Opposition rallies against loss of park space at The Fly for new Carrollton Boosters soccer complex

Opposition is becoming more organized to a new Carrollton Boosters soccer complex that would take up part of The Fly recreation area behind Audubon Park, after a prominent neighborhood association voted to express its concern over the project, more than 100 people held a “Save the Fly” rally at the site on Sunday and the controversy is now drawing interest from the City Council. The Carrollton Boosters received a tentative approval from the city’s demolition committee in early January to tear down the old cinder-block bathroom just inside the loop road on the Audubon Riverview park known as “The Fly” — a first step toward building a new $3 million soccer complex on the site. The new field will The sports field will also be used for lacrosse and flag football, and the complex will serve as an expansion of the baseball fields adjacent to it, the Carrollton Booster said at the time. The project will also require the removal of a large sculpture and a playground in the grassy area, though the Carrollton Boosters say they will be building a new playground as part of the athletic complex. Since learning of the plans, however, a group of Carrollton neighborhood residents have begun expressing concern about the loss of the public green space that will be required for the new complex.

Councilwoman Cantrell announces opposition to “top down” plan to remove statues

As the New Orleans City Council prepares to move into what was expected to be the final round of discussions on a plan to remove three monuments to Confederate leaders and one to a white-supremacist uprising against the Reconstruction government, City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell announced that she will oppose the plan because it was “thrust upon the city” from above. A more nuanced discussion was needed, Cantrell said, that evaluated each monument individually as well as considering others symbols not originally proposed by Mayor Mitch Landrieu. A more substantially inclusive discussion would have ended with a more united decision, Cantrell said. To read Cantrell’s statement in full, see below:

I would like to clarify any speculation from the public at large about my position on the monuments. I am opposed to the current ordinance before Council that will remove four of the multiple Confederate monuments and memorials of our city.  The reason I am opposed is because it was not a community driven process based on the concerns of citizens.  This idea was thrust upon the City and the Council from the top down after it was created by a small, select group of individuals.

Helicopters, gunshot spotters and massages: City Council brainstorms ways to bolster NOPD

A rapid-pursuit helicopter. Advanced audio technology to triangulate gunshot locations. Free meals and massages for police officers. With armed robberies up four percent citywide this year — a point brazenly driven home by holdups at three recent Uptown restaurants — the New Orleans City Council said Friday they are ready to try nearly anything to help the police stop them. In a special meeting of the City Council criminal-justice committee, the City Council members said that while they are concerned about crime trends in the city as a whole, the recent restaurant robberies have undermined residents’ sense of safety.

Uptown neighbors seek more vigilance over historic-home demolitions

After the City Council approved the demolition of a pair of Upperline Street homes last week, a group of neighbors are hoping to find more ways both to monitor demolition requests and hopefully to help owners preserve historic houses before they succumb to neglect. The houses at 1020 and 1032 Upperline were bought by Ken Flower after the previous owner recently died, and determined that they were both in such poor condition that they were beyond saving, his architect said at a meeting of the Neighborhood Conservation District Advisory Committee in July. Preservationists, however, argued against allowing Flower to replace the houses with new construction, and the NCDAC declined to recommend approval for either demolition. The issue came before the New Orleans City Council last week, and Mark Tullis of the Faubourg Avart Neighborhood Association that represents the area said the association got involved too late to make a decision. But many of the same neighbors who opposed the Upperline demolitions before the City Council wanted to hold a broader discussion of the issue at this week’s meeting of the association, Tullis said.

Neighbors hail development of school garden on General Pershing lot where they tried to save historic home

For years, neighbors and preservationists fought to save a century-old home at 820 General Pershing Street from the wrecking ball, and despaired when it was finally demolished late last year. But instead of the commercial parking lot they once dreaded, the vacant lot is instead becoming a school garden for the nearby Ecole Bilingue de la Nouvelle-Orléans, and neighbors say they are unexpectedly pleased by its appearance. The slow demise of the house at 820 General Pershing took place across several years, several private owners and a number of at-times contradictory decisions by a variety of city bureaucratic entities, one of which no longer even exists. After it was finally approved for demolition in 2014 amid concerns about the legality of the city’s historic-preservation laws, the property owner had to sign a good-neighbor agreement to transform it into a private garden, though residents viewed the move as a stealthy attempt to clear the land for a parking lot for the businesses on Magazine. The lot sat vacant and overgrown for several more months until this year, when it was sold to a new owner who donated its use to Ecole Bilingue.

