30 August 2006

South Claiborne/South Carrollton Walgreens AND Robert Fresh Market Re-development

A good thing happened last week in post-KTMB New Orleans. Team Walgreen's (the corporation, developer, and legal representation) has agreed to submit a pharmacy/grocery store site plan that meets the criteria of the Carrollton Avenue Overlay Zone at the old Canal Villerie/K&B site on the northwest corner of the South Carrollton/South Claiborne Avenue intersection. Additionally, they have agreed to work in good faith with the city and the neighborhood citizens to arrive at a legal, aesthetic, and appropriate design solution all parties will be happy with. About a month ago, Team Walgreen's stated adamantly they had absolutely no intentions of going back to the drawing board on their design. Fortunately, they have re-evaluated that stance. A win-win solution is perhaps now in sight.

Check out the Northwest Carrollton Neighborhood site for the scoop on this breakthrough after several months of stalemate. These guys, along with Ms. Midura and her staff, have worked tirelessly to make it happen. The transformation of this corner, along with the realization of the grand potential of Palmer Park across the street, can be symbolic in the rebirth and recovery of our New Orleans . . .

TAGS: Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Walgreens, Shelley Midura, Carrollton, Urban Planning

Katrina Anniversary Plus One

At least President Bush can now admit that he screwed up the Katrina response--big time. Admission is the first step to recovery. Too bad it took 365 days to say it. When I heard it, I couldn't help but think of Stevie Wonder singing about Richard Nixon over 30 years ago.

We are amazed but not amused
By all the things you say that you'll do
Though much concerned but not involved
With decisions that are made by you

But we are sick and tired of hearing your song
Telling how you are gonna change right from wrong'
Cause if you really want to hear our views
"You haven't done nothing"!

It's not too cool to be ridiculed
But you brought this upon yourself
The world is tired of pacifiers
We want the truth and nothing else

And we are sick and tired of hearing your song
Telling how you are gonna change right from wrong'
Cause if you really want to hear our views
"You haven't done nothing"!

The Gulf Coast will have its eye on you, W. I truly hope you're being sincere. Katrina will still be a problem after mid-term elections this fall. Are you going to give us great soundbites on the anniversary and then forget about us again?

God knows the media has. Yesterday was "Katrina Overload Day." Now they've moved on to more important things: polygamists and perverts.

Maybe I'm being too hard on media exploitation. Wait, maybe not. I guess we'll see you again in 3 years and 364 days.

TAGS: Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Gulf Coast, We Are Not OK, Bush

PBS NOW WITH BILL MOYERS: Losing Ground Transcript--September 2002

While looking for something else, I happened upon this transcript from a segment on the PBS NOW with BILL MOYERS program entitled "Losing Ground" discussing coastal Louisiana's enormous wetland loss. Mike "I'm not a career politician--but my grandfather was Governor in the late 1800's" Foster was halfway through his second term, and a participant in the piece, when this aired four years ago in September 2002.

TAGS: Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Coastal Erosion, We Are Not OK, Louisiana

29 August 2006

A Year Without Progress

The New Orleans skyline seen from the Westbank and Lake Salvador.

A year later and no real progress has been made in reducing the risk of flooding in New Orleans from future hurricanes. To recap, Hurricane Katrina was a moderate sized storm that passed to the east of New Orleans bringing the greatest wave and wind energies to bear on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Flooding occurred to St. Bernard Parish, New Orleans East, and much of Orleans Parish west of the Industrial Canal from waves overtopping the levees, quickly followed by catastrophic failures of flood walls and levees (that were never overtopped) that severely flooded New Orleans making it impossible to remove the water via forced drainage. Since the storm, the only flood control measures implemented have been to repair the damaged levees and flood walls and start to bring the levee system back up to their original design levels (approximately Category 3 protection).

What this means for ALL metro New Orleans residents is that if a similar or larger hurricane passes just west of New Orleans, all of New Orleans will flood, even without any levee failures. Barataria Bay will rise over the levee system on the West Bank and flood the West Bank communities; Lake Pontchatrain will crest the Orleans Parish levees and flood Orleans and East Jefferson Parishes. St. Bernard Parish will be flooded from the south and east. This has been predicted by numerous modeling efforts and continues to place all of Metro New Orleans at risk.

Immediate steps that can be taken to reduce wave height from this type of storm include coastal restoration projects such as rebuilding the barrier islands with offshore sand sources and large-scale river diversions. The wave heights can be greatly reduced by forcing the waves to cross tall, wide barrier islands and then cross 50+ miles of intact marsh. Implementing coastal restoration projects is expensive but will have long-term self-sustaining benefits to hurricane and flood protection in Metro New Orleans. It also provides protection with a minimum impact to existing infrastructure. The cost tag is the problem and would probably require the state and Federal governments to pony up about $1 billion annually for approximately 10-15 years. However, that cost is minor compared to building massive flood control projects.

Category 5 hurricane protection by levee alteration is a great idea, but will take years and years (if ever) to implement. The size of these monster levees and flood walls, and other wave reducing components within the coastal marshes and bays will impact the aesthetics and infrastructure of New Orleans causing a tremendous amount of controversy. Because of this (and a cost that is probably tens of billions of dollars), I would be surprised if an infrastructure associated with Category 5 protection system gets built in the next 25 years.

Insurance companies, industries and future residents will all look at this problem before locating or rebuilding in New Orleans. Investment is the key to rebuilding and will only take place when progress is made on real flood protection, and the fastest, least controversial and likely least expensive way to do that is through coastal restoration projects. Therefore, New Orleans cannot truly rebuild until the risk of flooding from a moderate sized hurricane is minimized and this can only be done quickly by fully funding large-scale coastal restoration projects. Planning for many of these projects, such as barrier island restoration, has been underway for years and they only lack funding for immediate implementation. However, the Federal and state governments continue to underfund this quick and relatively easy solution to the risk from storm-induced flooding while starting new planning efforts towards hard-structure solutions for Category 5 protection.

UPDATE, 30 AUGUST 2006--5:48am:
So, I wake up this morning in a hotel room (like usual) with today's USA Today shoved under my door. Reading through the Katrina-related stories I come to an editorial by John M.Barry, who manages to steal my thunder. To read a well-written discussion of New Orleans' physical dilemma I recommend Mr. Barry's piece.

TAGS: Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Coastal Restoration, Louisiana, Corps of Engineers

One Person Who Doesn't "Remember"

Aaron Brooks. From the ESPN story:

Brooks said even all the coverage from newspapers and television stations doing retrospectives and stories on the rebuilding effort along the Gulf Coast hasn't led him to think about what he and his teammates went through at this time last season.

"No because I'm not from New Orleans," he said. "New Orleans was my place of residency for six years during the season, but I only worked there. I'm not a New Orleans native, I'm from Virginia. So I just worked there. It was a job and I have a new job. And I'm very excited about being here and I look forward to doing some wonderful things here. ... I don't even try to go back. I don't even talk about it."

There you go, Aaron Brooks defenders. He really cares (cared) a lot about you. There's some more of that legendary "leadership" he's known for. Bury your head in the sand when something bad happens. If you don't acknowledge it even happened, then maybe it didn't. Just smile your troubles away, just like you did when you threw an interception.

This guy should work for FEMA.

ADDITION: For those of you who think I'm being too hard on Brooks and kicking him while he's down, read this story about another football player who "only works in New Orleans." It's called "leadership," Aaron. And you never got it.

