Trust News

LISTEN LIVE: Partners Discuss Charity Hospital/Mid-City on WRKF Radio

Posted on: December 5th, 2008 by Sarah Heffern

 

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.

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.

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern is the social media strategist for the National Trust’s Public Affairs team. While she embraces all things online and pixel-centric, she’s also a hard-core building hugger, having fallen for preservation in a fifth grade “Built Environment” class. Follow her on Twitter at @smheffern.

 

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

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern

Sarah Heffern is the social media strategist for the National Trust’s Public Affairs team. While she embraces all things online and pixel-centric, she’s also a hard-core building hugger, having fallen for preservation in a fifth grade “Built Environment” class. Follow her on Twitter at @smheffern.

 

Pictured left to right: State Rep. Karen Carter Peterson (partial), Mayor C. Ray Nagin, Dr. Edward Blakely, State Rep. J.P. Morrell, U.S. Rep. William Jefferson (Photo: Michelle Kimball)

Pictured, from left: State Rep. Karen Carter Peterson (partial), Mayor C. Ray Nagin, Dr. Edward Blakely, State Rep. J.P. Morrell, U.S. Rep. William Jefferson (Photo: Michelle Kimball)

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.

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.

BREAKING NEWS: Charity Hospital Announcement

Posted on: November 25th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 3 Comments

 

BREAKING NEWS: On November 25th, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Louisiana State University announced the selection of the Mid-City neighborhood for the site of their new hospitals. The new hospitals would needlessly destroy the historic neighborhood around Charity Hospital where residents have been rebuilding and restoring their community since Hurricane Katrina.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation views this decision as a serious error, as better alternatives that would save the neighborhood around the hospital are available.

"In selecting these sites, the VA and LSU have made a serious error. They chose the alternatives that will not only be the most time-consuming, costly, and complex, to implement, but will needlessly destroy a historic neighborhood where residents are struggling to rebuild their community in the wake of Hurricane Katrina" said Richard Moe president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. "The VA and LSU had other options, yet they chose the most difficult and destructive route to delivering health care to the region's veterans and a medical teaching facility to the community. We strongly urge the VA and LSU to reconsider, and take another look at other less harmful alternatives on the table."

While the decision has come down today, five important questions remain unanswered as to why this particular site has been chosen by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Louisiana State University. "The sites selected by the VA and LSU would demolish fifteen square blocks within the Mid-City National Register Historic District, including some 165 historic structures, most of them homes, to make way for the new hospitals," said Walter Gallas, director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's New Orleans Field Office. "This is a lose-lose situation all around."

More to come...

Read more about the threat to Charity Hospital and the surrounding issues.

Read the Full Press Release.

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.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Historic Neighborhood in Buffalo Threatened by Peace Bridge Expansion Plan

Posted on: November 19th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

The sign reads: "Welcome to Historic Buffalo: Where your home can be destroyed by the City & Public Bridge Authority for the 'Good of All.' Say no to the plaza expansion."  (Photo: Lauren Tent)

Neighbors gather at a sign protesting the bridge expansion. (Photo: Lauren Tent)

This week, Buffalo’s preservationists got a big boost from a lavish New York Times spread celebrating the city’s architecture. Critic Nicolai Ouroussoff concluded that the city had a rare opportunity to use its historic neighborhoods and restored landmarks as potent tools for Buffalo’s economic recovery.

The Times’ validation is rewarding and useful, but it is also timely. Named both to our 2008 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Places, and to the Preservation League of New York State’s Seven to Save list, the residential area adjacent to the Peace Bridge remains under threat of needless, large-scale demolition for a massive transportation and security project.

The Peace Bridge crosses the US-Canada border at the Niagara River, entering Buffalo in the historic Prospect Hill neighborhood situated around Frederick Law Olmsted’s Front and Columbus Parks.

Local leaders’ vision of adding a new signature bridge as a gateway to the city -- and the goals of improving transportation and border security -– could be accomplished in a range of ways, locations, and configurations. Instead, these goals hardened into the Public Bridge Authority’s plan to add a new bridge alongside the old one, and expand the border entry plaza currently at the bridge deep into this neighborhood.

A family enjoys a walk in the neighborhood. (Photo: Lauren Tent)

A family enjoys a walk in the neighborhood. (Photo: Lauren Tent)

In the tree-lined blocks of homes dating largely from 1850 through the mid-20th century, some houses are modest and some are grand. Most are tidy, some are vacant. Overall, the neighborhood is stable and remarkably strong in the face of uncertainty. The Public Bridge Authority itself acquired several significant houses in the area over the years. Unmaintained, they are a demoralizing, inescapable reminder of the residents’ predicament. In a Rust Belt city struggling with real vacancy problems, it would be particularly wasteful to damage this viable neighborhood.

... 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.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.