Dec 202015
 
Police investigate a fatal shooting in 2011 on Monroe Street just outside an elementary school while classes were in session. (UptownMessenger.com file photo by Sabree Hill)

Police investigate a fatal shooting in 2011 on Monroe Street just outside an elementary school while classes were in session. (UptownMessenger.com file photo by Sabree Hill)

On a Thursday in late November, the entire indomitable city of New Orleans recoiled in shared horror at security video of a young medical student collapsed on the sidewalk just off Magazine Street, clutching his bleeding torso, as a hooded assailant stood over him with a gun aimed at his head. The film’s dreadful silence only amplified the menace as the gunman apparently tried to squeeze the trigger, twice, to finish off his already-incapacitated victim, giving up only when a mechanical mercy intervened and the gun refused to fire.

Two nights later, Bunny Friend park in the Ninth Ward — its almost comically benign name a memorial to a teen who died in an accident in the 1920s — became the scene of the city’s next headline-grabbing gun battle. A block party and planned music-video shoot were rent apart by a hail of gunfire, leaving 17 people wounded, and at least a half dozen people have been named as suspects as investigators try to piece together how the celebration turned to chaos.

The bloodshed continued the following weekend, when more young men’s lives would be claimed around some of the city’s most best-known places: 26-year-old Brandon Robinson killed on Bourbon Street, 19-year-old Richad Dowell on Canal Street and 19-year-old Devin Johnson near the newly opened Lafitte Greenway.

And yet, city officials continue to insist that the struggle against violent crime in New Orleans has made significant strides in recent years, and many measurements as well as newly-published academic studies back them up. But if things are getting better, why does the carnage still insist on making its way onto playgrounds, green spaces and tourist thoroughfares? If the violence is the work of a relatively small group of people, why are they so hard to stop? Continue reading »

Oct 182015
 
An image from the security videos at Patois. Detectives note that the infrared video changes the colors in the video, and that the turquoise clothing is actually shown as near-black in normal light. (image via NOPD)

An image from the security videos at Patois. Detectives note that the infrared video changes the colors in the video, and that the turquoise clothing is actually shown as near-black in normal light. (image via NOPD)

In the security video that shocked New Orleans, infrared distortion turns the skin of patrons at Patois a bluish-gray color, creating a visual sense of unreality that matches the confusion felt by those diners moments later when three men wearing masks and hoodies burst in, robbing the entire restaurant at gunpoint on Aug. 21. That citywide shock was only amplified in late September, when robberies took place in similar fashion at Cafe Atchafalaya in the Irish Channel and then the Monkey Hill bar, only a few blocks from Patois and Audubon Park.

The Mayor called a news conference to announce an arrest in an unrelated spree of robberies and tout the city’s crimefighting efforts, then another new conference a day later after Monkey Hill, joined by U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite and pledging federal investigation and prosecution of the cases. Local news outlets “flooded the zone” with reaction and analysis pieces, while The New York Times and Washington Post brought national attention to the robbery spree. By the end of the month, the New Orleans City Council held its own hearing on “high-profile” robberies, pitching questions and suggestions to NOPD officials about how to battle the city’s feeling that control was being lost.

The entire discussion, however, provides ample opportunity for an airing of misconceptions about the city, its long battle with violent crime and its police force. While nearly every side of the discussion — frightened residents, embattled city leaders, besieged police officers, and skeptical critics — have made valid and useful points about the issue, the facts frequently get lost in the rhetoric. Continue reading »

Oct 152015
 
Robert Morris

Robert Morris

Uptown Messenger founder Robert Morris will be a featured guest on WHIV’s The Sound Salvation with Chris Rose at noon today. Robert and Chris will be discussing crime and other information. To listen live, click here or tune in to Radio NOLA HIV at 102.3 LPFM. Continue reading »

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Mar 222015
 
Members of the NOPD Sixth District task force search for an armed robbery suspect on Peniston Street in January 2012. The number of task force officers assigned to individual districts has dramatically decreased since then. (UptownMessenger.com file photo by Sabree Hill)

Members of the NOPD Sixth District task force search for an armed robbery suspect on Peniston Street in January 2012. The number of task force officers assigned to individual districts has dramatically decreased since then. (UptownMessenger.com file photo by Sabree Hill)

During every parade of Carnival season, thousands throng the sidewalks and neutral grounds of St. Charles Avenue, lured by the promise of thrown beads, the blaring bands or the spectacle of the floats. Within that chaotic revelry, however, also lurks the threat of deadly violence in the form of concealed handguns.