TAGS: Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, New Orleans Saints, Saints, NFL, Aaron Brooks



The plight of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast since 29 August 2005 (and Western Louisiana since Hurricane Rita) is the litmus test. I'd suggest if you live in other parts of the country you take interest in what happens here as your town and region could be next. Imagine your town devastated. Imagine your memories destroyed. Imagine your neighbors gone, suffering, and spread throughout the nation. Quite a bad thought isn't it? This is Southern Louisiana and Southern Mississippi's reality . . .

28 August 2006

New Orleans Saints 53 Man Roster Predictions--REVISION

Now that we've had some tranasctions and a couple of cuts, it's time to update my predictions. There hasn't been much change from the last one.

QUARTERBACK(3): Drew Brees (starter), Jamie Martin, Todd Bouman
COMMENTS: Bouman’s preseason performance gives him a chance to stick around. McPherson’s injury keeps him from gaining experience

RUNNING BACK (4): Deuce McAllister (starter), Reggie Bush, Aaron Stecker, Jamaal Branch
COMMENTS: Fred McAfee is gone.

FULLBACK (2): Mike Karney (starter), Keith Joseph
COMMENTS: I don't suspect we'll se a lot of fullback formations this year, especially if we see Bush and McAllister in the backfield at the same time.

WIDE RECEIVER (6): Joe Horn (starter), Devery Henderson (starter), Jamal Jones, Marques Colston, Bethel Johnson, Mike Hass
COULD MAKE THE TEAM: Michael Lewis, Chris Horn, Chase Lyman, Lance Moore
COMMENTS: Stallworth has been traded to the Eagles. That makes room to add one. I'm adding Hass.

TIGHT END (3): Ernie Conwell (starter), Mark Campbell, Nate Lawrie
COULD MAKE THE TEAM: Zachary Hilton, Billy Miller
COMMENTS: What the hell happened to Zach Hilton? Is this guy the second coming of John Farquhar?

OFFENSIVE LINE (9): Jamaal Brown (starter), Montrae Holland (starter), Jeff Faine (starter), Jermane Mayberry (starter), Jon Stinchcomb (starter), Jamar Nesbit, Zach Strief, Jahri Evans, Jonathan Goodwin
COULD MAKE THE TEAM: Dwayne Ledford, Ben Archibald
COMMENTS: I really don’t think Ledford and Archibald can make the team, but they only have 11 offensive linemen in camp right now.

DEFENSIVE LINE (8): Charles Grant (starter), Will Smith (starter), Brian Young (starter), Hollis Thomas (starter), Willie Whitehead, Rob Ninkovich, Rodney Leisle, Antwan Lake
COULD MAKE THE TEAM: Brandon Villareal, Tony Bryant, Jimmy Verdon, Josh Williams, Joe Minucci
COMMENTS: The Saints claimed Lake off waivers from the Falcons. And they need a veteran DT rotation. It looks like the fight for the last couple of spots will be unpredictable.

LINEBACKERS (7): Scott Fujita (starter), Mark Simoneau (starter), Scott Shanle (starter), Jay Foreman, Colby Bockwoldt, Alfred Fincher, Tommy Polley
COULD MAKE THE TEAM: Terence Melton, E.J. Kuale
COMMENTS: I get this suspicion that Colby Bockwoldt will be cut. But I'm keeping him on the roster right now. But if I was right about Stallworth (of course, that wasn't hard)....

DEFENSIVE BACKS (9): Mike McKenzie (starter), Fred Thomas (starter), Jay Bellamy (starter), Roman Harper (starter), Josh Bullocks, Bryan Scott, Jason Craft, Josh Lay, Anwar Phillips
COULD MAKE THE TEAM: Omar Stoutmire, Grant Mason, Steve Gleason
COMMENTS: I missed on Joey Thomas. I originally had him in because he was on the second team. But I'll give the last spot now to Lay for the time being.

SPECIAL TEAMS (3): John Carney (kicker), Steve Weatherford (punter)
COULD MAKE THE TEAM: Mitch Berger, Kevin Houser (long snapper)
COMMENTS: I'll switch on Weatherford for the time being. He seems fine right now as an NFL punter. There are strong rumors too that Kevin Houser is on the bubble.

OFF SINCE THE LAST LIST: Donte Stallworth, Brandon Villareal, Terence Melton, Joey Thomas, Mitch Berger

ON SINCE THE LAST LIST: Mike Hass, Antwan Lake, Mark Simoneau, Josh Lay, Steve Weatherford

UPDATE: CG at Saintsdoggle has a post covering Terry Bradshaw giving his take on the future of the Saints in New Orleans.

KATRINA DAY UPDATE: Upon further review, I have given in to the rumors and dumped Kevin Houser from the roster. I am replacing him with Keith Joseph.

TAGS: Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, New Orleans Saints, Saints, NFL, Preseason

Donte Stallworth: GONE

The Saints have traded Donte' Stallworth to the Eagles for LB Mark Simoneau and a conditional 3rd or 4th round draft choice.

Frankly it's good to get something like that for a guy we had no chance in Hell of re-signing at the end of the season. Simoneau is a "journeyman" at best, but he's better than what we've got.

Roster updates to come...

TAGS: Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, New Orleans Saints, Saints, NFL, Donte Stallworth

Recipe for Jack Crevalle

The Jack Crevalle or Jackfish, as it is more widely known here in Louisiana, is known for its fierce fighting ability. What it is not known for is being good table fare. I read a post this morning on a local fishing report website that was inquireing about good recipes for Jackfish. This is the response he got. If any of you are familiar with Jackfish, you'll get a kick out of this.

Filet the jack fish and season it with salt and pepper.
Place the fish on an oak plank.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.
Remove the plank from the oven.
Discard the fish and eat the plank.

TAGS: Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Fishing, Gulf of Mexico, Jack Crevalle

Lakeview is "Lakeville"

Flipping around the national morning shows as they all are in Katrina Extravaganza mode (when they are not talking about who showed off the most cleavage last night at the Emmy Awards--I am serious) . . .

a reporter on ABC Good Morning America standing in a gutted house on-site just referred to Lakeview as "Lakeville." Oh boy.

Also, I am noticing a constant tone that the pre-KTMB evacuation of New Orleans a year a go was a complete failure. I completely disagree and as usual they are getting the story wrong like nearly everything else about this event. See today's Wetbank Guide post on this.

I started writing a thing about Nagin on MEET THE PRESS and 60 MINUTES yesterday, but I am not going to finish it. Oyster pretty much states what I was going to say--except that Tim Russert is an idiot:

From Russert to Nagin (paraphrased): "Do you feel bad for the families that lost loved ones on September 11th?" What kind of question is that, Mr. Russert?

TAGS: Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Lakeview, Nagin, Louisiana

27 August 2006

UPDATE: Camellia Grill Sold/No Future Plans Yet Announced

Finally some news regarding Camellia Grill--as the "miss you" and "come back soon" and "P-nut" posts up notes have now expanded from the doors and windows to sharpie-pen messages upon the iconic columns . . .

Seems to me that if the place has halfway decent food, one could basically print their own money with the lore of the place alone. New ownership and a fresh renovation is probably exactly what The Camellia Grill needs. The title of the article makes it sound as if Emeril Lagasse is involved, but from the text of the article this doesn't seem to be the case. I'd prefer no E involvement personally.

