approving the Audubon renovation, that was me, the President of UTNA, that said that and you are correct, that was a mistake. I should have said the “majority” approved the renovations. In addition, Eric does not have a child at ACS; I do have two children that will be attending the other campus on Carrollton by the time this renovation is completed. My motivation to have the school renovated is due to the fact that I believe it is in the best interest of the entire area to have $11.5 million invested in a A+ rated public school. I do agree with my board members and neighbors that there is a need for better traffic control by the school and I am doing what I can to work with both sides. I’m easily reached via email at president@uptowntriangle.com.

      • I am not and never have been against the Audubon School renovation. As a homeowner of course I care about property values and ALL quality of life issues. I have a lot invested in my house, the neighborhood and the city. But when I hear talk about making Garfield Street-where I live- a one way street and restricting traffic and then I hear that ‘the neighborhood approves’, I get angry. Nobody on my block even KNOWS about this. There are three seniors and one handicapped person living on my block and their lives would be severely impacted by such traffic changes. The problem is it seems like decisions are being made that affect everyone in the neighborhood but only a handful of people ‘in the know’ are consulted. That just seems very backhanded and creates a lot of bad will and distrust.

  2. I, too, would like to know more about how UTNA operates. Not just the Board; I’ve long been interested in how many UTNA residents actively participate in the group. One very curious situation arose earlier this year when NOPD conducted its monthly anti-crime walk in the UTNA neighborhood (at the behest of UTNA officers). At first, no civilians showed up! Then one came, then a second (former UTNA board member), and NOPD picked up a third along the route.
    In discussing this low turnout, we all noted that getting in touch with the UTNA President had proven incredibly difficult (phone, email, etc.) during the prior week, and that nobody could recall seeing him at town hall meetings, etc. (I finally met him last week at a zoning discussion, to which he was personally invited by other neighborhood leaders.)

    • For information on UTNA in general, see the paragraph below. In response to comment about the NOPD anti-crime walk earlier this year, that event was not at the “behest of UTNA officers” to my knowledge. Unfortunately UTNA was not notified of the event until the Friday prior to the walk which was on a Tuesday or Wednesday. This left us very little time to reach our neighbors. Multiple email blast went out to our members and a current board member (not “former”) attended the event. Please keep in mind that UTNA is a non-profit organization run solely by volunteers. This organization, like others, take a tremendous amount of volunteer time and active membership results in successful neighborhood association. I believe UTNA is a successful association as you can see from the list of events that we participate in below:

      UTNA consist of approx. 165 members and our boundaries are Broadway, St Charles and Leak. There are approx. 1100 households and business. There are 13 board members that meet quarterly, with an annual meeting once a year held typically in October. There are two levels of membership; General at $20/yr. or Police Patrol at $200/yr. which provides private NOPD patrol 4hrs each 3 to 4 days per week. UTNA sponsors and or organizes each year the following events: Block Party, Bi-annual Neighborhood cleanup which coincides with the national Beach Sweep campaign; Night Out Against Crime gathering, Halloween on Hillary. In addition, we help organize and sponsors other event that we find advantages to the neighborhood, some are initiated by board members and general members and some are initiated by non-members – some recent events included the following: installation & maintaining of 30 dog waste bag dispensers, Fight the Blight at Carver Playground, Banneker Elementary book drive and Pearls in the Pearl Yard Sale. UTNA also tries to keep the entire neighborhood informed on events in the neighborhood through it’s mass email blast, web site and quarterly newsletter that is distributed to all households and business in the triangle. You can contact us at http://www.uptowntriangle.com

  3. How about the kids ride their bikes or walk? Revolutionary!

    • Not revolutionary if you commute from New Orleans East. The school is open to all Orleans Parish residents through a lottery system, not just kids in the neighborhood.

  4. Tim, I would very much like to exchange email addresses and discuss this further. I’m assuming you are an uptown triangle resident as well. My email address is phil.vanderyken@gmail.com

  5. It is interested that Woody Koppel decided to comment to this reporter, but had nothing to say at the meeting. Where has he been in all of this? Absent – maybe too busy making sure that Lusher gets everything they need since they are the only school uptown that he TRULY represents.

  6. I would like to point out as well that the president, vice-president and treasurer of UTNA live within one block of Broadway, which technically puts them in the area known as Upper Audubon, NOT the Black Pearl as our neighborhood is known
    ( and as it is listed on the New Orleans assessor website). Upper Audubon has its own neighborhood association. Finally I’d like to point out that apparently Patrick Tucker, president of UTNA, is having a meeting with Audubon School on Friday as representing our neighborhood. No other neighborhood representative was invited.

  7. Phil,
    Pine St. is not represented by the Upper Audubon Association. Although the city considers Lowerline one of the boundaries of Upper Audubon, the Upper Audubon Association considers Broadway the boundary. It is a little confusing, and I share some of your concerns. Just thought you would want to understand the boundary issues.

    • Sure, thank you for that.

      • Actually, I don’t mean to split hairs but their website clearly says the boundaries are ‘both sides of Broadway’ so that would make Pine the boundary? Still confused! 🙂

  8. […] rear side closer to Pine Street — is uncontroversial, but residents around the neighborhood view the request as an opportunity for a more formal, permanent solution to traffic congestion around the block during drop-off and pick-up […]

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