Homeowner and New Orleans native Gayle Ruth was one of the first people to return to her historic home in the Lower Mid-City neighborhood after Hurricane Katrina. In the video below, she talks about the excitement that grew over time as people came back and renovated their homes -- and how all of their work may now be "for naught" as the area is the desired locale for a new hospital complex.
There is no argument more compelling for saving New Orleans' Mid-City neighborhood than the words of the residents themselves. Many are life-long New Orleanians who came back after Hurricane Katrina to rebuild their homes. In this video, Wallace Thurman, a veteran, talks about losing the place where he was born -- and still lives today.
Help us save Mr. Thurman's home -- and those of the other residents of lower Mid-City. Take action today!
Our partners at the Foundation for Historical Louisiana, Sandra Stokes and Mark Upton, are on the the Jim Engster show on WRKF right now -- Friday, December 5 at 9:15 a.m. CST. They'll be talking about the ongoing crisis situation in Mid-City New Orleans. It is a call-in show, so if you want to be part of the discussion, there is an opportunity to participate. Information on live streaming and contacting the show is available at www.wrkf.org.
Update: The program is now over, but archived audio is available here.
Back in May, before we were aware of the danger the nation’s economy was truly in, we named California’s State Parks to our annual list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places when the state’s budget woes led to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recommending drastic cuts that would have closed 48 parks. Changes to the state’s budget, along with increased user fees, kept the parks open, but California’s woes have proven, sadly, not to be unique. Over Thanksgiving weekend, Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois announced that earlier-suggested closings of seven parks and a dozen historic sites would go forward, and our local partner, Preservation New Jersey, has posted updates to their blog about site closings in the Garden State.
Yesterday, in his remarks at a governor’s conference in Philadelphia, President-elect Barack Obama made it clear that the risk the economic downturn poses to our country’s heritage has not gone unnoticed – he included the closure of historic sites in a list of the difficult choices being made on the state level. (The mention comes at 2:27 in the video below.)
California, Illinois, and New Jersey are not alone in having their state parks and historic sites threatened by the economic downturn – it’s a nationwide situation. Share what’s happening where you live below.
The short week before Thanksgiving was dominated by Tuesday’s announcement by the Veteran's Administration and Louisiana State University that the institutions had selected the sites for their new medical facilities. As feared — but as expected — they chose the Lower Mid-City sites, opening the doors to the worst possible scenario. It has been one year since the public learned of the secretly-confected deal the city struck with the VA to present it with a construction-ready site — if the VA chose the RPC site, named for the Regional Planning Commission, which has so artfully carried out this exercise in misguided planning.
The morning of the announcement I appeared on WWL-TV’s morning show standing on the neutral ground of S. Galvez, near Deutsches Haus, which is the dividing line between the two sites. Earlier, Kurt Weigle, executive director of the Downtown Development District, had told the reporter that “Charity is in no shape to open as a hospital.” Further, he contended that buildings have a “life-cycle,” and that Charity had exceeded its life-cycle for use as a hospital. My response was to point out that New York City’s Chrysler Building dates to 1930 and the Empire State Building to 1931, and that no one was talking about those buildings — of the same era and type of construction as the 1939 Charity Building — having reached the end of their “life-cycles” as office towers.
The press conference announcing the site selection took place in the mayor’s press room at City Hall. Sandra Stokes of the Foundation for Historical Louisiana, Michelle Kimball, Bobbi Rogers, and I were among the attendees. Before the event began, it was announced that if anyone was not with the media, he or she must leave, because “this was a press event for the media only.” We didn’t leave. During the press conference, everyone extolled the collaborative and inclusive process leading to this decision — apparently not realizing that minutes before, the citizens had been asked to leave.
At the press conference, Dr. Ed Blakely, director of the Office of Recovery and Development Administration, was asked whether any houses on the sites would be saved. Dr. Blakely replied, “We will save all of the historic fabric of the neighborhood… Demolition is only the last resort.” Blakely had evidently not been briefed on last week's executed programmatic agreement which, at most, would enable the moving of no more than 20 historic properties (of a total of 165). Perhaps his conception of saving historic fabric is to see it pried off of buildings and hauled away in dump trucks.
LSU, FEMA, and other state representatives could offer no new information on how LSU proposed to finance its estimated $1.2 billion project. Assurances were given by Paul Rainwater of the Louisiana Recovery Authority that if the state couldn’t “seal the deal” with FEMA on the amount of recovery money the state sought for damages to the Charity building by January 20, negotiations would continue into the Obama administration. It was reported this week that the state aniticipates at least a $1.3 billion hole in next year's budget.