Fri, 13 Oct 2006 04:59:59
In Wednesday’s Picayune there was a rosy report about changes at NORA (New Orleans Redevelopment Authority) and how it’s going to save the city by dealing with blighted properties. Picayune man Frank Donze swallowed whole the assertions made by the Nagin Administration that NORA’s authority has been dramatically expanded, which is, to say the least, an exaggeration. NORA has long had the authority to deal more aggressively with blight but it has been an underused, underfunded and ignored agency. The presence of authority in its name is the oxymoron’s oxymoron. Btw, C Ray entered office pledging to fully fund NORA; yet another unkept promise. I hope he means it this time around.
I did get a kick out of Donze’s thrill over the new show horse NORA board appointed by Nagin. Sarcasm alert: Scott Cowen will obviously be deeply involved in NORA’s activities. I’m sure that Jim Singleton will do an excellent job representing political hacks and his protege, Oliver the Actor. Rob Couhig was probably appointed to keep his developer pals in the loop so they can swoop down and claim seized property and add to the city’s supply of luxury condos. Btw, who the hell is going to live in a luxury condo at the site of the soon to be demolished Winn-Dixie across from St. Louis Number One and the Iberville Housing Project? That’s just what the Quarter and Treme need: pricey condos instead of a grocery store. I expect that the project won’t be long for this world either in spite of all the money the feds have spent on it. Wasting money is what the federal govmint does best, after all.
Back to NORA, let’s hope that the new-n-improved NORA won’t allow the sort of demolition by neglect that occurred at 1139 St. Philip Street in Treme. This classic demo-by-neg culminated in a fire that dealt the coup de grace to this historic building last Saturday. The tragedy of this episode is that all sorts of people wanted to renovate and thereby save the building. But legal maneuvering, politics and NORA’s ineptitude aided and abetted the demo-by-neg. Morial/Nagin crony (yes, chirren, Satan and “Mr. Clean” have many mutual cronies) Roy Rodney helped put the kibosh on one particularly promising potential purchase. (I love the smell of alliteration in the morning, y’all.) I’ll let NOLA preservation diva Meg Lousteau have the last word on this sorry affair:
“So this extraordinary building, which could have been sold and renovated many times over given the immense buyer interest, will be reduced to a pile of rubble,” Lousteau said. “NORA is directly responsible for this shameful outcome. They have had the power for years to put it back into commerce, but instead perpetuated its blight until this sad event. I don’t think there’s any better illustration of the utter failure of NORA to carry out its mission of removing blight.”
Now let’s talk about demolition by boom boom. (Yes, I know most small scale demos aren’t done by explosives but demolition by boom boom has flair or is that flare?) There have been reports of unauthorized demolitions throughout Debrisville post-K. It’s even happening in neighborhoods designated as historic districts as reported recently by the intrepid Editor B. The City commission charged with reviewing demolitions should change its name from HCDRC to the Blow Stuff Up Commission or BSUC. Post-K the HCDRC hasn’t met a demolition it doesn’t love. Wearing my neighborhood leader hat, I’ve opposed a series of demolitions and they’ve all been approved. KAPOW. KABLOOEY. BOOM.
Finally, for anyone who’s interested in learning more about the wanton post-K destruction of our architectural heritage, check out Karen Gadbois’ swell web site, Squandered Heritage.