Aug 222013

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

Several weeks ago, we wrote a column listing a number of reasons why Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s plan to move City Hall to the iconic but empty Charity Hospital was an excellent idea.

In the course of our interview with him, Pres Kabacoff said he hoped that the Civil District Court judges would reconsider their plans to build a new Civil District Court building in Duncan Plaza – adjacent to the current City Hall on Loyola Avenue – and instead decide to join Mayor Landrieu’s administration and the City Council in the move to Charity.

That all seemed reasonable enough to us, but then we received a visit from Civil District Court Judges Michael Bagneris and Kern Reese who told us the court is dead set on building their own structure and won’t be swayed by the mayor to move to Charity. Continue reading »

Aug 212013
Weeds grow in the fenced-off foundation laid three years ago for Martin Wine Cellar on Baronne Street. (Robert Morris,

Weeds grow in the fenced-off foundation laid three years ago for Martin Wine Cellar on Baronne Street. (Robert Morris,

MartinWineCellarMartin Wine Cellar is back on track to rebuild next year its at its original New Orleans location, the massive lot on Baronne Street that has been empty for years, the store’s owner told the surrounding neighborhood association Tuesday evening. Continue reading »

Aug 202013
(photo by jewel bush for

(photo by jewel bush for

jewel bush

The Florida housing development has undergone a metamorphosis at the hands of Brandan “BMike” Odums, a 27-year-old art educator and literacy advocate.

When Hurricane Katrina hit, 127 shiny new apartments had recently been built in the Florida housing development, an 18.5-acre tract of land in the Upper Ninth Ward. The Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) had plans to build more. That didn’t happen, though. The units were damaged so badly during and after the storm that HANO closed down the Florida. The property has sat abandoned and rotting for eight years, yet another Katrina eyesore in the city.

Odums has taken the 17 or so crumbling townhouses that remain and turned them into mini art galleries called #ProjectBe — artistic alchemy, if you will, his way of transforming the ugliness of blight into an electrifying participatory art project. Continue reading »

Aug 192013

“To-go cups or not to-go cups, that is the question.
Whether ‘tis nobler in a bar to provide cups for patrons
to carry their alcoholic beverage out into the street,
Or to take arms against a sea of bureaucrats and busybodies,
and by opposing, end them?”

Owen Courreges

For those who have been living under a rock this past week, there has been a debate in local media over a perceived attack on a venerable New Orleans institution.  I am speaking, of course, of to-go cups offered by bars.  The fracas is over whether there is an actual crackdown on to-go cups, or whether this is just a tempest in a teapot (Spoiler alert: It’s not). Continue reading »

Aug 182013

By Alfred Bostick

The recent Uptown Messenger article “Good neighbors: Freret’s revival has largely avoided the issues that often accompany gentrification” is an intelligent and well considered fine piece of writing on a complicated subject. It is much appreciated. I also would have liked to have seen some treatment of the larger economic change that has hit the traditional middle-class quite devastatingly, not only here, but nationally and world-wide. I know it sounds like an extraneous issue to raise and examine in such a tightly focused urban neighborhood discussion, but it seems to me to play a pivotal role. Continue reading »

Aug 162013

Sandra Hester, who was arrested during Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s community meeting about the budget at the Jewish Community Center last year, has filed a lawsuit against Landrieu, the city, the New Orleans Police Department and other officials alleging that excessive force was used in her arrest and that her constitutional and civil rights were violated, according to a report from our partners at WWL-TV. The city has called her claims “unfounded.”

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Aug 152013

The Camellia Grill on South Carrollton. (Robert Morris,

The Camellia Grill on South Carrollton. (Robert Morris,

New Orleans officials have agreed to study whether to designate the Camellia Grill a historic landmark, a minor victory for the beloved restaurant’s new owner in the ongoing legal battle over its name.

In a separate request, officials turned down a request from an Xavier Prep alumna to designate the school’s Magazine Street campus as a landmark, siding with the leaders of the new St. Katharine Drexel Prep who said they face more pressing educational priorities right now other than the landmark process. Continue reading »

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Aug 152013

More than half of the streetlights along St. Charles Avenue are broken, burned out or missing, members of the residents’ association discovered after a recent count, according to a report by Bill Capo and our partners at WWL-TV. City officials say they are installing temporary lights, and that the streetlights will get new wiring at the end of the streetcar track construction project, Capo reports.

Aug 152013

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

Although Wednesday’s announcement by the New Orleans Community Data Center showed several great signs in the New Orleans economy, it also pointed several great disparities that do not bode well for New Orleans’ future.

