May 312012
 

A trailer has been set up on the grounds of Audubon Charter School's Broadway campus in anticipation of construction beginning on the expansion project there. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

With the contractor already preparing Audubon Charter School’s Broadway campus site for construction, an unresolved lawsuit by neighbors could prevent any work from beginning, officials said Thursday night.

Neighbors of the school belonging to the Upper Audubon Association filed suit in Civil District Court in December, appealing a decision the previous month by the city Board of Zoning Adjustments to allow the school expansion to move forward. City code prohibits any action from being sanctioned while an appeal is pending, which could prevent the school renovation from receiving its construction permits and ultimately jeopardize the expected December 2013 return to the campus, said officials at a neighborhood meeting about the school project Thursday evening.

Concern about the potential for delay was raised in December after the lawsuit was filed, but school officials said at the time they hoped the issues could be resolved during preparatory stages of the project. Attorneys for the neighborhood and the city have a meeting scheduled for Tuesday, and the issue is scheduled for court June 22.

Because the city entities are the only defendants named in the lawsuit, Orleans Parish School Board interim superintendent Stan Smith said the school only recently received word about the issue, and that he holds out hope it can be resolved without delaying renovations.

“We’re obviously disappointed that we’ve had this little hiccup,” Smith said. “We’re excited about moving the school forward.”

One of the chief complaints of the neighbors is that Audubon parents create congestion issues and park illegally — often blocking either the road or their driveways — during school opening and dismissal times, and that school officials have not been aggressive enough in reining that behavior in. John Lafargue, president of the Upper Audubon Association, said resolving the traffic problems would go far in addressing the issues in the lawsuit.

Part of Thursday’s presentation included a recent traffic study, which counted the amount of traffic at peak times around the vacant campus, then used computer models to estimate how many cars a 450-student elementary school would add. The study showed that traffic around the site is currently flowing easily with little to no delay, and that the return of students would have minimal impact.

Those findings, Lafargue said, do little to address the conditions that trouble the neighbors, and that their complaints should become the basis for a formal traffic plan around the school.

“They’ve done nothing to solve the traffic problem,” Lafargue said. “They commissioned a study, and that’s it.”

Supporters of the school expansion and those concerned about its effects both voiced their opinions at Thursday’s meeting. To read our live coverage, see the box below.

Share:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • StumbleUpon
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Print
  • Phil Vanderyken

    I’ll be the one to kick things off as ususal…I was at this meeting and my first question is: exactly WHO is Bright Moments, and what gives them the credentials to ‘moderate’ a ‘community meeting’? Perhaps more importantly: WHO pays their fee? My guess is OPSB. So how ‘impartial’ can they really be? I went on their website and here are some of their credentials: 1. Helped Nagin get reelected 2. represented OPSB 3. represented Entergy, ‘Lundy Enterprises’. ( whoever that may be)..Hmm.
    See for yourself:
    http://www.brightmomentsnola.com

  • david

    Is the plaintiff in the lawsuit the Upper Audubon Association or certain neighbors? If individual neighbors are plaintiffs please publish their names or a copy of lawsuit (both a public record). Thank you.

  • Zoo Parent

    Does Audubon have a carpool system in place to help alleviate congestion?

  • Andrewgross

    Way to many lawyers living uptown! They whine, bitch and complain about EVERY project.

    • Phil Vanderyken

      Not sure what part of uptown you’re referring to, but I live three blocks from the school and my neighbors include students, construction workers, a ship worker, postal employee, grocery clerk, retirees…A very stable, peaceful,. diverse and multi-racial neighborhood.

  • Rose

    Phil’s comments celebrate anything but community diversity. I’m still trying to figure out his comment about Audubon’s admitting children from across the city now versus only children from the “community.” What sentiment is encrypted in that statement? Audubon had a lottery admissions system in place before the storm. Parents were aware of what the program had to offer and camped outside to submit applications. The school draws students from the general population using this lottery system. It’s an effort to ensure diversity and an attempt to avoid bias or selective admissions. After all, everyone in the city pays taxes which help support these schools.