May 2006 Camellia Grill Post . . .

TAGS: Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Carrollton, Camellia Grill

NYT: Outlines Emerge for a Shaky New Orleans

There is a so-so, ho-hum article in today's New York Times (registration required). I only mention it because Bill Borah and Jenel Hazlett are both quoted in the piece--and I respect both of them and their opinions. And John McIlwain of the Urban Land Institute has his usual doom and gloom of a future New Orleans consisting of mostly abandoned, broken neighborhoods. The school system gets the usual status quo treatment from the NYT: the system was miserable pre-KTMB and only 56 of 128 public schools are currently re-opened/ing with the newly-converted charter schools being hailed as the potential savior. There is absolutely no mention of the city's private schools, all of which are open and most in fact conducted a full Spring 2006 semester and in some cases some even had an at least abbreviated fall semester after the storm. Yes, we need adequate and the best public schools possible, but not even mentioning the presence of the private school system (the Archdiocese on New Orleans has fourteen high schools within the City of New Orleans alone--eleven additional ones in the suburbs) doesn't provide an accurate account of the current primary and secondary education situation in New Orleans. And unlike other places, the private schools within New Orleans are not solely the domain of the wealthy elite as most of these schools (especially the parochial schools) are predominately middle class.

TAGS: Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, ULI, Education, Louisiana

25 August 2006

Hello World

Say hello to Baby S.--one of the newest Orleanians. She was one of four babies born today at this particular hospital. Both baby and mother are doing well . . . as is dad. We could all use some sleep however.

24 August 2006

Cox Communications to Show 'When the Levees Broke' Free to All Subscribers in Metro New Orleans

Via New Orleans CitiBusiness:

Cox Communications will air HBO’s Spike Lee documentary “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts” for all subscribers free in a 7 p.m. broadcast on Cox 10 Tuesday (29 August 2006). The full four-hour, 23-minute documentary will run on Cox 10 in Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard and St. Charles parishes so viewers can experience the film in its entirety on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

TAGS: Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Spike Lee, When The Levees Broke, Documentary

STAGED . . .

I was first skeptical of Rocky Vaccarella when I saw the words "faux-FEMA trailer" in the local media before he headed off to Washington, DC from "da Parish." But it gets better as the trailer has morphed into something else in stories such as the one on this site:

Bush's comments came after a White House meeting on Wednesday with Louisiana activist Rockey Vaccarella who drove his FEMA trailer to the White House to thank the president for the trailers that many people now call home.

Nope. What was pulled up to DC was not a real FEMA trailer--it was a prop. Just like something else used as a prop.

And then during the photo-op on the South Lawn as this average, god-fearing (the cross very-carefully placed in view over his shirt) guy poses with the caring President (a guy just like old Rock--except that he attended Andover, Yale, Harvard, and owned a Major League Baseball team), old Rock drops this bomb:

"And I just wish the president could have another term in Washington."

From the Washington Post:

The Vaccarella visit was part of a preemptive effort by the White House to fend off fresh criticism of the administration's handling of Katrina as the first anniversary approaches.


Games and more games. And this city and region continues to languish . . . .

The Times-Picayune's puff on yesterday's "highly unlikely" meeting.

TAGS: Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Bush, Rocky Vaccarella, FEMA

23 August 2006

Don't Believe the Hype - About Spike Lee's Documentary

I was worried last week about Spike Lee's Documentary - When The Levees Broke. People were saying that it was only about one race, one part of New Orleans, and didn't represent a true cross section of our City. After splitting time between Monday Night's Saints preseason game when the first 2 acts were shown on HBO, I watched the entire second half (Acts 3 and 4) of the documentary last night. Yes, there were a few things that I was embarrassed for the rest of the nation to see and hear from our residents. But overall, I feel as if it was a win-win for our City. There are things/images/clips that I haven't seen, and I've been living with the trauma of a one year evacuation. First, with a pregnant wife. Later with a new born. And now, with ongoing rebuilding frustrations. We're still evacuated and haven't returned to our home in Mid City - YET. In a nutshell, I feel as if my family's strife and problems with local, state, and federal governments was well represented by the documentary. I only hope that Spike Lee doesn't end the series with Act 4 because the story is still developing - especially for those of us directly experiencing the aftermath, and haven't been made whole by the insurance companies we have been funding all of our lives. I'm curious to hear other locals reactions to the documentary. Especially people who were significantly affected by the aftermath. I really don't care who brings the specifics of life after KTMB to the national forefront. This all still feels like a bad dream, but how can you not want the rest of the world to know about our reality?

TAGS: Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Spike Lee, When The Levees Broke, Documentary

Remember: Preseason Doesn't Count

A couple of days ago, I gave Spike Lee grief about "When the Levees Broke." Now I didn't watch the documentary in its first airing (for reasons I expressed in the earlier piece--not because I'm afraid of being proven wrong), but I do plan to eventually get to it. But right now I have to get something off my chest that's been eating at me for over a day now.

Spike Lee's documentary can't be as bad as the Saints' performance Monday night.

Thank God the preseason doesn't count. But.... Anyway, I'm still working on getting an updated 53-man roster. The old one has a lot of holes now.

TAGS: Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, New Orleans Saints, Saints, NFL, Preseason

22 August 2006

Katrina 101: Katrina Literacy

The one-year anniversary is rapidly approaching. As I have stated before, I am not down there with the day-to-day experience. However, I have family and very close friends still fighting the good fight in New Orleans and Louisiana. But the one advantage I have is that I have to face EVERY SINGLE DAY conversations with people who basically have no knowledge whatsoever about New Orleans or Katrina. So I know and hear what they think. Some honestly want to know (and help) but don't have a clue about what's going on. But many others have been fed so much misinformation from newscasts, commentators, politicians, you name it, that they are almost beyond redemption on the topic.

So please indulge me as I begin a declaration. One of our primary goals at this blog is to inform people, both locally and abroad, of the issues both New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in general are facing. This is necessary, in part, because of the deficiencies of the mainstream (for profit) media, who either perpetuate misperceptions or ignore real issues for the sake of exploitation, juicy stories and higher ratings.

As I read these blogs, I see consistency in a lot of the posts. The same issues keep coming up. I have also combined them with the same old questions people ask me as well as their misconceptions. So I have created a list of issues, misperceptions and stereotypes that we have to fight as a whole. This way, in case we get lost, we can remember what we are up against.


  • New Orleans was the only victim of Katrina
  • New Orleans is entirely under sea level
  • New Orleanians were generally uninsured
  • All of the victims of Katrina were poor African-Americans
  • The entire African-American population of New Orleans consists of looters, drug dealers and murderers
  • The Ninth Ward was "just a bunch of projects"
  • The "government" blew up the levees, sacrificing poor African-American areas to save the French Quarter and affluent white areas
  • Most victims aren't coming back or aren't making a serious effort to come back and rebuild their homes and lives
  • Houston's escalating crime epidemic can be entirely blamed on Katrina victims
  • All Katrina victims wasted their assistance money on strip clubs, tattoos and Saints tickets
  • Katrina a) was the only hurricane that devistated Louisiana last year, OR b) somehow reemerged in the Gulf two weeks later and devistated Lake Charles and Cameron Parish
  • The problem in New Orleans can be ENTIRELY be blamed on corrupt New Orleans politicians (the "Chris Matthews defense")
  • New Orleanians and Louisianians in general never warned the rest of the country and the federal government about inadequate levees and coastal erosion

and, perhaps most importantly (as our president points out):


If anyone wishes to expand on the list, feel free. That's what the blogosphere is all about.