The elite New Orleans Police Department officers specifically tasked with finding those guns do not see much of the floats. Instead, they are hyper attentive to parade-goers’ hands, looking for anxious fingers unconsciously seeking reassurance from heavy metal held in a waistband. Or, the officers evaluate gazes – looking for the one young man walking just a little faster than his friends, his eyes straight forward, more intent than the others on reaching his destination because of the dangerous cargo he has in tow. Continue reading »

Nov 202014
 
Workers from Cutting Edge Renovations prepare the vacant lot at Saratoga and Foucher on Wednesday, Nov. 20, for the construction of two new houses by Pentek Homes. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Workers from Cutting Edge Renovations prepare the vacant lot at Saratoga and Foucher on Wednesday, Nov. 20, for the construction of two new houses by Pentek Homes. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Less than two months ago, the weeds in the vacant lot the corner of Foucher and South Saratoga Street grew as high as the shoulders of the police officers who gathered there for an anti-crime march following the second of three fatal shootings there this year.

Today, the overgrowth is gone, replaced by construction workers preparing the site for a collection of new homes that will be placed on the market early next year for approximately $2 million. The developer of the property, Bo Pennington, and the long-suffering neighbors hope for an even more dramatic transformation: that of one of Uptown New Orleans’ most violent spots into a new nexus for neighborhood revitalization. Continue reading »

Nov 112014
 
An April 2014 image of the building at 8837 Willow, slated for redevelopment into the Carrollton Commissary commercial kitchen. (via Google Maps)

An April 2014 image of the building at 8837 Willow, slated for redevelopment into the Carrollton Commissary commercial kitchen. (via Google Maps)

A proposal to renovate a blighted Carrollton storefront into a commercial kitchen expanded into far broader discussion Tuesday of how the rapid rate of development in New Orleans affects the city’s long-time residents, but officials ultimately decided that those societal issues can’t be saddled onto an individual business owner and voted in favor of the project. Continue reading »

Oct 132014
 
A rendering by architect David Keiffer of the proposed community center in Carrollton. (via Carrollton-Riverbend Neighborhood Association)

A rendering by architect David Keiffer of the proposed community center in Carrollton. (via Carrollton-Riverbend Neighborhood Association)

As the start of construction nears on a new community center funded by a state investment of more than $1 million, members of the Carrollton neighborhood remain apprehensive about the organization chosen to operate it — despite repeated assurances from officials that this is the most effective use of the land and the money moving forward. Continue reading »

Oct 012014
 
Possible options for the Napoleon Avenue landscaping. (UptownMessenger.com)

Possible options for the Napoleon Avenue landscaping. (UptownMessenger.com)

As contractors have begun digging deep underneath South Claiborne, Jefferson, Napoleon and now Louisiana avenues to install new drainage ditches, Uptown New Orleans residents have asked pointed questions prior to each project about what the neutral ground will look like when the projects are finally done over the next three years.

On Tuesday night, those residents got their first look at possible answers, including a continuation of the walking path down Napoleon Avenue, public art installations on South Claiborne, tall palms restored to Jefferson Avenue and a variety of landscaping options on Louisiana. For many, however, those answers led to more questions — such as whether the projects will incorporate ideas from the city’s new water-management strategy, which plants could be harmful to traffic visibility in certain locations, and how the canopies over the avenues will look with the finished projects. Continue reading »

Sep 292014
 
Judicial candidates Marie Williams, Graham Bosworth and Byron C. Williams participate in a candidates' forum sponsored by the Home Defense Foundation of New Orleans. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Judicial candidates Marie Williams, Graham Bosworth and Byron C. Williams participate in a candidates’ forum sponsored by the Home Defense Foundation of New Orleans. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Prosecutors are using Louisiana’s repeat-offender laws to create potential sentences so high for criminal defendants that they have no choice but to plead guilty, potentially depriving them of the right to a fair trial, three candidates for Criminal District Court agreed Monday night. Continue reading »

Sep 252014
 
Commander Ronnie Stevens and members of the NOPD Sixth District walk on South Saratoga Street, steps between the scenes of two fatal shootings this year. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Commander Ronnie Stevens and members of the NOPD Sixth District walk on South Saratoga Street, steps between the scenes of two fatal shootings this year. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

In March, two women were caught in the crossfire of a gun battle on South Saratoga Street that left them both dead. Earlier this month, gunfire broke out again, and the victim staggered through the same Foucher Street intersection before collapsing and dying a block away.