Yes, our economy is diversifying beyond tourism, we weathered the recession better than most cities, home sales have increased, our number of new entrepreneurs is high, and construction jobs are on the rise since Katrina (no kidding). All great stuff to be sure. Continue reading »

Aug 142013

Jean-Paul Villere

Dave Thomas brought us the drive thru.  The late founder of the fast food chain Wendy’s — beyond being the charismatic face of the company up until his death — in the fledgling days of the square-pattied empire devised a way for car-loving Americans across the country to stay put and nosh ever more quickly. (In-N-Out and Jack in the Box might stake earlier claims to the innovation, but find me one of those in the only metro area that matters.) It revolutionized commerce.  I can tell you from my days in a green apron, drive thru locations easily produce two to three times the revenue of locations without this 20th century gift.  As such, it employs more people and creates a better tax base too.  All good things, right?  Except when it comes to pollution and traffic congestion, those tick up as well.  Faster, reliable and more often: the American way, no?  Viagara, anyone? Continue reading »

Aug 122013

Crowds gather in front of The Company Burger on Freret St. as owner Adam Biderman hands out hamburgers for free Thursday, Sept. 3, 2012, while most of Uptown waits for power to come back. ( file photo by Sabree Hill)

Freret Neighbors United president Andrew Amacker talks with residents during a crowded neighborhood meeting about a security-district proposal at Samuel J. Green Charter School. ( file photo by Robert Morris)

When more than 100 Freret residents gathered in the Samuel J. Green Charter School cafeteria in March to discuss a proposal to use a property-tax fee to hire private security guards for the neighborhood, the meeting had every appearance of a textbook example of gentrification and its painful fallout. Two white people sat at a table marked “FOR,” two African-Americans sat at a table marked “AGAINST,” and a room full of other black residents argued bitterly against what they saw as the secrecy of the proposal, about their sense of disenfranchisement amid an influx of “new residents,” and about the rising costs of merely remaining in their homes.

Given the explosion of commercial growth on Freret Street — from only a single restaurant four years ago to 14 blocks of highly-lauded cuisine, new entertainment venues and businesses ranging from a dog-groomer to a craft-cocktail lounge — concerns about gentrification should be expected. But after that heated meeting in March, the proponents and opponents literally walked away from the school building together down the sidewalk, relying on relationships and respect forged over decades to find a middle ground — suggesting that, perhaps, something is different about what’s happening on Freret. Continue reading »

Aug 082013

Jimmy Anselmo thanks the City Council for approving his request to reopen Jimmy’s Music Club on Willow Street. (Robert Morris,

After nearly a year of struggle and discord, Jimmy’s Music Club received permission Thursday afternoon from the New Orleans City Council to reopen in a flurry of smiles, applause, blown kisses — and a long list of operating conditions. Continue reading »

Aug 082013

Members of the City Council and the New Orleans Police Department present the family of Officer Rodney Thomas (wearing blue shirts) with a resolution honoring his sacrifice for the city. (Robert Morris,

With a resolution in his honor and words of encouragement for his family, the New Orleans City Council pledged Thursday morning to ensure the sacrifice of Officer Rodney Thomas has a permanent place in the city’s memory. Continue reading »

Aug 052013

Owen Courreges

The NOPD was dealt yet another black eye earlier this year when an investigation from the Inspector General’s Office revealed that off-duty officers were lining their pockets reviewing red-light camera tickets.  Former 8th District Commander Edwin Hosli created a private company, Anytime Solutions, to manage the detail, where off-duty officers were paid $35 per hour to review camera evidence provided by another private company, American Traffic Solutions.

Hosli, a close friend of Chief Ronal Serpas, also made sure to provide the obligatory patronage that feeds on New Orleans like a malignant tumor.  Anytime Solutions paid Serpas’s driver and his son-in-law, Travis Ward, who himself was previously suspended from duty after failing multiple breathalyzer tests when he totaled his NOPD cruiser back in 2009 (not exactly the type of person you want nit-picking other peoples’ driving habits). Continue reading »

Aug 012013

A rendering of a proposed floodplain park around the Monticello Canal in Hollygrove, similar to those proposed for other canals around the city in a new water-management strategy for New Orleans.

Rainfall should be diverted out of Uptown via the Mississippi River instead of carrying it all the way to Lake Pontchartrain, and major drainage ditches like the Monticello Canal should be expanded into interior floodplains and water-storage features, according to two recommendations that illustrate how New Orleans should be better managing its water instead of just pumping it away.

The Water Management Strategy presented by architect David Waggonner to a standing-room only crowd Thursday evening at Xavier University is a regional plan for making more efficient use of rainfall, slowing it down and storing it in natural canals to reduce the sinking of the land that contributes to flooding. The recommendations in the Uptown area are only a small part of the plan, but they illustrate some of its key elements and some of its challenges.

“We’re proposing this is a new era for water management,” Waggonner said. “It’s not just about flood protection any more. It’s really about quality and sustainability.” Continue reading »

Aug 012013

The Lyons Center pool is empty on Wednesday afternoon after all outdoor pools in the city closed Monday, July 29. (Robert Morris,

Less than two months after Mayor Mitch Landrieu celebrated its reopening with a jubilant splash, the pool at the Lyons Center is now closed for the summer, along with all the other outdoor pools in the city.

Closing the pools at the end of July was budgetary decision based on the return to school in August, but residents and some officials say another week or two would have been appropriate. Continue reading »