TAGS: Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, We Are Not OK, Louisiana, Gulf Coast

Map du Jour: 1828 Plan of New Orleans and Environs

1828 Odgen Plan of New Orleans and its Environs. The most noteworthy feature of this plan is the extension of Bayou St. John from the Carondelet Canal (its current-day "headwaters" near the city vehicle inspection station) into current-day Broadmoor, Fontainebleau, and Carrollton. Clinging to the Mississippi River Ridge, New Orleans is limited to Faubourg Marigny, the Vieux Carre, Treme, Faubourg St. Mary, the Lower Garden District, the Irish Channel, and the Garden District. The Bayou Road travels from the Vieux Carre to the development centered on Grand Route St. John situated on the high ground at the junction of Bayou St. John and Bayou Gentilly--the current-day neighborhood riverside of The Fairgrounds. In this view, the "Creole St. Charles" Esplanade Avenue has not yet been extended beyond the Quarter towards Bayou St. John and the Marigny Canal demarks the future location of Elysian Fields. Also, the arpent-based property lines running perpendicular from the Mississippi River can be seen from the the edge of the built city (current-day Uptown) upriver to Carrollton.

2004 LIDAR-derived Elevation Map. With the approximate extents of the 1828 plan above, this elevation map illustrates the ground elevation in 2.5 foot increments. The green and purple thematic are those areas above or at sea level and the cyan, yellow, orange, and red thematic displays ground elevations below sea level--with the orange and reds being the lowest spots. The locations of Bayou St. John, Bayou Metairie (now filled--except for the City Park lagoons near City Park Avenue), and Bayou Gentilly (now filled) in the 1828 plan are clearly visible as current-day high ground ridges. The sea-level ridge in which Carrollton Avenue transverses from Claiborne to roughly Palmetto explains why the flooding along this portion of Carrollton Avenue was not as deep as adjacent areas such as Gert Town, Hollygrove, Pigeon Town, and Broadmoor. The Esplanade Ridge (the location of Esplanade and Bayou Road) and the raised ground of the Lafitte Corridor (former location of the Carondelet Canal and railroad right-of-way) are also evident in the elevation model.

TAGS: Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Bayou St. John, Maps, Lafitte Corridor

21 August 2006

Katrina: Then and Now

Seymour D. Fair has asked me to give an outsider's perception (albeit a Louisiana native's one) of what I have seen in New Orleans post-Katrina, since I have lived in Missouri for the last two-plus years.

I was able to get down there for the first time about a month ago. I spent two days looking, one supervised by Seymour, one unsupervised. I saw all of the big-name places: the 17th Street Canal breach, Lakeview, Ninth Ward, Jackson Barracks, New Orleans East, St. Bernard, Chalmette, etc.

I was going to say something about it, but I don't know what to say that hasn't been said before. But in the last few days, we have had orientation at the university where I teach. My colleagues all knew I spent half the summer in Louisiana, so they asked me how the city was. So now I have come up with my blanket response:

A lot of New Orleans looks exactly the way it looked in the second or third week of September 2005--except for the four feet of grass which now surrounds many of the houses.

TAGS: Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Lakeview, Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans East

"When the Levees Broke"

Seymour D. Fair points out that there is a potentially well-done documentary on Katrina out there on LPB right now. However, the rest of the country probably won't see it. I probably won't, living in Mid-America, unless my local public broadcasting affiliate picks it up.

But never fear. The "mainstream" media can tell the story instead for the rest of us. The rest of us can see Spike Lee's new documentary about Katrina.

Now look, Spike. I appreciate that you were "moved" by what happened to New Orleans. I even like some of your films. But I'm sorry if I'm not sure that your film will help the city's cause. There are many problems I have with your documentary.

1. First, you are a New Yorker. We can make our own history without you carpetbaggers coming down and telling us the story that needs to be told. Would it have been acceptable if a New Orleanian was given the first chance to make a documentary about 9/11?

2. The network airing your documentary, HBO, wisely decided to air the first half of your documentary opposite a nationally-televised New Orleans Saints football game.

3. The people who really need to see this documentary and see what really happened (the "Red States" or "Jesusland") have a built-in excuse not to watch. They'll say "It's made by Spike Lee. It probably has a 'black agenda.'" So the people who should be helping us will be turned off even more.

4. Apparently the film does have a "black agenda." I'm not trying to say that African-Americans weren't catastrophically affected by Katrina. I'm just saying that concentrating on that story or by trying to say that "we were affected more than you were" will only further divide a community that needs to unite if it wants to rebuild properly.

5. The film apparently also spends a lot of time pushing the theory that "they blew up the levees." Look, I'm not ignoring history. And I wouldn't put it past the government to do things like this. But when you have more evidence than "It sounded like an explosion, but I didn't see it," then we'll talk. And, by the way, I'm thinking that millions of gallons of water crashing through a levee would sound like an explosion. I'm just saying.

6. It further feeds the national perception that New Orleans was the only victim of Katrina. Just like New York City was the only victim of 9/11. The people of Plaquemines Parish, St. Bernard Parish, Slidell and the Mississippi Gulf Coast still aren't getting their stories told (not to mention the Rita victims). I don't blame New Orleanians for this. I blame the media, who need to make a simpler, more poignant story that the average person can understand. Of course, telling the story outside of New Orleans would also force Spike Lee to throw away his "the response was poor because all the victims were black" theory. But that's another story.

7. Spike Lee apparently worked with Douglas Brinkley on the documentary. As many of you recall, "The Great Deluge" created a lot of controversy when some people accused it of having a political agenda. Again, the connection will turn off a lot of people. By the way, I am not a Nagin supporter by any means. And I have read more than half of "The Great Deluge." And while I agree that Nagin was an idiot before, during and after the response, Brinkley does have a tendency to overstate the point (while simultaneously giving Blanco and Landrieu the "at least they tried" excuse).

But, with that all being said. I hope to catch the documentary when HBO re-airs it. I'll give it a chance, in spite of my reservations. I won't be one of those people who says it's crap and never watch it. I'll be as open-minded as possible.

But I'd also like to remind the people at HBO, MSNBC, CNN, The Weather Channel, The History Channel, and anyone else interested in telling our story of one thing: We can tell our own story just as well as some Hollywood or New York filmmaker.

EDITOR'S NOTE (Seymour D. Fair): The documentary will air on PBS nationally on 7 September 2006 at 8pm Central Time. Set that TIVO, Mr. Dar Dar.

WRITER'S POST-SCRIPT (Fitch): The Wet Bank Guide has a great commentary on the same topic. It's not about race. It's about levees.

TAGS: Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Spike Lee, When The Levees Broke, Documentary

18 August 2006

4 Tacos - 5 Bucks

You've all seen them but, have you tried them? I am talking about the taco trucks that are on the corner at just about every major intersection. It's good stuff. I stopped at the one on the corner of Carrollton and Claiborne. Four corn tortilla beef tacos with homemade pico de gallo, cilantro and squeeze of lime for $5 USD. Not bad for an old delivery van. Just be careful with the salsa. It's way hot!! It is in a squeeze bottle and you add your own.