Neighbors have long complained about the violence and lawlessness that grips the corner of Foucher and Saratoga, where five other people have also been wounded over the past year. After the most recent slaying, neighbors are banding together to look for solutions to end it by asking for more police presence, installing more anti-crime cameras, targeting blighted properties and trying to meet the health needs of people in the neighborhood.

Police officers surround the intersection of Foucher and South Saratoga Streets on March 14, 2014, after two women were fatally shot. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Police officers surround the intersection of Foucher and South Saratoga Streets on March 14, 2014, after two women were fatally shot. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Continue reading »

Sep 182014
 
A map of the Southeastern Louisiana Urban Flood Control now shows the final leg on Louisiana Avenue as "under construction." (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

A map of the Southeastern Louisiana Urban Flood Control now shows the final leg on Louisiana Avenue as “under construction.” (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

If you like navigating around the drainage projects on Napoleon, Jefferson and South Claiborne avenues — or if, more likely, you don’t — get ready: Louisiana Avenue is next.

The $82.6 million installation of a box canal on Louisiana Avenue from South Claiborne to Constance Street — a sister project of sorts to similar efforts on Napoleon, Jefferson and South Claiborne avenues — got its official start back in the summer, when Boh Brothers was chosen as the contractor, said Sewerage and Water Board superintendent Joe Becker before an audience of nearby residents at the Lyons Center on Thursday night. But after site surveying and other preparations, neighbors will begin to see the beginnings of the work on the ground in the weeks to come, as workers begin trimming trees and starting construction near Clara Street. Continue reading »

Sep 182014
 
Megan Fuselier and Matt Wilson (left) and Safety and Permits director Jared Munster (far right) listen as Councilwoman Susan Guidry speaks during Thursday's meeting of the New Orleans City Council. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Megan Fuselier and Matt Wilson (left) and Safety and Permits director Jared Munster (far right) listen as Councilwoman Susan Guidry speaks during Thursday’s meeting of the New Orleans City Council. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Issues relating to the demolition of historic buildings dominated Thursday’s meeting of the New Orleans City Council, culminating in the quiet restructuring of the city panel that oversees them to protect its decisions from court challenges.

Thursday’s meeting there on Thursday, however, included intense debates over whether preservation laws accelerate the loss of property by original owners, or if city bureaucracy is actually impeding preservation efforts – and ultimately suggests a widening philosophical rift among City Council members over the role of architectural preservation in New Orleans. Continue reading »

Sep 162014
 
Palmer Park located at the corner of S. Carrolton and S. Claiborne.

The arch over the entryway to Palmer Park is the only sign of its namesake. (UptownMessenger.com file photo by Zach Brien)

The popular Palmer Park — surrounded by an array of diverse neighborhoods including Carrollton, Fontainebleau, Pigeontown and Hollygrove — was given its name during an era of nostalgia for the Confederacy to honor a pastor so passionately in favor of slavery that Gen. Robert E. Lee described his oratory as more powerful than “an entire regiment of troops,” according to a presentation by a University of New Orleans researcher. Continue reading »

Sep 162014
 
Dr. Andre Perry delivers the keynote address at the Rising Tide conference Saturday, Sept. 13. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Dr. Andre Perry delivers the keynote address at the Rising Tide conference Saturday, Sept. 13. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Standardized test scores may be rising in the city’s public schools, but those gains on paper do not translate into any meaningful improvements in the lives of the city’s poorest students, said former New Orleans education official and activist Dr. Andre Perry. Challenging school reformers’ beliefs that a wholesale restructuring of the education system will create a better society, Perry added that all social conditions that plague New Orleans’ poor and African-American neighborhoods still persist even after 10 years of school reforms.

