Per state and city public health directives, Audubon has received approval to move forward with reopening its family of parks and museums following a phased approach that strictly limits attendance and programming. Audubon Riverview Park, or The Fly, will reopen on Saturday (May 16) to pedestrian and bicycle traffic. Vehicular traffic will not be allowed. Audubon Tennis will reopen Wednesday (May 20) with a limited schedule and appropriate social distancing measures. Audubon Golf Course will remain closed at this time, and more information on plans for its reopening will be announced soon.
A community meeting Monday night on the proposed parks and recreation overhaul brought out numerous questions, comments and criticisms from the public, as city officials faced a skeptical crowd trying to defend a proposed reallocation of tax dollars. Voters will decide May 4 whether to approve the city proposal to shift the current allocation of over $20 million in property taxes used to fund parks and recreation, which would notably provide City Park with city funding for the first time in its 169-year history. One concern not present Monday night was of the threat of higher taxes, though, as the current 6.31 mill rate would stay the same. Still, many questioned the wisdom of how the city plans to use their money. “What is the justification for continuing to give money to Audubon?” asked David Newman, a resident of Mid-City.
New Orleans voters will decide in May whether to reallocate a portion of the tax money now dedicated to the Audubon Commission, giving the zoo and aquarium long-term but sharply reduced funding, the New Orleans Advocate reports. The millage would be extended for 20 years and would cut Audubon’s tax intake to provide more money to the Department of Parks and Parkways, the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission and City Park.
The 11th Annual New Orleans Kidney Walk strives to raise both money for kidney disease research and awareness of the need for screenings Sunday morning (Nov. 4) in Audubon Park. For more information see the following press release from the National Kidney Foundation:
On November 4th, 2012, hundreds of walkers will step up for the 11th Annual New Orleans Kidney Walk and help raise awareness and funds to support the fight against kidney disease in the Greater New Orleans Area. “This walk will help many others take the lifesaving step of getting their kidneys checked,” said Torie Kranze, CEO of the National Kidney Foundation of Louisiana. “By participating in the Kidney Walk, we’re all helping sound the alert that anyone with high blood pressure, diabetes or a family history of kidney disease should get their kidneys screened — that’s over 73 million, or 1 in 3 Americans at risk.”
Audubon Park’s latest car-burglary suspect has a criminal record of 50 felony arrests, and used the credit cards he stole to buy routine items such as cigarettes, gas and an over-the-counter pain reliever, police said Thursday. After news reports earlier this week showed surveillance footage of a man going to area businesses and using credit cards stolen from vehicles at Audubon Park, Sgt. Warren Keller of the NOPD Second District property-crimes division said he received a call from a woman who said she had seen the man on Tuesday, sitting on a bench at the golf course after getting out of a car there. A worker at the park told police he’d seen the same man suspiciously looking into parked cars, so he wrote down the man’s license plate, and from there investigators were able to identify the suspect as 55-year-old Sergio Santos. Santos used the stolen credit cards for a variety of purposes, Keller said.
The perennial issue of thieves targeting vehicles at Audubon Park for hasty break-ins has resurfaced in recent weeks, police said, but they have recovered surveillance images from two recent cases that appear to show the same suspect in each. On Oct. 25, a man was caught on tape at a Walgreens near the park using a credit card stolen in a vehicle burglary at the park just before, detectives said:
In a separate case this past Saturday, an SUV parked at “the Fly” area behind the zoo was found to have its window smashed out, and the cash and credit cards were stolen from a purse inside it, police said. A total of nearly $400 in purchases was racked up on one of the cards at the Shell gas station on Magazine, Roberts grocery on South Claiborne, and four other groceries and drug stores in the 45 minutes before it was canceled, police said, and again, surveillance images were able to be recovered. The man in both photos appears to be the same person, noted Lt. Mike Montalbano, interim commander of the NOPD Second District.
Uptown New Orleans abounds with festival offerings this weekend, including New Orleans Film Festival screenings at the Prytania Theatre, a children’s book festival and Friday night symphony at Latter Library, the Gert Town festival, and a number of more specific celebrations. As the New Orleans Film Festival opens today, the Prytania Theatre’s offerings could hardly be more varied: a high-art silent French film that rocked the Cannes Film Festival, a documentary about the corruption surrounding last year’s oil spill, and a horror flick deemed one of the most obscene ever made. The pattern continues throughout the weekend (our pick? The Wire’s Michael Kenneth Scott in Louisiana swamp-set “Bayou Black,” showing with “Lord Byron” on Saturday evening); see the New Orleans Film Society website for a full schedule at the Prytania, Zeitgeist, Ashe Cultural Arts Center, Second Line Stages and citywide. On Friday evening, the second annual Children’s Book Festival will launch with “Twinkle, Twinkle,” a symphony performance of music inspired by children’s literature, on the Latter library lawn at 6:30 p.m. The book festival itself will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, and will feature noted children’s authors reading from their books and other activities for children.
A proposed change in the zoning of the DePaul medical campus owned by Children’s Hospital could greatly expand the possibilities for commercial development in the middle of an Audubon Park neighborhood, drawing the attention and concern of neighbors and their City Councilwoman. Spanning six blocks on either side of Calhoun Street and surrounded by a tall brick wall, the site of the former DePaul Hospital has been used for mental-health facilities for much of its existence since it was established by nuns in 1876. Children’s Hospital bought the property about five years ago, and currently uses one of the main buildings for a pediatric mental health facility, leases the other to LSU for an adult psychiatric unit, and has a number of other functions such as its Parenting Center in the lower-lying buildings on the campus. Technically, the campus carries the same residential zoning as the neighborhood that surrounds it. Its medical functions are allowed by a special exception that would expire if the site were to be abandoned for more than six months, and that restricts the changes that can be made to basic extensions of the services already there.
Nearly six months after the startling disappearance of a large population of birds from Audubon Park’s Bird Island, the rookery has yet to recover, and local birdwatchers are still feeling its loss. “Our park patrons have a lot of personal and emotional investments in Bird Island,” said Sarah Burnette of the Audubon Institute. “The primary negative impact isn’t necessarily on the wildlife. It’s on the people.” The large rookery in the center of the park’s lagoon drew a growing crowd of spectators until the birds mysteriously took off in early April, leaving behind their nests, including their eggs.