    Regarding traffic, perhaps you should contact your friendly neighborhood officers to issue citations when parents park illegally near your home. That’s what the rest of us do, as no amount of signage, lectures or notifications will deter some people. The administrators and OPSB can encourage families to be courteous to their neighbors, but cannot enforce the law or physically force someone to move his/her car. Your attorneys must certainly have told you that.

    • Phil Vanderyken

      Well, it’s very simple. Before Katrina a certain percentage of Audubon students had to be from the surrounding neighborhood. Which is what made it a neighborhood school. After Katrina that requirement was waived. Therefore IMHO Audubon can no longer be considered a ‘neighborhood’ school. To my knowledge very few children from the neighborhood go to Audubon.
      With all due respect, if I wasn’t in favor of diversity I wouldn’t be living in the Black Pearl.

      • NOLA Mom

        The information about the Pre-Katrina population and admissions is incorrect. Audubon had students from the neighborhood, but they allowed students from throughout the city of New Orleans to attend. The difference now is that students are NOT tested for Kindergarten admission, and there is no standing in the line for first come first serve. The difference now is that there is more diversity of race and socio-economic status currently attending Audubon. Personally, I think the neighbors have more of a problem with the diversity of students and parents than they do with anything else – they are just too cowardly to get up and say what they really think.

        • Phil Vanderyken

          Also, not to be redundant, but Audubon has always had a multi-racial population just like the neighborhood itself. Furthermore in response to an earlier comment, I make 9 bucks an hour and am hardly in a position to afford my own ‘attorneys’.

      • Rose

        It’s curious that few New Orleans’ neighborhoods have “neighborhood” schools. Isn’t it?

      • Rose

        Thanks for the confirmation NOLA Mom. I personally know college students and college graduates who attended Audubon Montessori. None of them lived in the area. But their family members had to camp out to submit applications. This was before Hurricane Katrina. Phil likes to muddy the water and call it deep.

        • Phil Vanderyken

          You are both misrepresenting my comments. I said a PERCENTAGE of students was required to be from the neighborhood and that requirement has been waived after Katrina. I did NOT say the school ‘only’ had students from the neighborhood. It’s obvious what you’re implying but please don’t twist my words. Thank you.

          • msfrizz

            I have taught at Audubon since 1988 and at no time was there a requirement to have a fixed percentage or any percentage at all of students in the neighborhood attend Audubon. Admissions were on a first-come first-served basis. This was changed when a parent whose child was not successful in gaining admission to Audubon went to OCR complaining about the admission process. This occurred pre-Katrina causing a revamping of the admission policy. Lusher, on the other hand, took a required percentage of students from a preset area surrounding the school.

    • uptnola87

      I live diretly across the street from the school and even though I have asked many parents not to block my driveway, they still don’t listen. So I set my sprinklers to start exactly at the am/pm drop off times and I let my dog loose in the front yard. Haven’t had much of a problem since then.

  • Patrick Tucker

    I would like to let all know that there are lots of incorrect information being published, emailed and reported. Among one, John Lafargue is quoted in the above article that “they’ve done nothing to solve the traffic problem” which is incorrect. OPSB, ACS Charter Board & Administration has had a number of meetings, with him, John Lafargue, and other neighbors to discuss these issues. As a result, OPSB has implemented a resolution to help coordinate deliveries, a traffic officer, a crossing guard, and to partner with the neighborhood in lobbying the City to address traffic & parking concerns. This resolution can be viewed at http://www.uptowntriangle.com/resource-center . In addition, the ACS Board & Administration has received a grant from Louisiana Safe Routes to School. This program encourages students to walk & bike to school by improving street & sidewalk conditions around the school and neighborhood and by implementing a remote drop off location. This grant includes among others items, crossing & no parking pavement markings, flashing school beacon signs & sidewalk repairs. These actions show that the school is committed to make major improvements that will be beneficial to the surrounding neighborhood concerning the traffic and congestion issues. We must remember that we are all part of this great community and must work together to make it a great place to live. Audubon Charter School is one of the top performing public schools in Orleans Parish, and as President of the Uptown Triangle Neighborhood Association, I am committed to work with the school to make our neighborhood a better place.

    • Phil Vanderyken

      A resolution looks and sounds good, but it’s non-binding.