Feb 152016
 
Neighbors rally around the sculpture at "The Fly" on Sunday. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Neighbors rally around the sculpture at “The Fly” on Sunday. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Opposition is becoming more organized to a new Carrollton Boosters soccer complex that would take up part of The Fly recreation area behind Audubon Park, after a prominent neighborhood association voted to express its concern over the project, more than 100 people held a “Save the Fly” rally at the site on Sunday and the controversy is now drawing interest from the City Council.

The Carrollton Boosters received a tentative approval from the city’s demolition committee in early January to tear down the old cinder-block bathroom just inside the loop road on the Audubon Riverview park known as “The Fly” — a first step toward building a new $3 million soccer complex on the site. The new field will The sports field will also be used for lacrosse and flag football, and the complex will serve as an expansion of the baseball fields adjacent to it, the Carrollton Booster said at the time. The project will also require the removal of a large sculpture and a playground in the grassy area, though the Carrollton Boosters say they will be building a new playground as part of the athletic complex.

Since learning of the plans, however, a group of Carrollton neighborhood residents have begun expressing concern about the loss of the public green space that will be required for the new complex. Bill Ives and Cindy Morse met with the Boosters last week, and left the meeting more upset than before about the project, they told the Carrollton Riverbend Neighborhood Association on Thursday.

“The plans were worse than we thought,” Ives said. “They sincerely believe they’re doing something good for their children and the children of the Carrollton Boosters, but they don’t recognize the negative impact on the children of the city. I don’t doubt their sincerity, but they have a narrow vision.”

Association board member Drew Ward said he, too, was frustrated by the reduction in park space available to the public.

“In the past 20 years, we’ve seen the usable green space of Audubon Park in general go to next to nothing,” Ward said. “It’s one of the only places that’s free.”

After discussion of the issues, the Carrollton Riverbend Neighborhood Association voted unanimously to write to City Council and state lawmakers expressing reservations on the lack of input the neighborhood had about the potential loss of public green space in Carrollton. Association president Julianna Padgett said the neighborhood has not been given enough information about the project to take a position on the soccer complex itself, and that alone is cause for concern.

“That’s not opposing the project,” Padgett said of the association’s vote. “It’s opposing the process.”

Association board member Min Yang also proposed a picnic at The Fly, which was quickly organized for Sunday. More than 100 people had assembled at The Fly by shortly after 2 p.m. Sunday, and many came and went throughout the course of the afternoon. Yang said he was surprised by the strong turnout on a holiday in such a short time, but said the association felt it needed to begin informing people about the upcoming change sooner rather than later.

“There’s a sense of urgency because we didn’t know when the bulldozers were going to arrive,” Yang said. “Next thing we know, they would have fenced it off and we would have been excluded. … The fact that so many people turned out is great, but I think more people would have turned out if we had more time.”

Not everyone who attended the rally was swayed by the activists’ arguments. Jim Reese, who coaches lacrosse at the nearby Avenger Field, said the opponents of the project are exaggerating the amount of green space that will be lost for the project — even with the new sports complex, plenty of room will remain for casual park-goers.

“As far as the expansion of the ball fields, I’m all for it,” Reese said. “You come out here any weekday night, and the place is teeming with parents and kids. I think there’s plenty of room for both.”

Among the attendees on Sunday was City Councilwoman Susan Guidry, in whose district the park sits. Guidry said it is not clear how much jurisdiction the council currently has over the project. The demolition request for the bathrooms received unanimous approval on the consent agenda of the Feb. 4 meeting of the City Council, and does not require further action by the council.

Guidry said she, too, still has questions about the project, such as whether the new bathrooms and playground inside the proposed complex will be available to the public. She said she’s also heard suggestions of an alternate location on the Fly for the complex, but does not know if those suggestions are feasible.

“That’s a question I’m going to be asking,” Guidry said. “I’ve had some interesting questions from the public, and I want to get those answered.”

Guidry and others will have the opportunity to pose those questions on Wednesday, when City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell’s Community Development Committee meets and hears a presentation by the Carrollton Boosters. That meeting is set for 2 p.m. in City Council chambers.

While strong opinions are being formed both for and against the project, park-goers on the Fly on Sunday said they see value in both the recreation facilities and the green space. Elizabeth Abboud, who has two children in Carrollton Boosters sports programs, happened on the rally by accident — she’d simply brought her children out for a Sunday picnic, and wanted to see what the commotion was about.

“This is nice to have. I think it’s great,” Abboud said of the baseball stadium. She then gestured back toward the green space: “But taking over the whole thing, I would be opposed to that.”