Anybody tried any other ones?

TAGS: Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Taco Stands, Mexican Food, Carrollton

Gulf Waters Slightly Cooler than a Year Ago

A finding that has surprised me is that compared to the same time last year, the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean are slightly cooler this month. With a rather warm winter where New Orleans did not see a freeze at all, I figured the Gulf waters would be warmer than normal. Warm waters above 80 F degrees are breeding grounds for tropical cyclones and my logic is that the warmer the water temperature the more chance for a hurricane developing and also the possibility for stronger storms.

I just so happen to have a oceanographer friend that works at the Naval Research Laboratory. He guided me to the Laboratory's website which has several types of remote sensing data available online for most of the oceans in the world. One data set is the Sea Surface Temperatures for the Gulf and Northern Caribbean.

In this image of Sea Surface Temperatures from one year ago, the dark maroon color that dominates the central and Northern Gulf of Mexico is right at the 30 Celsius mark(86 F).

This Sea Surface Temperature map taken 2 days ago clearly shows that the Gulf, Caribbean, and Western Atlantic waters are cooler than 1 year ago.

Although comparison of the two maps make them look much different, I have determined that the Northern Gulf is only 1 shade lighter in the 8-16-2006 image (using Photoshop to test the colors). Since there are 5 different shades of color between each Celsius degree, this means that the Northern Gulf of Mexico is only cooler by 0.2 degrees Celsius (0.36 F).

However, compare and contrast the northern tip of the Yucatan where yellow shades are present this month. Also notice that the Caribbean and especially the Atlantic waters are several shades cooler. This is significant because these are often the breeding grounds for most of the storms that end up in the Gulf.

The cooler Sea Surface Temperatures may only be a partial reason for a quiet tropical season so far. According to Climate Physicist Robert Korty, warm waters are not the determining factor in cyclone development:

One oft-stated misconception about climate change and hurricanes is that the region of tropical cyclone formation will expand with warming temperatures. Many meteorologists note that tropical cyclones rarely form in regions where the sea surface temperature is colder than 26 degrees C (78 degrees F). There is nothing magical about that temperature, however, and it's a threshold that's likely to be a function of climate. In truth, regions prone to tropical cyclone genesis are better characterized as areas in which air in the lowest layer of the atmosphere (the troposphere) is slowly ascending (that is, able to convect) -- this is true in the tropics, but not in higher latitudes.

Whatever the reasoning for the relative tropical quiteness, I can at least begin to understand why this season's storm predictions have been downgraded, even though we head into what has been historically the most active month. It's at least nice to know that water temperatures are not as hot as last year.

Washing Away: Losing Louisiana, A Louisiana Public Broadcasting Documentary

Passing this along . . .

Christina Melton, an award winning Louisiana Public Broadcasting producer has completed a powerful documentary that will air within Louisiana on public broadcasting stations on the one-year anniversary of Katrina on August 29, 2006 at 8:00 p.m. It will air again in Louisiana on LPB on September 3, 2006 at 4:00 p.m. The documentary will air on PBS nationally on September 7, 2006 at 8:00 p.m. Central Time.

WASHING AWAY: LOSING LOUISIANA – the story of Louisiana’s disappearing coastline and how this unfolding crisis affects all of America - is told through the eyes of people affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. It is narrated by academy award winner, Susan Sarandon.

You can see a preview of the Washing Away at the following link. Scroll down to the bottom of the poster at the link and you can see a preview of the documentary.

TAGS: Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Louisiana, Washing Away: Losing Louisiana, Documentary

15 August 2006

Photos du Jour: Raisin' the House . . .

Above are two examples of "off-the-ground" 1920/30's-built houses whose owners have decided to raise them even higher post-KTMB. Although both of these Mid City houses along the Bayou St. John Ridge took in water a year ago--you know, because of that admitted human error thing, neither are required by law to be elevated further. I've noticed a handfull of exisitng houses throughout the city in Mid City, Gentilly, and Lakeview that have either already been raised or in the process of being raised. I plan to document as many as possible.

TAGS: Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Mid City, Bayou St. John, Flood

The Rising Tide Conference Banner Unveiled . . .

I like it, comrade.

Care about the future of New Orleans? Understand that the drowning and destruction of New Orleans was not a natural disaster (i.e. a 30-foot high storm surge that swamped Eastern St. Tammany and the Mississippi Gulf Coast), but instead a manmade one due to failures of engineered flood protection systems? Think that government at all levels has failed and continues to fail New Orleans and her citizens?

Yes. Yes. And yes.

Check out the Rising Tide Conference site and the Rising Tide Wiki site about an event being held next weekend organized by a core group of those behind the NOLA Blogs listed in the links to the right. Saturday, 26 August 2006 is the day the bulk of THE RISING TIDE CONFERENCE will take place. The venue is the New Orleans Yacht Club at West End.

TAGS: Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Louisiana, Rising Tide Conference, Activism

14 August 2006

Washington Post: Life Around Dupont Circle Takes a New Turn

One of my greatest fears concerning the future of our neighborhood/local commercial districts/corridors such as the Vieux Carre Royal/Decatur Streets, Faubourg Marigny Frenchman Street, Lower Garden District Magazine Street, Garden District/Irish Channel Magazine Street, Jefferson City Magazine Street, Carrollton Maple and Oak Streets, and Mid-City North Carrollton Avenue is the transformation from being home to mostly locally-owned businesses to the location of primarily national, traditionally suburban or mall retail chain stores. I had this concern before KTMB, but even more so post-KTMB and given the alledged "pro-business" stance of OUR MAYOR (tm), I think there is reason for concern. These often-time long established, locally-owned and operated businesses play a significant role in the unique character of New Orleans. Once we lose such businesses, they are gone--and we take another step towards becoming Non Orleans, otherwise known as Dallas. No, thanks.

Here's what's happening in the Dupont Circle area in Washington, DC--exactly what I don't think we want to happen in New Orleans . . . . Notice how one of the local merchants believes "the beginning of the end" for Dupont Circle started as soon as Starbucks deemed the neighborhood--and it's demographics--worthy of their latte.


TAGS: Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Local Business, Vieux Carre, Urban Planning

13 August 2006

The Sean Payton Era Begins . . . with a Preseason Victory

Lots of pacing on the sideline for Sean Payton. I am still trying to determine who Payton looks like in the spirit of this.

Drew Brees went 5 for 9 for 60 yards in 1 1/2 quarters of action.

Deuce didn't play in the preseason opener. The Saints have brought back the Louisiana map logo last seen in the early 1990's. It really surprised me they didn't go for a new Gulf Coast map logo embracing an even more regional approach . . . Nice rock, Deuce.

Reggie Bush after his first "touch" as a Saint--a dump pass up the middle from Brees for a one yard gain.

On a 3rd and 4 situation, Reggie Bush turned a 4 yard loss stuff to the left into a 44 yard gain to the right in one impressive run ending with the pounding of a Tennessee defensive back. Thanks Houston.

11 August 2006

National Geographic, October 2004: Gone With The Water

I vaguely recall the October 2004 National Geographic article entitled "Gone With The Water" when it came out. The piece is about the disappearing Louisiana wetlands and starts off with a fictional major storm wiping out the Louisiana coastline and New Orleans. The predictions for the City of New Orleans sound familiar, but actually are more severe than the reality that took place nearly a year ago. National Geographic has an audio podcast with the author Joel Bourne, Jr reading the article which I stumbled across the other day using iTunes. It gives a good overview of the why the Louisiana coastline is rapidly disappearing. The article is also available as text, but I'd suggest listening to the podcast of his reading instead . . .

