The one-day “After Katrina: Transnational Perspectives on the Futures of the Gulf South” conference Friday at the New Orleans Center for the Gulf South at Tulane University will feature keynote presentations by Richard Campanella and Kalamu ya Salaam, as well as a range of other local cultural figures, neighborhood leaders, activists and academics.
As a child of the 80s reared on cable and the small screen, my first opportunity to see The Wizard of Oz on the big screen came in a mid 90s summer-revival series at the State Palace, and the experience remains with me today. First of all, the movie alone to be seen in this fashion should not be missed, I don’t care how many times you’ve seen it. Secondly, to see a film in a somewhat decrepit but likely once masterful venue layers the sensory. Creaky, spent springs and paint-chipped seating, flooring with decades of goo, and echoey cavern of yesterday celluloid dank and dark. And then Mr. Brunet spoke.
The Saenger Theater has finally reopened. The opening gala took went off without a hitch over the weekend, with the facility receiving rave reviews. Public and private dollars funded the whopping $52 million renovation that has been in the making for eight years, so expectations were running high. Thankfully, the Saenger seems to have delivered.
Even cantankerous Times-Picayune theater critic (and sometimes theologian) Ted Mahne, whose scathing review of “Avenue-Q” is the stuff of legend, gushed that the Saenger was “magical.” Oh, and the sense of civic pride? It was “palpable.”
The possibility that an upscale student-housing development may be planned for the large block of Freret Street where the former Frank’s Steakhouse still remains a shuttered landmark is being met with concern and questions by people in the neighborhood.
In our opinion, C. Ray Nagin was the worst mayor of our lifetimes. It is entirely possible that Nagin was the worst mayor in New Orleans’ 295-year history, going all the way back to the French and Spanish chief executives whom Danae has been studying recently.
However, being a terrible mayor is not of itself a crime. Later this month, a jury will be convened in federal court to consider whether accepting some $200,000 in cash and gifts, along with several truckloads of free granite, is indeed a federal crime. The jurors will presumably hear Nagin’s Chief Administrative Officer Greg Meffert and big-time vendor Mark St. Pierre, both of whom are currently doing time in the federal pen.
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.
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.
Isidore Newman School hosted parents and community members Tuesday night as the school moves forward with plans to more than double its early childhood facility.
Head of School Dale Smith and architect Mac Ball presented the 950-student school’s plans to expand enrollment offerings to its youngest attendees.
“I think it’s safe to say he’s a preservationist at heart,” Smith said of Ball — one of the reasons he was selected for the job.
Newsflash: “Neighbors and nightclub clash over live music.” It sounds like a headline from any given day’s report from the City Council chambers, but it’s actually a story that’s nearly as old as New Orleans.
Whether New Orleans properly takes care of its musicians and other artists is another never-ending saga — but one that may finally be showing some improvement, according a panel discussion held at Tulane University on Thursday evening.
As recently as this past Monday evening as I walked home from work, I saw an older black couple gutting a house in my neighborhood, some seven-plus years after the events of 2005. No volunteers, no fancy apparatus, no wrecking ball. Just two people, a truck and flatbed, and work gloves, overalls and dust masks, the pungent mold wafting from across the street. Where this house is, it’s unclear if the water came up or the water fell in, as the raised-pier home may or may not have taken flood water, and the roof while appearing to be halfway past its useful 30 year life did not appear to be damaged or compromised. The how is almost moot. Water up, water down, it doesn’t matter (unless you’re dealing with some damned adjuster). Water damaged the home. Whereas the why is more than evident. So many years later some may ask Why now? Why not choose to sell or abandon it all together? This home means something to them, and now in 2013 they’re here, they’re able-bodied, and they’re doing it, seemingly unassisted.
One takeaway should be this: our journey in recovery is far from complete.
The Lyons Center recreational complex at Louisiana and Tchoupitoulas — where ground was broken on extensive renovations in September after years of neglect after Hurricane Katrina — is expected to open in May, city officials told Tania Dall of our partners at WWL-TV.
We will never get out of our minds the picture of then-U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Dennis Hastert in the wake of Hurricane Katrina asking of New Orleans, “Why would anyone want to rebuild there?” He later apologized but we thought the question marked Hastert as forever an idiot.
When the Master Plan for distributing a $2 billion FEMA payment for school rebuilding was approved last year, officials hailed it as a panacea of sorts that would ensure every Orleans Parish student is at least in a building that is “warm, safe and dry.”
Now, school leaders are unsure the money will even go that far.
“Unless construction is under way, every project might see some cuts,” said Orleans Parish School Board member Lourdes Moran. “The Master Plan has to be reopened.”
The word of the day is “Schadenfreude,” a loanword of Germanic origin that refers to satisfaction received from the misfortunes of others.
Oh, I should use it in a sentence? OK. “I felt a warm feeling of Schadenfreude when the man who stole my bicycle was struck by lightning, died in intense pain, and then a swarm of rats appeared and urinated on his remains.” (Note to readers: I really hate bike thieves).
Following Hurricane Sandy, regrettably if understandably, many New Orleanians felt a whiff of Schadenfreude. We had been told so many times by so many people after Hurricane Katrina that we were poor, stupid, and our city had been built in the wrong place. People asked if we should bother rebuilding New Orleans, as if we were all just going to pack up our bags and move.
Students’ work still hangs on the walls three years after it was turned in, and their art lays strewn about the floor of the old Free School. A few children’s books sit in crates, toys lay abandoned on the dirty floor, and pigeons flutter in and out of the dark fourth-floor attic. To the trained eye, however, the most insidious problem is the sudden dips in the hardwood floor.
The century-old Free School on Camp Street looks as though it was abandoned overnight, as it almost literally was in December of 2009 when critical structural problems were discovered there. Next month, the building is one of seven former school sites around the city scheduled to be auctioned off by the Orleans Parish School Board, raising the possibility that it might finally be redeveloped into something new, or even one day hold students once again.
A former cotton press on Tchoupitoulas dating back more than 100 years is slated to become a kitchen cooking fresh, healthy meals for local schools next year, with office space in front and 52 apartments next door as part of a riverfront development just blocks away from the former Entergy power plant.
What was initially billed as political “speed dating” — a chance to meet with individual candidates for the District B race one-on-one — grew into a full-blown debate at a Freret community meeting Thursday night, with three City Council hopefuls trading their ideas on blight, crime, education and other issues in the first such event of the race.