Newcomb Boulevard Aspiring to be Audubon Place: Evidence for Concern for the Future of New Orleans
A few weeks ago I noticed the appearance of a "No Outlet" sign on Newcomb Boulevard at its intersection with St. Charles Avenue. Additionally, I have observed an off-duty police patrol car (sometimes unmarked, sometimes Orleans Parish Levee Board Police, sometimes NOPD I think) at that corner virtually every time I've driven past that intersection since then. In KTMB distraction-derived ramrod policy #5,023, seems the City of New Orleans has allowed Newcomb Boulevard to essentially become a private, practically-gated community (Audubon Place, Jr.) by blocking off the access to Freret Street making it a dead end from St. Charles. I do not recall any public discourse on allowing or disallowing the removal of Newcomb Boulevard as a publicly accessible right of way. A few years ago, residents of Trianon Place in Fountainbleau lobbied the City of New Orleans to restrict that public street's access. Those homeowners were successful in getting the city to block off the lakeside end of the street, but from what I recall there was a process involving the opportunity for public comment on the proposed modification. One of the main issues brought up with the Trianon Place proposal was that the accessibility of garbage trucks, fire trucks, and other emergency vehicles to the street is severely impacted by cutting it off with no design modifications (i.e. a cul-de-sac or a turnaround spur) to the street itself. The same issue applies to Newcomb.
To my knowledge there has been no public process in the Newcomb Boulevard case--the "you can't come in here" signs and Green Zone-like concrete barriers just up and appeared one day in April or May. Was a vehicular circulation study done to forecast the volume impact on other streets in the area once Newcomb is basically removed from the grid? Somehow I doubt it--especially since the City Planning Commission staff has been widdled down to like six people which is absolutely pathetic given the tenuous position the City of New Orleans finds itself in post-KTMB. People such as myself living in adjacent portions of Uptown and Carrollton that sometimes utilize Newcomb as an alternative to Broadway to get lakeside towards Freret Street from The Avenue no longer have that option. And that, of course, is the stated purpose of closing the street--coupled with the fear-driven belief that closing the street off to the public and having its own private security (off-duty police officers) will make its residents safer.
Hey, Newcomb Boulevard . . . You want to live in a gated community on a cul-de-sac? Might I suggest you shouldn't live in Uptown New Orleans. Move to a place that is a master-planned community like Kingwood, Texas full of cul-de-sacs by initial design. The fact that most of our city is a grid that developed over time with no master plan pre-dating the existence of police powers (zoning) in many areas is part of what makes our neighborhoods what they are. I suspect that the limiting of access of public streets through gates and other methods (walls, bollards, etc.) and the decomposition of the fully accessible street grid that makes up most of New Orleans will be proposed and supported in the post-KTMB redevelopment of certain areas of the city--especially Lakeview and maybe Gentilly as well.
The Newcomb Boulevard situation represents yet another instance of policies and decisions given a pass by our city government that pre-KTMB likely would not have happened or at least minimally would have at least been given opportunity for public discussion and an opportunity for galvenized opposition (i.e. the Uptown anti-high rise effort two years ago). I have real concern with this Administration with what other "improvements" are going to be forced upon New Orleans in the name of progress (especially demolition of historic buildings). This city has resisted that song and dance since the 1950s and even earlier thus allowing us to retain our character unlike virtually every other major American city. Now after one watershed event nearly sixty years of preservation are going to be allowed to chipped away because of a complete reversal in previously unquestioned "preserve at all cost" principles. Drive around our city today. Notice how a building here and a building there have been demolished. Its happening every single day. And I am not talking about less than thirty year old buildings inundated with 7-10 feet of water in Lakeview or Gentilly or New Orleans East. A Mid City friend tells me a building on the St. John Church property (next to the Canal Street Robert Market shell) that pre-KTMB would have never been allowed to be taken down (or again at least without an opportunity for voiced opposition such as the Stuart Hall Affair three years ago).
Mayor Nagin's "unprecedented building boom" coming soon to a theatre near you worries me greatly . . .
TAGS: Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Newcomb Boulevard, Uptown, Louisiana