Festive weekend Uptown: Movies, books and music

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.

Commercial growth possibility in rezoning of old DePaul site worries neighbors

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.

Audubon Park’s Bird Island still missing its departed flocks

Article by Colby Wilson, for UptownMessenger.com

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.

Man accused in spree of purse thefts from SUVs at Audubon, other parks

An alleged purse thief who specifically preyed on SUVs in the parking lots of major parks has been charged in a spree of auto burglaries near Audubon Park, police said Wednesday. An investigation into auto break-ins around City Park led detectives to search the home of 24-year-old Michael A. Short, where they found credit cards and drivers’ licenses that could eventually link him to 30 or 40 burglaries, said Sgt. Warren Keller of the NOPD Second District property-crimes division. Among the stolen cards were a debit card stolen July 11 and a credit card stole Aug. 2, both from cars parked right by Audubon Park, Keller said, and detectives are following up on three more cards also believed to be linked to Audubon Park auto break-ins.

With a new playground awarded, French charter school looks to future facility plans

With a KaBOOM! playground on the way to its Claiborne Avenue campus, the new French-immersion charter school opening this month in Uptown New Orleans is set to discuss longer-term planning for a home for its students at a meeting Monday. Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans will have students at two locations this year, the First Presbyterian Church on South Claiborne Avenue and at Audubon Zoo. The Claiborne location, where three classes of 3- and 4-year-olds will attend, has recently been awarded a grant for a KaBOOM! playground, principal Jill Otis said in an email to parents.

Three Uptown robberies reported this week, with suspects identified in each

Three armed robberies have been reported in Uptown New Orleans in as many days, but police have made arrests in one, linked it to the second, and identified a separate suspect in the third, authorities said Wednesday. The most recent robbery was 11 p.m. Tuesday, when a man walking on Freret Street near Nashville Avenue felt a tap on his shoulder from behind and turned to see two teenagers pointing guns at him, said Sgt. Chris Billiot of the NOPD Second District persons-crimes division. The teens searched the man, took his wallet, his Blackberry cell phone and his iPod, then fled on bicycles they had stashed nearby, Billiot said. An officer about eight blocks away saw two teens on bicycles and tried to stop them, but they took off, though police caught up to both.

“Hands Across the Sand” to call for action Saturday to protect the Gulf

Organized by local representatives from the Sierra Club and the Gulf Restoration Network, the “Hands Across the Sand” movement will come to the riverside park behind Audubon Zoo at 11 a.m. Saturday. According to Jonathan Henderson of the Gulf Restoration Network:

Let’s all take a moment this Saturday and join hands to protect our coasts from dangerous offshore drilling and to restore the Gulf of Mexico. For the second annual “Hands Across the Sand” worldwide event, we will be standing together with tens of thousands of people all over the world to make a positive statement for a clean energy future. This is a good time for us all to refelect upon the disaster that unfolded on our beaches and shores all across the Gulf, and to show unity as we move forward in the fight for our collective healthy Gulf future. It’s been over a year since the BP drilling disaster began and Congress has yet to pass legislation to restore or protect the Gulf or our communities.