Controversy continues over Constance Street ‘park that’s not a park’ in Irish Channel

Just when the Irish Channel had come to accept that the little plot of land on Constance Street just off Magazine is not a park, on Tuesday — through the most tortured machinations of New Orleans bureaucracy — it became a park. Of course, the little patch of ground is still not really a park. But what it will become after it stops being not-a-park remains stubbornly unclear, leading to a heated discussion Thursday night among the property owner, the Irish Channel Neighborhood Association and City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell. The history of the land at 3139 Constance Street merits some review. In decades past, it housed a large McDonogh school building, though that was apparently torn down some time in the 1960s.

Cantrell to host forum on mental health in minority populations

Amid statistics showing that mental illness goes untreated at far higher rates in minority populations than among whites, City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell will host a forum this evening with a panel featuring Coroner Jeffrey Rouse and other experts to discuss ways of finding more ways of addressing the issue before it turns to tragedy. The panel will be at 6 p.m. today (Tuesday, July 21) at the New Orleans Jazz Market, 1436 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd, and is free for anyone to attend. See the news release from Cantrell’s office for more information:

1 in 5 Americans will experience mental illness within any given year, but how these individuals are able to cope with the issue depends on a number of factors including race.  According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 40 percent of whites will seek mental health services.   The percentage plummets for African Americans and Latinos to about 25 percent, and is even lower for Asians. Lisa Romback, executive director NOLA NAMI, points out the result of fewer people getting care has been detrimental to the New Orleans community. “Members of minority communities face a pervasive stigma, racism, lower rates of health insurance, and less access to care in an already fragmented mental health system,” Romback says.

What’s next for the proposed renaming of Jefferson Davis Parkway?

As the City Council voted last week begin discussing the removal of four Confederate statues throughout the city, they also outlined the legal process by which it will take place, and many Council members shared their views on the issue. On June 26, Mayor Mitch Landrieu wrote to the council requesting the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue at Lee Circle, the Jefferson Davis statue on Jefferson Davis Parkway, the P.G.T. Beauregard Equestrian statue on Esplanade Avenue and the Battle of Liberty Place Monument on Iberville Street. The motion passed by the council at the meeting held Thursday, in response, states that the city code allows for Council to follow proper legislation to remove structures such as statues, plaques, monument and others from public property “deemed a ‘nuisance’ in that, among other things, the item honors, praises, or fosters, ideologies which are in conflict with the requirements of equal protection for citizens as provided by the Constitution and the laws of the United States.”

With the motion passed, the Council is required by the City Code to hold public hearings for recommendations on the removal of the statues from the Historic District Landmarks Commission, the Chief Administrative Officer, the Superintendent of Police and Director of the Department of Property Management, the City attorney, and the Human Relations Commission. The motion added the Vieux Carre’ Commission to the entities stated in Landrieu’s initial request, to be a part of the public hearings. Mayor Landrieu also proposed to change the name of Jefferson Davis Parkway.

Cantrell: Tax money intended for affordable housing spent on code enforcement that pressures the poor out of homes

As the cost of living in New Orleans continue to rise, pressuring low-income families to give up homes they have held for years, the city has a dedicated tax that raises nearly $4 million a year intended to promote affordable housing. But that money, City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell told a standing-room only crowd Wednesday night, is instead being spent by the city on code-enforcement efforts — which can actually increase the pressure on poor families to sell their homes in gentrifying neighborhoods. The city’s Neighborhood Housing Investment Fund was a created in 1991 by a 30-year property tax that at the time generated about $3 million per year, but now amounts to $3.9 million annually because of rising property values. It had three intended uses, according to the city code:

to “provide financing and other assistance for home-ownership opportunities for families and individuals” in their homes,
to “promote neighborhood stability by eliminating blight and unsafe and deteriorating conditions,”
and to “provide financing and other assistance for safe, affordable rental housing” for low-to-moderate-income residents. But instead, Cantrell told the audience at “The Big Issue” panel on gentrification Wednesday night at Tulane Hillel, that money is going to code-enforcement activities that can subtly encourage the poor to sell their homes.