An attendee examines a flyer handed out at the "Save The Fly" rally on Sunday. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

An attendee examines a flyer handed out at the “Save The Fly” rally on Sunday. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

  • Moses

    This is wonderful that we are having a discussion about the exclusiveness and inclusiveness of a public area.

  • Cannibal Special

    “The plans were worse than we thought,” Ives said. “They sincerely
    believe they’re doing something good for their children…” For shame!

    And so begins the War on Children… It’s Soccer Moms vs. Hipsters in a no-holds-barred Batture Beatdown cage match! Cleats and balls versus frisbees and bongs!

    Say, does that concession stand have popcorn?!

  • Kristine Rizzuto

    Hahahahahaha. Grab your granola bars, this is going to be fun!

  • Adrienne Petrosini

    Go to fb page SAVE the FLY NOLA and watch the video with a New Orleanian who wasn’t a soccer mom or a hipster (though I thought he was pretty cool) who had no clue what was happening on the fly. And also read a very thoughtful letter posted by a Carrollton Booster parent

  • R P

    Not unlike the competition between people who want to go watch the parade who aren’t part of a group who ropes off their special section of the neutral ground versus those who are in such a group.

  • Uptowner

    I’m not sure why the boosters can’t pursue another location for such a development. We’re landlocked already and this is prime riverfront real estate. Why can’t this go behind the post office on land already allocated to such use?

    • Kristine Froeba

      It’s NOT “prime real estate”. It’s Audubon Park — designated green space owned by the people of New Orleans – to benefit all the people of New Orleans space – space not just members of the Carrollton Boosters.

      We do NOT sell or develop historic parkland.

      • Cannibal Special

        Hah! The Fly isn’t “historic parkland”! It was a landfill!!! Before Audubon Park developed it in the 1970s, it was, literally, a dump. The soil there is full of broken glass from decades of garbage. Remember, it’s on the “wrong” side of the levee.

      • Uptowner

        Clearly, I am not advocating for its development. Real estate is defined as, “an identified parcel or tract of land, including improvements, if any”.

        I agree, this is owned by the residents of Nola. Using the term “real estate” does not differentiate this from any other land.

      • D Pitre

        Audubon Park is owned by the Audubon Nature Institute, not the city. There is a public board that oversees certain “aspects” (if you will) of the park. This is the primary reason it stays clean (more or less). It is a park with a beautiful “blue area” above it. All said, I am very much against the soccer facility … and i’m also into everyone being properly informed. This is something I was aware of as my wife is in Development in New Orleans, but here is a site that touches on it lightly – http://www.saveaudubonpark.org/web/

        • R P

          Are you positive of that? There are others who say that the property is definitely belonging to the city, i.e. is public, not private, on whose behalf the Audubon Commission is only overseeing it.

          • D Pitre

            It isn’t a public park in the way City Park is. The people who drive around and empty the trash cans, the security guards who tell you your dog needs to be on a leash…they are not city workers. First I’ll state I’m a born and raised New Orleanian…secondly, New Orleanians are notorious for mistaking myth with fact. Like for instance New Orleans laws such as the real estate laws are based in “Nepoleanic Code” … False, such laws are a mixture of French and Spanish laws from way back. The board that “governs” Audubon Park are city officials, but the land is not owned by the city. It’s just not.

          • R P

            I wouldn’t say that it’s private property, either, though.

            http://www.auduboninstitute.org/about/audubon-commission

          • Drew Ward

            You might want to do some legal searches. Local, state, and federal law as well as related court cased over decades are 100% clear that it is all city of New Orleans property and that the Audubon Commission / Nature Institute own nothing in or around Audubon Park. They merely operate the park on behalf of the city of New Orleans and for the benefit of the public. It’s all there in black and white if you’ll just bother to look for it.

          • D Pitre

            I did try and look for it, and found nothing saying so. That said, I’m not claiming you’re wrong. Can you point me toward such online info? At the end of the day though, I’m against the new soccer development. And the city will do what the city will do. Wether they own it or not…so this convo is pointless I guess (and yes, I started it, ha). But yeah, Government usually wins, sadly.

            Have a nice day, Drew, and thanks for the info.

            Cheers

          • Drew Ward

            Sure. Go to nolaassessor.com and choose search and then search by map, and finally zoom into the Fly and click on it. It’ll bring up the ownership info which shows ‘City of New Orleans’.

  • HolyNOLA

    The word “hipster” is stupid.

    • Cannibal Special

      And yet, so very accurate. Google says, “The hipster subculture is composed of affluent or middle class young who reside primarily in gentrifying neighborhoods.” Sounds like UM’s target demographic!

    • R P

      What’s trendier than complaining about The Hipsters?