Interested in what our some of our fellow American's think of us and our city "in our part of the world" and the opinion New Orleans has to contend with? Browse the current August 2006 National Geographic Forum.

The latest brilliant entry at the time of this posting:

Name:Libert O'Sullivan
Date/Time:August 11, 2006 6:15 AM

Anyone who does not insure their property (especially their primary domicile) against loss is a fool. Anyone who lives in a hole, 20 ft below sea level next to the ocean with or without insurance is an idiot. Do not ask to spend my hard earned tax dollars to pay for other peoples years of buffoonery. Period.

Caring. Compassionate. A fellow American . . . .

And oh yes, so now the City of New Orleans rests 20 feet below sea level--as if the oft-quoted 10 feet below wasn't wrong enough. I think I've scientifically disproved that one in the past--with maps. Mr. O'Sulivan, don't bother yourself with factual reality. Oh, and another thing--turns out Orleans and Jefferson Parishes have among the highest participation percentage in the National Flood Insurance Program of all counties in the country. Don't concern yourself this. Just speak with rhetoric. It is easier than actually taking the time to make sure you know what you're talking about.

Other postings on the forum are similar . . . . . Oy vey.

TAGS: Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Louisiana, Wetlands, Coastal Restoration

10 August 2006

Ted's Frostop: Proudly the Home of the Upside-down Root Beer Mug

Everytime I think of Frostop I think of something a waitress told me at a Frostop (not Ted's) when I was in high school. She asked "Honey, you know why it's called a Lotto Burger?" I said, "Uh, no." She said "Because it's a lot o' burger."

The Fair Family headed over to Ted's Frostop on South Claiborne and Calhoun for lunch early Sunday afternoon. Freshly renovated and newly re-opened (the place took in three feet of water following the storm) Ted's Frostop looks better than ever and the Lotto with Chesse combo was just like before KTMB.

The iconic frosted root beer mug still rests upside-down in front of the building (it fell over during the storm) and the owners have no intention of placing the mug back atop it's pole. Humorously, they have embraced the upside-down mug as their new logo. The t-shirts the staff now wear (which can be purchased by patrons) simply have the upsidedown mug on them.

Go get a Lotto Burger . . . Or a burger at the adjacent Bud's Broiler on Calhoun. Or a drink at Robert's Bar on Calhoun . . . These places are committed to New Orleans (Robert's opened in December) and deserve business . . .

In other Frostop-related news:

Hollis P. Wood informs me that the Old Jefferson Frostop on Jefferson Highway is being forced to relocate (they don't know to where yet)--because of the construction of a new multi-story condo/apartment building. I have noticed a fence and "sales-looking" trailer has been erected on site (next to the Frostop and at the former location of the Daiquiri place and pawn shop that burned down to the ground a few days after the storm). Based on the neighborhood opposition of previous proposed "high-rise" projects in Old Jefferson, this one seems to be mysteriously flying under the radar . . . .

Some photos of Ted's Frostop:

TAGS: Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Ted's Frostop, South Claiborne, Broadmoor

09 August 2006

Los Angeles Times: Sense of Duty Lures 'Expats' Back Home to New Orleans

Several of the other NOLA blogs have already mentioned this, but I feel as if I must as well:

Markus and Ashley and Ray make today's Los Angeles Times.

I admire all three of these guys for bringing themselves--and their families back home despite the unprecedented challenges New Orleans currently faces. They are truly "walking the walk."

TAGS: Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Wetbank Guide, Ashley Morris The Blog, Ray In New Orleans

08 August 2006

Quote du Jour: Jon Stewart to Brian Williams

From the Daily Show with Jon Stewart in an interview with NBC Nightly News's Brian Williams - the interview was mostly about Williams's recent trip to cover the Lebanon-Israel conflict:
"In Lebanon or New Orleans--which do you think had the strongest U.S. Government presence?"
I honestly think the answer is Lebanon. Damn f'n shame.

View via YouTube

07 August 2006

Give Louisiana What It Deserves

I think the Times-Picayune Editorial in today's edition is a nice follow up on I.D. Reilly's previous post.

For those who don't know, because of the greed of one of our former elected officials (Leander Perez) and the stupidity of another (Earl K. Long), we get paltry sum of royalties compared to other states. We have been treated like unwanted step-children for too long.

There are two bills in Congress right now that deal with oil production royalties. The House bill is more generous and starts sooner than the Senate bill which really wouldn't provide any real funding to us until 2017. We don't have 10 minutes to wait much less 10 years.

The final outcome will likely be somewhere in the middle of the two bills. An amendment on the ballot September 30 would dedicate any funds we get from this to Coastal restoration and hurricane protection. It is extremely important that this bill passes for several reasons.

First, it would show Washington that we are going to do the right thing with the money. Second, it is only fair that the area that has been negatively affected the most by the oil and gas industry gets the benefit of the royalties. The condition of our coastline right now is critical. Don't think however, that the condition of the coast doesn't affect the whole state and the country for that matter. Kartrina and Rita proved that in grave detail.


TAGS: Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Coastal Restoration, Louisiana, OCS

06 August 2006

Coastal Restoration is Critical to the Future of New Orleans

The single greatest threat to the future of New Orleans is the continued degradation of the Louisiana coast. The building and rebuilding of levees and floodwalls is not truly sustainable without having land surrounding the levee system. The demand for Category 5 hurricane protection must include a fully funded large-scale restoration of the Louisiana coast.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with the geographic wonders of New Orleans, it is a truly unique environment for a major city in North America. The Continental Shelf actually ends at Baton Rouge, and the Mississippi Deltaic Plain south of Baton Rouge has been built by the rapid deposition of Mississippi River sediment over thousands of years. One of the largest delta complexes in the world has formed in Louisiana due to the combination of a major river with a large discharge and a low energy receiving basin (Gulf of Mexico) that does not rapidly rework the deposited sediment. Many major river systems of the world, even those with a greater discharge, do not form large deltas because they empty into higher energy receiving basins.

The rapid deposition of sediments leads to subsidence as those sediments settle and dewater under their own weight. Prior to the leveeing of the river for flood control and shipping needs (the Corps maintains a 45-foot wide deepwater channel south of Baton Rouge), the Mississippi River flooded the adjacent marshlands and provided sediments that allowed the marshes to combat subsidence and maintain their elevation relative to sea level. Also, the Mississippi River naturally switched course every couple of thousand years to a shorter, more efficient course. Bayou Lafourche and Bayou Teche are actually abandoned Mississippi River channels. The Mississippi River is kept in its current course by control structures north of Baton Rouge that allow only 30 percent of the Mississippi River flow to go down the Atchafalaya River, which is the alternate, more efficient course that the Mississippi River would prefer.

It is the natural flood and sediment deposition cycle that has created marshes across the deltaic plain, extending from the Mississippi state line, westward to the Chenier Plain. This cycle has also created all of the higher elevation upland areas along rivers and bayous where most coastal Louisiana residents live well above sea level. For New Orleans, like the rest of coastal Louisiana, areas near the river and along historic bayous (Metairie and Gentilly Ridges) are higher elevation levee ridges. The areas between the levee ridges (called interdistributary basins) were swamps and marshes, and in New Orleans were drained to create much of the city. Because dewatering of sediments in the deltaic plain naturally leads to subsidence, the physical draining of marshes and swamps leads to even more rapid subsidence.

