Feb 272013
 

City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell smiles as she takes notes on an issue raised by a member of the Bouligny Improvement Association on Wednesday evening. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

The use of public space on the Mardi Gras parade routes improved slightly this year, City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell said Wednesday night, but the city laws need to be reviewed starting now to make sure that less of the sidewalks and neutral grounds are unfairly co-opted by furniture, ropes and improperly-placed ladders.

Parade-route conduct has long been a sore spot for some New Orleanians, and the proliferation of living-room furniture and portable toilets definitely seems to have worsened in recent years, said Cantrell, whose City Council district includes almost the entirety of the Uptown route. But her direct involvement as a councilwoman began just before the parades did, when she told a Gambit reporter that she had yet to hear from her new constituents specifically about that issue.

Sure enough, she said, she began to hear from them almost immediately afterward.

“It was a call to action, and then I began to hear from you,” Cantrell told members of the Bouligny Improvement Association, which represents the area just upriver of Napoleon Avenue between Magazine and St. Charles. “By phone, by email — but it was a good thing.”

Shortly afterward, Cantrell issued a letter to NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas, asking for more enforcement of existing laws along the parade route. The response, widely noted and often praised, was that police on the route prevented people from setting ladders or furniture in the crosswalks.

That was a start, Cantrell said at Wednesday night’s meeting, but did not go far enough. While walking the routes (or riding them, as she did in Zulu), Cantrell said her top concern was ladders too close to the street. They are supposed to be placed back from the curb an equal distance to the height of the ladder, so that if a child falls, they won’t land in the path of an oncoming float.

She observed other problems as well, she said in a short interview after the meeting — people “roping off areas and commandeering public property, and the altercations that occur from that,” the portable toilets that spring up, or the moving trucks that park near the route for instant keg parties.

Over the coming year, Cantrell said she intends to begin convening roundtable meetings with other city officials to discuss issues such as how to empower officers to cite lawbreakers in a way that will stop the problem, or how to target the owners and the renters of portable toilets that are illegally placed. She has already broached the topic with Uptown NOPD leaders, and they support her effort but want the entire year to plan for it, she said.

“Whether we can implement this, we don’t know, but we have to start somewhere,” Cantrell said. “I think the city is gaining an appetite for enforcement, and that’s what I’m pushing for.”

Cantrell’s wide-ranging discussion with 30 or so members of the Bouligny Improvement Association included a variety of other topics, though the condition of various neighborhood streets was the most frequent issue raised. To read our live coverage of the meeting, see below.

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  • will_k2

    Glad to see someone finally taking action on this. The problem isn’t the laws, the problem is the enforcement. The simple answer is to allow the NOPD to write expensive citations for violations of the ladder and rope-off laws. Hand out a few $150 tickets for ladder violations and rope-offs in the first weekend and watch the problem disappear.

  • taveanator

    I don’t understand why the police don’t barricade off at least a few intersections so that people can pass from one side of the parade route to the other. I’m not talking about cutting off the whole street, just enough for two-way foot/bike traffic. I think this would also be an added safety measure ensuring that emergency personnel don’t have to fight their way through a sea of ladders and chairs just to get to the other side of the street.

    I personally don’t have much of a problem with people ‘staking a claim’ to the neutral ground. The only time you really see any issue is when people try to find a way to cross, and inevitably encroach on someone’s domain, creating unneeded tension. Having a dedicated cross-over location (using barricades much like they do when the parades have to make a turn) would be a big help in my opinion. It’ll be impossible and unreasonable for police to be distracted by constantly having to tell people not to rope off areas, etc. I have seen them tell people to move ladders back, and I saw a marked improvement in thoughtful ladder placement this year.

    As for the unlicensed port-o-lets, just sic one of the hundreds of meter maids writing tickets for parking 6 inches too close to the curb on them. Most of the port-o-lets are in the back of pick-up, so the maid should be able to simply write them a ticket and slip it under the windshield before the owner even realizes they are there.

  • Sarah Gonzalez

    I think the port-a-potty issue could be helped if the city provided some along St. Charles Avenue like it does along Napoleon Avenue. Another problem is folding chairs. People set up folding chairs at the front of the street and only use them to wait for the parade. The parade starts and they get up from their chairs. The chairs serve as place holders while they stand in front of them (sometimes not even right in front of them) and never sit down again. I saw a couple of women (with children) who almost knocked people over because they thought their chairs had been moved(!) when in fact the crowd had just grown and people got in front of them. People need to be able to move through the crowd. Obstructions such as empty chairs and empty strollers the size of small cars are dangerous. If you want to sit down you can actually get a better view of the float from the back of the crowd anyway.

  • CR Gruver

    The growing number of tents is also appalling, as people set the tents up near the street, making it impossible for anyone behind the tent to see or enjoy the parade. Even the people who set the tent up can’t see the parade from the tent or behind it, so really it simply becomes wasted space which would otherwise be valuable property for parade goers. The ropes and tents only serve to make it difficult for more people to enjoy what is truly a community event – meant for everyone and not just a selfish few. Citations for ropes, tents, portalets, even propane grills, would deter at least some of this activity. Thank you Councilwoman Cantrell for taking this issue on.

  • disqus_mo0GsdjlKl

    I watched several ladders in the middle of the street( way to close to parade street) almost get knocked over when people back up for bands. Also have to move quickly for emergency vehicles. You would think the child’s safety would be a bigger concern for some people. So glad this is all being addressed.