The best first step the city can take to real improvements for the African-American community, Perry said, is to begin searching for a way to reconcile with the thousands of teachers who were wrongfully fired after Hurricane Katrina. Continue reading »

Sep 112014
 
The front door of the Priestley school building in west Carrollton. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

The front door of the Priestley school building in west Carrollton. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

The Orleans Parish School Board property committee recommended that Lycee Francais be approved to purchase the former Priestley campus Thursday, sending the proposal to the full school board next week for what could be final approval. Continue reading »

Sep 092014
 
Retired Lt. Gen. Russell Honore (center) and other advocates discuss contamination in the soil at the former Booker T. Washington site in front of what remains of the former school. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Retired Lt. Gen. Russell Honore (center) and other advocates discuss contamination in the soil at the former Booker T. Washington site in front of what remains of the former school. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

When Lt. Gen. Russell Honore led 20,000 federal troops into the city of New Orleans for search-and-rescue missions in the aftermath of the collapse of the federal levees following Hurricane Katrina, he instructed his soldiers not to let the contaminated water touch them.

Nine years later, Honore said, the risk of pollution to New Orleanians is coming not from the failures of the federal government, but from decisions made by leaders right here in the city and state — such as the plan to rebuild Booker T. Washington High School in Central City on top of heavily contaminated soil at the old Clio Street dump. State documents show that in some locations, cancer-causing compounds are present in levels more than 100 times what is considered acceptable.

“As we worked nine years ago to help save this city, we’re going to work now to help save this city from itself,” Honore said. “Because you know what? It’s not the White House doing this. It’s not President Bush doing this. It’s the leaders in New Orleans doing this, and it’s people we did not put in the office — the RSD.”

Many alumni of Booker T. Washington, however, believe that the Recovery School District’s plan for treating the contamination is sufficient, that Honore’s concerns are an unnecessary excess of caution, and that it is time to move the long-delayed construction of a state-of-the-art school forward. Continue reading »

Aug 302014
 
Retired Gen. Russell Honore speaks at the GreenARMY Katrina commemoration at Xavier University. (Zach Brien for UptownMessenger.com)

Retired Gen. Russell Honore speaks at the GreenARMY Katrina commemoration at Xavier University. (Zach Brien for UptownMessenger.com)

As New Orleans continues to recover from the devastation that followed Hurricane Katrina nine years ago, the city should pass a law preventing any schools or daycare centers from being built on top of toxic soil — including the proposed rebuilding of the Booker T. Washington High School over the old Silver City dump site in Central City, retired Lt. Gen. Russell Honore and local allies said Saturday morning.

“We’re the oldest city in this part of the country, and we ought to be the first to make a stand,” Honore said. “We’re not going to put a school on a dump.” Continue reading »

Aug 262014
 
Streetlight repairs have been completed in neighborhoods marked in green, are underway in pink areas, and still to come in orange zones, as of August. (source: nola.gov/DPW)

Streetlight repairs have been completed in neighborhoods marked in green, are underway in pink areas, and still to come in orange zones, as of August. (source: nola.gov/DPW)

When New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu asked the residents of City Council District B how the city should spend their tax money Tuesday night, the answers nearly all involved streets: the holes in them, the lack of light on them, and the people who sleep on them.

Most of those problems — like all of those before the 300-year-old city — lack easy answers, and have been compounding for decades, Landrieu replied. But on at least one complaint, there is a glimmer of hope: the long-darkened streetlights along St. Charles Avenue are scheduled for repair in September. Continue reading »

Aug 262014
 
Work continued on Yulman Stadium (seen from Ben Weiner Drive) in August. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Work continued on Yulman Stadium (seen from Ben Weiner Drive) in August. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

With Tulane University’s first on-campus home game less than two weeks away, university officials and residents in the Uptown areas are discussing the details of the central question about the once-controversial stadium: What will game day look like in the neighborhoods around the stadium?

Will it be a return to the front-yard cocktail parties of the old Sugar Bowl days? A crasser, modern version, more akin to the obnoxious abuses of public property that draw complaints every Carnival season? Or will the parties largely follow the elaborate on-campus plans envisioned by university officials? Continue reading »