The loss of natural flooding of the coastal marshes from the Mississippi River has caused massive degradation of the coastal zone and has led to numerous studies and projects to address the catastrophe. Currently most of the Louisiana coast between the Mississippi state line and Morgan City is fragmented broken marsh similar to the first photo of these degraded marshes in Terrebonne Parish. In the photo below you can see what is left of a natural levee ridge (where the camps were built) and spoil banks along canals. The rest of the marsh has subsided and deteriorated to the point where it is nearly impossible to differentiate between the bayous and the marshes.

Photo 1: Degraded Marshes in Terrebonne Parish.

The solution is incredibly simple and incredibly complicated at the same time. Restoration of the coastal zone can occur naturally through river flooding. The only location in coastal Louisiana where marsh building is occurring is in the Atchafalaya Delta south of Morgan City. This area is capturing 30 percent of the Mississippi River flow and is not constrained by levees south of Morgan City allowing the sediment rich water to flood across the adjacent marshes. The second photo is of the marshes located just west of the Atchafalya River Delta, and shows how marshes in coastal Louisiana should look. As can be seen in the below photo, the bayous are distinct and the marshes are fully intact with little to no open water areas.

Photo 2: Healthy Marshes in St. Mary Parish.

The complication to coastal restoration is wrestling with existing infrastructure. Levees and channel flow in the Mississippi River are critical for maintaining shipping lanes, minimizing dredging requirements, providing flood control and protecting private property. The simple solution to coastal restoration of letting the Mississippi River flood the adjacent marshlands would destroy the lives and homes of many people in the coastal zone.

However, the State of Louisiana and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are embarking on a large scale ecosystem restoration program for the coast and it is critical that it is fully funded and implemented. The Coast 2050 Plan will attempt to make major changes to the river in support of restoration and the protection of infrastructure. New Orleans cannot afford to wait any longer. Without a complete restoration of the coast, New Orleans will be more and more susceptible to hurricane damage in the future as it becomes an island. The west bank is becoming closer and closer to open water environments each year. Levees alone as a protection method are not sustainable because they too subside, often at a rate faster than the surrounding land due to their greater weight. If we really want protection from major storms in the near term, and from sea level rise in the long term, coastal restoration for Louisiana must receive priority funding, even before raising the levees to a level that provides Category 5 protection. The cost tag will be many billions of dollars. Although it sounds like a lot of money, the Federal government has no problem providing this kind of money for Everglades restoration or the restoration of the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta in California. Coastal restoration planning and implementation is every bit as important as the urban planning efforts to the rebuilding and sustainability of New Orleans, and must be taken into consideration in any discussion of the future of New Orleans.

TAGS: Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Coastal Restoration, Louisiana, Corps of Engineers

05 August 2006

The Great New Orleans Baby Boom of 2006?

The Fair Family attended a neighborhood birthday party this afternoon. There were about fifteen children at the party--and five of the moms there (including my wife) are "busting out" pregnant. As we approach the first year anniversary of KTMB, it's sort of hard not to notice over the past few months the incredible amount of pregnant women seen around New Orleans. Grocery stores. Drug stores. Restaurants. Everywhere.

ABC News had a story last week on the Katrina Baby Boom and the Times-Picayune did one back in early July.

Repopulassssssssssssshon (in Cajun Man-speak).

In other news, I've got a mouse in my house. Pregnant women don't care for mice in their houses.

TAGS: Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Baby Boom, Louisiana

04 August 2006

Bureau of Governmental Research--"Planning for a New Era: Proposed Charter Changes for Land Use Decision Making in New Orleans"

From an email I received this morning:

Today the Bureau of Governmental Research issued "Planning for a New Era: Proposed Charter Changes for Land Use Decision Making in New Orleans."

And about this report:

The alternative to the ad hoc, dysfunctional land use planning process that we have suffered under for decades has arrived. Now the task is to get the City Council to approve this Amendment to the City Charter and to submit this Amendment to the citizens of New Orleans for a vote. If you believe in the preservation of the unique character of this city, if you support economic development that compliments the special nature of New Orleans, if you believe that every citizen should have the right to define the neighborhood in which he, or she, lives and works, you will support this Charter Amendment and encourage its adoption. Contact the members of the City Council, support the adoption of this Amendment to the City Charter, and give New Orleans a Master Plan for the redevelopment of the city that both the public as well as the private sector will be required to follow.

The report, containing the proposed amendment to the city charter, can be read here.

TAGS: Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, BGR, Master Plan, Urban Planning

WWL Eye on the Saints Blog

WWL TV currently has a Saints blog online with several new posts a day covering the latest developments as training camp continues up in Jackson.

I am soooo ready for the football season to begin--as I always am each August, but this year even more so as last year was a blur I'd soon rather forget. Those "home" Saints games in Baton Rouge--please erase that god awful experience from my memory. Those were dark, dark days.

Even the LSU season last year is a blur (and LSU only lost two games) with exception to the merciless beating of Miami 40-3 (which I savored every last moment of in person in Atlanta) at the Peach Bowl.

TAGS: Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, New Orleans Saints, Saints, NFL, LSU

03 August 2006

Maps du Jour: Aerial Views of Lakewood North

My friend Redtoe-3 (no, he's not a rap star) grew up in and up until August 2005 lived in the Lakewood North neighborhood--which is the residential area hemmed in by I-10 to the south, Veterans to the north, the 17th Street Canal to the west, and Pontchartrain Boulevard to the east. I recall him telling me that when he was growing up he'd find golf balls in the ground every so often as the neighborhood was developed upon the former West End Country Club golf course.

On 29 August 2005 his forty-year old, on slab house became immersed in 9+ feet of water. He and his wife have had their emotional up's and down's since August, but like Tim and his family they have overall stayed amazing positive and shown great resolve over the past eleven months. I don't know that I would handle myself as well if my home (and possessions) had been completely ruined such as their's.

The New Orleans Public Library has since the early days of the world wide web provided an "images of the month" section. Over the years, I've spent countless hours browsing the old photographs and other imagery posted on the site as there is some great, great stuff digitized and viewable online. For the August 2006 offering, the NOPL has posted digital scans of twelve aerial photographs of certain areas of New Orleans taken in 1946. One of those panels includes the area consisting of Redtoe-3's Lakewood North. First, up--a vicinity comparison using USGS 1:24,000 quad maps:

1946 NOPL Archives:The canal on the left (the west) is the 17th Street Canal. The canal on the right (the east) is the New Basin Canal bound by Pontchartain Boulevard (then State Highway 33) and West End Boulevard. The drainage ditch splitting the land between the two wide canals demark the location of current-day Fleur-di-Lis Boulevard. The West End clubhouse seen towards the right (southeast) corner of the image is approximately the present-day location of the recently pre-KTMB constructed I-10 railroad-dip pumphouse. Woodlands affront the 17th Street Canal on the Jefferson Parish side.

2004 USGS DOQ Quad: It is amazing how much land highway interchanges require. The heavy tree canopy of Southern Live Oaks denote the street pattern of Lakewood North and the portion of Lakewood South seen in this image.

