General

Notes from the Field: New Orleans

Posted on: December 7th, 2007 by Walter Gallas

 

I spoke at a very poorly-run public meeting hosted by the state on its plans for a new medical center in downtown New Orleans. We were allowed to make comments and pose questions after the various presentations, but we were told that no questions would be responded to at the meeting! When someone asked if the answers would be posted on a web site, the answer was again no.

Nevertheless the consultants insisted they were there for “public input.” It was a frustrating meeting to say the least, and it only added to the public’s anger and suspicions that this was a done deal. The plans come out of classic 1960’s urban renewal models—clear-cut 37 acres of the National Register Mid-City neighborhood, displace homeowners and businesses and then build a new facility on the land. Any pretense that there would be serious consideration of alternatives was lost, when the consultant from U.S. Risk Management systematically eliminated all but the urban renewal alternative in her presentation.

While the state officials tried to keep the discussion separate from the plans of the Veterans Administration on another 34 acres in Mid-City adjoining the state site, they were unsuccessful. This week it was reported that the Mayor and the VA have signed an agreement whereby the city agrees to assemble the land for the VA hospital and present it to the VA in a “construction-ready state.” FEMA’s Public Assistance Officer was one of the presenters. He was so careful to talk around FEMA’s role in this (or not), that his comments were incomprehensible. And when an audience member asked a question about Section 106, the consultation process for historic properties, no one answered it (in accordance with the ground rules of the meeting!).

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

 

An INTACH “Heritage Walker” describes Delhi’s Red Fort.The third and fourth days of the International Conference of National Trusts in New Delhi both began with field trips out into the city. On Tuesday I had signed up for a visit to the historic Red Fort and St. James Church, although when I heard of the trip to the President's Palace I felt I missed a real opportunity. Unfortunately due to security issues one had to be pre-registered so I joined my original tour.

Both of these sites were interesting, but I have to say that after seeing Agra Fort - which has so much more remaining historic material - Delhi's Red Fort was something of a disappointment. From a historical perspective, this is a very special place to the city and nation, and INTACH used the famous towers as the logo for the 12th ICNT. Built in the 17th century, its most famous modern connection is the August 15, 1947 speech by Prime Minister Nehru on the day India achieved Independence from the British. The original speech was entitled "A Tryst With Destiny" and every August 15th the Prime Minister recreates that special event when he or she ascends the wall near the front gate and speaks to the tens of thousands of people who fill the grounds below. The emotional impact of the place on Indians was very real, especially when described by our young INTACH "Heritage Walker" - an energetic "paid volunteer" who leads walking tours through the city (photo above).

... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Indian Vice President Helps Launch INTO

Posted on: December 5th, 2007 by David J. Brown 1 Comment

 

Simon Molesworth (far right) and I listening to Vice President Shri M. Hamid Ansari, give his address. (http://vicepresidentofindia.nic.in/)Monday, December 3rd, was a remarkable day in India as our local host, the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), brought both the Prime Minister and the Vice President of India to events celebrating historic preservation and heritage conservation. After the morning presentation by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh to launch the 12th International Conference of National Trusts, the feeling among the almost 300 delegates was exceptional. Fiona Reynolds, General Director of the English National Trust, and I were commenting that all of us who care about heritage had just seen how an event like a conference - which our western cynicism often sees as simply a chance to network and learn about the work of others - can be used by skillful local advocates in the developing world such as S.K. Misra of INTACH to dramatically raise the profile for heritage in their country in the span of a few days.

Mr. Misra pulled his magic again in the afternoon when Indian Vice President Shri M. Hamid Ansari spoke at the official launch of the International National Trusts Organisation (INTO) at the Ashok Hotel in Delhi. At an earlier plenary, I joined members of the INTO Steering Committee in presenting the charter to the group and in answering questions. Groups such as UNESCO were represented and spoke of their support for the creation of INTO, which helped give us strong credibility in the international and developing world. It was easy to see that there was a great deal of excitement about the creation of INTO, and I spoke briefly about how conversations and dreams of almost 20 years had finally been turned in a charter, budget, location - but most importantly a vision for this international group. The English National Trust has really stepped up by providing the office space at their London headquarters, instantly providing INTO with the prestigious address and backing of the world's largest National Trust. If any of you are interesting in a posting to London, here's your chance!

... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

 

Darko Babic (left) and David Brown ride atop an elephant in Jaipur, India.After three wonderful days touring the Golden Triangle of India to visit Agra Fort, the incomparable Taj Mahal, the beautiful Fatehpur Sikri, and intriguing city of Jaipur, our driver Supe and my traveling companion Darko Babic from the University of Zagreb in Croatia headed north on Sunday morning to return to Delhi. Supe provided commentary along the way on the camps of gypsies, the rural poverty, the beautiful yellow fields of mustard, and the value of water buffalo (he owns two). As we entered Delhi on a new highway Supe saw something that surprised even him - a speed trap! Traffic laws in many parts of the country where we traveled are non-existent, so the presence of the police ticketing people shocked us all after three days of assuming that speeding was a birth right.

But I'm glad we made it back, because it began an extraordinary two days in which I was privileged to have speaking roles on programs with both the Prime Minister of India and the Vice President of India as part of the International Conference of National Trusts.

Banners announcing the 12th International Conference of National Trusts.We arrived safe and sound at the historic Ashok Hotel which is located in the diplomatic enclave of Delhi, where they do have traffic laws and many historic and beautiful neighborhoods. It was apparent from the massive sign and banners at the hotel welcoming the National Trusts that this was going to be a special few days. I was met by representatives of our host National Trust for the conference - the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) - and taken immediately to a press conference with the international press. This 12th International Conference of National Trusts is a historic one, in that we're launching an new international group of National Trusts. Let me backtrack a bit and explain.

... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Notes from the Field: New Orleans

Posted on: December 3rd, 2007 by Walter Gallas

 

The Housing Authority of New Orleans approved nearly $31 million in contracts for demolishing the four largest housing developments, with a HANO spokesman saying demolitions will begin December 15.

I spoke to the deconstruction program manager of Mercy Corps, who told me he was waiting for another meeting with a representative of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the State Historic Preservation Office to find out whether there will be any salvage of the mountains of material. Mercy Corps has looked at all four developments and of course there is plenty to save—windows, doors, terra cotta tile roofing, not to mention millions of bricks. No one has answered our questions about where the demolition materials might go.

I joined some public housing activists on the steps of City Hall, who vowed they would stop the demolitions.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.