  • Uptown Kid

    This is most interesting. As I see it this is part of the evolution of a play ground. Up until the early sixties this same area was the City’s Dump. As a kid it was great fun to watch dump trucks deposit their loads and browse for treasures. As I recall one of these deposits originated at the zoo … a dead elephant, named Itema. As the story goes he was purchased by (or on behalf of) paper boys who delivered one of two evening papers The Item. Out on the bature were camp sites for visitors to our City who mostly arrived by train. Today the would be counted among the homeless, back then we called them “Hobos”. Main food served by these fellows were sardines and saltine crackers which on occasion they would share with us kids. Interesting people with tales to tell. And songs to sing. I was somewhat disappointed to see it all go when the covered the dump. That said we did not miss the smells and occasional fires.

  • leveegal

    It’s public land. There are many researcher/historians covering this in detail in the comments sections, as well as in other articles.

    Please note that if you don’t research your history thoroughly in this City (or any other for that matter), and only quote what “you” remember or recall, it is not fact. And to get angry when you are corrected, rather than thanking the people who took the time to get this information out to the public does not make any sense. Working with facts to then address your position is the mature and responsible action to take, not bluster and lambast. Ask questions.

    It’s suspicious that they did not reach out to the people nearby, let alone that they did NOT reach out to the Neighborhood Association. That means they had a clue that there would be issues with their construction plans. This appears to be another public land deal being arranged without real effort to notify the public–deals that are monetary-beneficial to an exclusive organization/facility–and being made with the hope that the public won’t catch on until “too late”.

    Especially in a City where the regular newspaper service is now a joke and leaves our populace struggling to find out what is going on throughout the City. What does it say that most of us had to learn about this fiasco through Facebook? And that the best source of information regarding the public protests, City hearings, etc, are through an online source “The Uptown Messenger”? (which is doing a great job, by the way).

    Statements made by organizations such as Audubon and Carrollton Boosters (with their own agendas) that are not backed by documentation and prior open communications should be fact-checked thoroughly. The Fly, like City Park, is public land set up in to be “managed” by privately appointed entities. This is the problem.

    Please read the very accurate posts made on another string in the Comments section re: the Fly “ownership” and historical uses, and the corrections made to posts as to the ownership/history. It is enlightening and clears up the confusion, which is what the Audubon Institute, the Carrollton Boosters and the City do not want.

    The Comment String below:

    Drew Ward to Cannibal Special • 20 hours ago

    This map is from 1940. It’s been used for picnic grounds and as open public green space going all the way back to 1833. The difference is that all but a few pieces of Carrollton’s once extensive system of parks and public spaces have already been sold off by the city or school board or Audubon so that most people don’t realise what’s been lost.

    True, for a brief time the city in its wisdom took it over as a landfill, but Audubon didn’t just come along and rescue the Fly from obscurity. This belongs to the people of Carrollton and it always has.

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    Cannibal Special Drew Ward • 20 hours ago

    Drew, Have you ever actually BEEN to the Fly? It’s on the batture, between the Public Belt RR (and levee) and the River. Your 1940s map clearly shows picnic grounds on the CITY side of the RR – not on the River side, where the landfill was!!!
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    nathanschwam Cannibal Special • 19 hours ago

    You are reading the map wrong. The Fly is the sliver between the
    railroad and the water. The Picnic Grounds are now overflow parking on
    the grass for the zoo on busy days. Have you ever been on Magazine where it begins at the river? 🙂

    Where other major, significant cities are actually working hard to conserve their Green Spaces, and touting them for the Quality of Life attractions they are for both individuals and businesses, it is as if New Orleans, its non-profits and the City have closed their eyes to the damage they do to our city’s future, it’s desirability and breath-taking beauty for short-sighted, inappropriate individual/organizational gain at the expense of the public wishes.

    Where in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, London, Madrid, etc, would this type of public land grab by a NON-PROFIT organization no less, be considered? Look at the beautiful development of the Highland Park in NYC, which has created swaths of revitalization in the areas adjacent.

    We need to wake up, New Orleans, before everything that is beautiful is paved over and fenced–for a good cause of course.

  • R P

    People may or may not be aware of it, but as things are right now there are full-size soccer fields that are not fenced off that apparently Carrollton Boosters is in the process of taking over. As things are as of now, when there isn’t a soccer match going on someone, anyone, can still use that space however they care to — which is how it should be. The question is whether Carrollton Boosters is going to be willing to sit still and allow that state of affairs to continue, as it should, or whether they will want to fence those fields off at some point and essentially tell the general park patron public, as they do with the baseball fields’ set up, to keep out.