Notes from New Orleans: Riverfront Redevelopment

Posted on: April 4th, 2008 by Walter Gallas

 

New Orleans RiverfrontI attended presentations about plans to redevelop six miles of the New Orleans riverfront. Under the direction of the mayor’s New Orleans Building Corporation, headed by Sean Cummings, an international team including Alex Krieger, George Hargreaves, and Enrique Norton along with local architect Allen Eskew has been working for about a year on this vision, dubbed “Reinventing the Crescent.” It’s a slick, sexy vision that aspires to assure New Orleans place “in the pantheon of the great cities of the world,” according to Cummings.

The presenters were careful to point out that their scope was only the area from the water’s edge to the floodwall. Nevertheless, I pointed out to them that they can’t ignore the impact of their plans on the adjoining neighborhoods—all of them listed in the National Register, from the Lower Garden District to Holy Cross and everything in between. In response to my question about Section 106 and NEPA review, Eskew stated “We expect to meet or exceed every requirement.” He cited the Louisville and Chattanooga riverfronts and Crissy Field in San Francisco as best practices they will emulate. See www.neworiverfront.com for more details.

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Notes from New Orleans: Financing in Question

Posted on: March 31st, 2008 by Walter Gallas

 

On Friday, the Times-Picayune published a graphic showing housing construction projects around the city and indicating which had their financing in place. All four of the public housing developments were shown as not having closed on their financing. I submitted a letter to the editor Saturday calling attention to this, and questioning how the mayor could have released the demolition permits, given this information.

I delivered a public records request to the city attorney’s office on Friday. The same request will go to the mayor, the council president, the city council budget committee chair, and the clerk of council on Monday morning. We are seeking the documents which HUD, the Housing Authority of New Orleans, and the developers of the four public housing developments were to produce to enable the mayor to sign off on the release of the demolition permits for the four developments. The mayor signed off on Lafitte this week, saying he and the council were “comfortable” that HUD was complying with the conditions that were attached to the demolition approvals in December.

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Notes from New Orleans: Revised Building Code Enforcement

Posted on: March 28th, 2008 by Walter Gallas

 

The City Council this week passed an ordinance which reorganized portions of the City Code dealing with the building code enforcement measures. Much of it seemed like merely rearranging existing pieces into new Chapters of the Code, but in come cases the definitions of blighted or public nuisance properties were reworked to incorporate the recent “imminent health threat” categories. Most of the authority remains no different than what the city had before—but the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Development Administration (ORDA) assured the Council that this time they would get serious about hauling people before hearing officers; assessing and recording fines; and placing liens in properties for the cost of any remediation the city would step in and undertake.

My testimony to the Council asked what assurances we have that this process will be carried out as conceived, given the City’s poor record of managing and overseeing demolitions. At the same council meeting, for example, an attorney appeared on behalf of his client who had acquired a house through the sheriff’s tax sale—yet this property was placed on the demolition list—AND the property owner only learned this from private advocates monitoring the process. Further—there still is no comprehensive updated demolition list on the city’s web site—as called for months ago by the Council and by a federal consent decree.

With the assurance of the ORDA staff that “Once you pass this, it’s up and running,” the Council unanimously passed the measure.

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Saarinen's TWA Trumpet To Fall

Posted on: March 27th, 2008 by Margaret Foster

 

Saarinen’s TWA “trumpet” connected the now-lost terminals.Plans to save a unique section of Eero Saarinen's TWA terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport have stalled on the runway.

The New York State Historic Preservation Office, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, have approved JetBlue Airways' plan to demolish a 5,000-square-foot departure lounge known as "the trumpet." JetBlue demolished the other lounges and flight wings three years ago to make way for a new terminal, while retaining the iconic 1962 main terminal for future restoration.

JetBlue's decision was a surprise to some preservation groups, who met with JetBlue last year to discuss renovating the trumpet, which the Port Authority paid $895,000 to relocate last April.... Read More →

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New York City Nightclub Protected

Posted on: March 25th, 2008 by Margaret Foster

 

Webster Hall, NYCA New York City nightclub has made it past the velvet ropes to city landmark status.

On Mar. 19, the New York City Landmarks Commission bestowed that designation to Webster Hall, built in 1886. The move may prevent the building from being torn down for 20- and 30-story dormitories and hotels, like several others on the same block.

"In the area where Webster Hall is, we've been losing a lot of historic buildings," says Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, which pushed for the designation. "On the same block, we lost a 19th-century church, St. Ann's, for a 26-story dorm. We did not want to see the same thing happen to Webster Hall."... Read More →

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