Mar 262014
 
Pedestrians pass by the Newcomb Boulevard fence in early February. (UptownMessenger.com file photo)

Pedestrians pass by the Newcomb Boulevard fence in early February. (UptownMessenger.com file photo)

After years of court battles, the proposed sale of Newcomb Boulevard between St. Charles Avenue and Freret Street is headed to the City Planning Commission in less than two weeks, and those who have fought to have the street reopened are hoping to rally public opinion to their side with a quickly organized campaign.

Newcomb Boulevard residents installed a fence at Freret Street in 2006 in an effort to reduce cut-through traffic on the street, which runs parallel to Broadway Street for about four blocks. Surrounding neighborhood groups challenged the legality of the fence, ultimately leading to a ruling by former Civil District Court Judge Michael Bagneris in 2012 that its construction created an illegal donation of public property.

After that decision was upheld in appeals in 2013, city officials promised to remove the fence “without delay.” Nearly four months later, it remains in place, and city officials have said they are trying to avoid spending taxpayer dollars removing a structure that the Newcomb Boulevard Association will simply replace if it is successful in purchasing the street.

The "Free Newcomb Boulevard" group is printing yard signs in hopes of spreading the word before an April 8 hearing before the City Planning Commission. (image via "Free Newcomb Blvd.")

The “Free Newcomb Boulevard” group is printing yard signs in hopes of spreading the word before an April 8 hearing before the City Planning Commission. (image via “Free Newcomb Blvd.”)

With the first hearing on that sale before the City Planning Commission scheduled for April 8, some of those who have led the legal fight against the fence are now seeking to engage a wider swath of the public. Keith Hardie Jr. has created a website, FreeNewcombBlvd.com, and a Facebook page (launched Sunday and showing 129 likes as of Wednesday morning) to promote it, and they are printing yard signs in hopes of further raising awareness of their efforts.

“Selling the street would validate the illegal and unconstitutional closure and permanently shift parking demand and traffic onto other area streets. Our grid system is one of the reasons New Orleans is known as a charming, walkable City. Traffic conditions on Newcomb Boulevard, before it was closed, were not significantly different from those on many streets, and certainly were not significant enough to require that the street be closed,” Hardie’s website argues. “Free Newcomb Boulevard and give it back to the citizens of New Orleans.”

The focus of the website is generating written public comment on the issue before Monday’s deadline, and then drawing attention to the planning commission’s April 8 hearing. The Planning Commission staff has not issued a report yet on the matter, and any recommendation made by the Planning Commission on April 8 will be forwarded to the City Council for a final decision at a later date.

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  • Paulette Hurdlik

    The deadline for public comments to the planning commission is Monday at 5pm. Let your voice be heard by emailing CPCinfo@nola.gov

  • Cannibal Special

    Sour grapes! There is plenty of precedent for the city to sell property for development purposes (property tax!) and, essentially, Newcomb Place is creating – or enhancing – a residential development. Take their money, I say! While you’re at it, why not charge them some back rent for hijacking a public street?

    • Owen Courrèges

      Cannibal,

      If Newcomb weren’t located so near to bottleneck at Broadway and St. Charles, I’d agree with you. However, it’s actually a pretty valuable cut through and helped relieve pressure. Things have gotten considerably worse since they blocked it off.

      Likewise, the loss of street parking so near the universities is not something we should shoulder for whatever pittance Newcomb is willing to pay.

  • ksvb3

    If the courts have ruled the fence is illegal, then why is the city delaying the removal?
    Having to pay for it?
    Sell ,if for nothing else but scrap metal and pocket the change.
    Send in your comments to CPCinfo@nola.gov.

  • nolagal70118

    Based on the procedure used to sell Trianon Place, I thought that a traffic study was required before a sale to show that the surrounding streets would not be burdened by the proposed sale and closure to the public. If this is a legal requirement and the proper procedure is not followed, it seems to me that the sale will be invalid.

    Moreover, we’ve essentially had an 8-year de facto traffic study which shows that the closure to traffic has indeed burdened St. Charles and Broadway — so much so that citizens have undertaken the time and expense of litigation to reopen the street.

  • y.o. simmons

    No one noticed, but Newcomb Blvd. home owners on the uptown side of their street all have private off street parking which is accessed from Audubon Street. There are approximately 15 or 16 private driveways on Audubon except for 2 or 3 Newcomb Blvd. residents who have closed off their driveways for alternate uses.

    Frankly, with virtually no access to the lake side of Saint Charles Avenue neighborhoods from Calhoun to Broadway, it is outrageous for the street with one of the most abundant parking of any street uptown to block a public right of way with the need so great for all of our tax paying residents.

  • Owen Courrèges

    Cannibal,

    This isn’t just a subjective debate. Traffic studies have been performed showing a significant amount of cross-through traffic on Newcomb. Also, I’ve been stuck westbound on St. Charles near Broadway frequently. I can tell you right now reopening it would be useful to me. The usefulness of Newcomb as a cut through is well established.

    In any case, the fact remains that the city needs to remove the fence immediately to comply with the court order. I don’t care what other plans they have; they are under a legal mandate to remove it NOW, not later, NOW.