2005 Post-KTMB Aerial, Lakewood North Detail: 7 to 10 feet of floodwater sits in Lakewood North. This image was captured in the first week of September 2005.

TAGS: Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Lakeview, Lakewood North, GIS, Maps

South Carrollton/South Claiborne Walgreen's Redevelopment: Two Site Plan Design Alternatives

Gonna keep this one short y sweet . . .

The South Carrollton/South Claiborne Walgreen's Redevelopment issue goes back before the City Council today. I don't have any sure indication of what is going to transpire in the council chambers, BUT . . . let me offer not one, but two alternate site plans courtesy of Carrollton resident/architect Rodney Dionisio that more appropriately provide for both drug store and grocery store uses. I personally prefer the efficiency of Alternative 2.

Team Walgreens, please seriously consider such design alternatives more compatible with the urban characteristics of the site location. Be the hero.

Alternative 1. Surface parking only.

Alternative 2. Surface parking and rooftop parking upon grocery structure.

01 August 2006

South Carrollton/South Claiborne Walgreen's Redevelopment: T-Minus Two Days Until Issue Back Before New Orleans City Council Again . . .

Nearly two weeks ago the New Orleans City Council vote on the requested zoning variance for the proposed Walgreen's redevelopment at South Carrollton/South Claiborne was deferred upon request of District A Councilperson Shelley Midura. Ms. Midura gave an impassioned plea to Walgreen's, their developer, and their legal counsel to come back to the council with a compromised/alternative design that conformed with the Carrollton Avenue Overlay Zone and one that also legally assured the grocery store component of the redevelopment (which they currently lack--but you purposely wouldn't know that from their site plan handout). Additionally, Ms. Midura instructed them to come together with the adjacent neighborhoods to foster what she categorized a "win-win" solution. With two days remaining before the issue is set to before the City Council again on the 3rd of August, Walgreen's and their local representatives have--to my knowledge (and correct me if I am misinformed)--made absolutely no effort to cultivate any community involvement . . . . And since the deferral, has Team Walgreen's been working with Mr. Robert and Mr. Pivoch (sp?) to get the land/lease issues ironed out?

It is my understanding that instead of following Ms. Midura's instructions, Team Walgreen's approach is to work around her request by playing a little hardball with the other City Council representatives coercing a majority vote in favor of the proposed zoning variance. In my opinion, Walgreen's has absolutely no intention of any compromise despite Ms. Midura's good-faith negotiations. Nearly to the level of contempt Walgreen's appears to be indifferent to the wants, the expectations, or the desires of the adjacent neighborhoods.

Here is a hypothetical example of above-mentioned "hardball," but in an alterno-world New Orleans--unfortunately a New Orleans also flooded by a failed federal flood protection system. Let's say within City Council District X languishes several still-shuttered, flooded-out Floorblue's Drug Stores. District X's councilperson desperately wants at least one or two of the stores to re-open to offer the district's rebuilding constituency some degree of normalcy and to illustrate to the voters of District X that their councilperson is indeed working on their behalf. If Floorblue's conveys to District X Councilperson that those stores will never re-open upon a vote against the proposed controversial zoning variance in District Z, what is District X Councilperson to do? Hmmmmmm--a dilemma.

From 1998 to 28 August 2005, the very deliberate Walgreen's strategy with the South Carrollton/South Claiborne Canal Villerie/K&B-Rite-Aid site was to allow the existing vacant buildings to decay to as unsightly and as unsafe levels as possible. Why would they do such a thing? Because they were aware of the non-"plop and drop" design guidelines applicable upon the site and were also aware of the consensus that the site was best suited for a much-needed grocery store--not another drug store, and especially not another Walgreen's. The way to counter that consensus and reverse it instead to leverage was to allow the place to become such a blighted eyesore (and maybe some potentially well-publicized crimes could happen on site too) that the tables would turn where the neighborhoods would be begging Walgreen's to build their store--regardless of the design. The flooding of New Orleans and the abhorrent decline of the site since the storm further galvanizes such potential "just do something" sentiment Walgreen's has been intentionally trying to provoke from nearby residents/potential opponents to the project. Additionally, Team Walgreen's is quite aware and ready to take advantage of a City Council petrified of being branded "anti-business" or "anti-development" in this fragile post-KTMB New Orleans environment. I also suspect this fear is also the reason this debate has not received the coverage in the Times-Picayune or on WWL, WDSU, WGNO, or WVUE one might expect.

Aside from the fact that anyone with a pulse understands a full-service grocery store should be the priority for redevelopment on this one remaining suitable Carrollton site and not another drugstore (in which we have many existing shopping options--including a Walgreen's towards the foot of South Carrollton Avenue), perhaps a more important reason the City Council cannot buckle and grant the desired zoning variance to Walgreen's is because it will establish a bad precedent. Technically, the variance would not create a legal "binding" precedence, but it would still send the message to developers that the City Council is willing to overlook and essentially ignore guidelines and limitations purposely put in place by professional planners for a very relevant and important reason. In other words, if an inch is given up, a mile will be desired in future instances. Therefore, don't allow any wiggle room and make the applicable rules be followed. Period. This is essential given the unprecedented amount of new development and redevelopment set to occur in the near future as New Orleans "re-builds" full steam.

This site is pivotal at one of the most important intersections within the city and serves as the terminus of the historic St. Charles Streetcar Line. The redevelopment of the site simply cannot be squandered with a poor design and wasted on a less than ideal use. What sort of message is sent if a sub-par design is accepted and approved by the City Council at such a high profile intersection? Other developers are watching this case because ultimately the City Council's decision has complete relevance towards the expectations of future projects (what will be allowed and what will not be allowed through the zoning/design review process--i.e. how many corners developers will be allowed to cut or not cut) despite any reassurances that it won't. On Carrollton Avenue alone--subject to the additional standards set forth by the overlay zone--are several flood-damaged properties that undoubtedly will be redeveloped in the very near future such as South Carrollton/Pritchard Place (3/4 of city block destroyed by fire in days following the storm), South Carrollton/Palmetto (already demolished Piccadilly's/soon-to-be-demolished Carrollton Shopping Center--a huge site), South Carrollton/Tulane (shopping center where Mid City Rock N Bowl is located--now for sale), and North Carrollton/Canal (former Canal Villerie/Robert Fresh Market slated to become, drum roll please, another Walgreen's.) These are only such sites along Carrollton Avenue . . . how many are there citywide?

Everyone would agree development and redevelopment and most importantly investment/re-investment in New Orleans is essential towards moving New Orleans forward following the events of nearly a year ago. We find ourselves at an important juncture as we need investment and the physical improvements, jobs, and tax revenue new development will create. However, we also need to retain and respect the characteristics that make New Orleans what it is and rebuild using these as the foundation--not try and circumvent them. These can co-exist--and flourish, but it takes some creativity and understanding . . . . and although Walgreen's apparently could care less (despite the invaluable PR value their cooperation in this project would garnish), the City of New Orleans is worth that effort.

Stay tuned . . .

Complete archive of THE THIRD BATTLE OF NEW ORLEANS posts on this subject (some info maybe outdated): 14 March 2006 26 June 2006 28 June 2006 11 July 2006 17 July 2006 18 July 2006 21 July 2006

TAGS: Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Walgreens, Shelley Midura, Carrollton, Urban Planning