My neighborhood organization alerted me to the fact that a bunch of properties in Mid-City were coming up for code enforcement hearings. I noticed that 3016 Bienville was on the list. (I wrote a letter to Code Enforcement about this property back in April.) My neighborhood organization further advised me that “the city is more likely to take action against negligent owners if neighbors appear to testify.”

So I decided that I would testify. But first I had to appear, and that was trickier than I expected.

For one thing, properties are not scheduled for a specific time. Rather there is a designated period for a bunch of properties, running three hours or so, with no clue as to when a specific property will be heard.

Also, one little piece of information was missing in the message from my neighborhood organization, namely the location of the hearing. I didn’t realize this until I was almost headed out the door.

Hmm, well, surely it’s at City Hall, I thought to myself. So I jumped on my bike and rode down there. Locked up the bike. Removed my belt. (I always have to remove my belt when I go to City Hall in order to get through the metal detector.) Once inside the security checkpoint I looked at the directory and realized that Code Enforcement was actually at 1340 Poydras.

So I rode my bike over to 1340 Poydras, only a block away, and took the elevator up to the eleventh floor, where I wandered aimlessly like a lab rat for a while until someone asked me if I needed help. Oh, the code enforcement hearings? They’ve been moved to the Sheriff’s office. First time they’ve ever had them there.

And so it was that I found myself riding up Poydras to Broad Street. After a bit of tomfooolery involving the Broad Street overpass I finally found the correct building. I had to knock on a locked door to be admitted from the sidewalk, and I brought my bike right in with me. By this time I was about to melt from the heat and nearly delirious and just grateful to be out of the sun. I was in a large room with all kinds of people sitting around waiting.

I was late, and the hearing period was well underway. I checked in with a couple women sitting at a table in some sort of official capacity; they assured me that 3016 Bienville hadn’t come up yet. Luckily a guy I know from the Lakeview neighborhood organization was sharp enough to notice that they were wrong, that the hearing for this property had just started. I was ushered to an alcove around the corner where a couple of judges were sitting and talking to a contractor. Also at the table: my hero Karen Gadbois.

The judges asked for my testimony. I said something along these lines:

I live just around the corner from this house. I have here a couple of photos which I took myself. This first one is from 2007.

3016 Bienville

And this one was taken just a short time ago.

3016 Bienville

As you can see, nothing has changed except the weeds are taller. The front door is still standing wide open, and all the flooded furniture is just sitting there rotting.

So when I heard this property was on the docket, I decided I wanted to come down here and say that something needs to be done. It at least needs to be boarded up, and whoever is responsible needs to be held to account.

The contractor said he was working on the house now, that he’d put a dumpster in front and they were cleaning it out and that it would be gutted and boarded up in a couple days.

I added: “I think this house does contribute to the architectural fabric of the block, so I hope it isn’t torn down. I would like to see it renovated.”

One of the judges said she’d take a very dim view of any demolition request from the owner. They found him guilty. That’s a $500 fine, plus $500 per day if the property remains out of compliance starting 30 days from now. At least I think that’s right; I was still somewhat delirious.

Boom, that was it, I had made my testimony, and I was free to go my way. Shortly thereafter I passed by 3016 Bienville and saw that indeed there was a dumpster there and indeed it was being filled with the flooded contents of the house.


I saw the contractor on the front porch and I gave him the thumbs-up and congratulated him on being a man of his word. He said something, but I couldn’t hear him. I was listening to music on my headphones.

Hair Ideas

Hair Ideas

We were sad to see a bank repo underway at the corner of N. Rendon and Iberville. That’s the site of Hair Ideas, where I sometimes got my hair cut. I forget the name of the lady who was the proprietor. I think she also owned the building, which contains some apartments. She made a couple years of effort to bring her business back after Katrina, but I guess it wasn’t enough. I’m sorry to see this local neighborhood business go.

Here’s a picture of me after my first visit, in July of 2007. It wasn’t exactly the style I wanted, but I was still a very happy customer.

Spontaneous Haircut

Getting My Stripes

After many phone calls and much wheedling, pleading and cajoling, it appears I’m getting my stripes.


Those are pedestrian crosswalk-style stripes to mark the Jeff Davis bike path as it crosses Tulane Avenue. Since they were resurfacing Tulane Avenue (and Airline Highway) it seemed like a good time.

The idea of course is that it’s a cheap way to enhance safety. Many motorists won’t notice the stripes at all, but a few will. If even a small percentage of people become more aware of the path it will help.

Of course, such striping would also be desirable at the dozen or so other street crossings the bike path makes, but Tulane Avenue is possibly the busiest. Canal Street would be good too.

However, the real hazard at Tulane Avenue is the fact that a cyclist can’t see when the light is about to change. Every so often I will get stranded on the neutral ground, which on Tulane is razor-thin, without even room for a bike. I have to turn my bike sideways while the cars whiz past on either side, way to close for comfort. Possible solutions would be a button to delay the light changing for a few seconds, or one of those countdown displays that lets you know when the light’s about to change.

I’m not holding my breath. But please allow me a moment to revel and bask in the glory of these stripes.

Mid-City Community Garden

My neighborhood is still capable of surprising me every now and again. Such was the case yesterday when we stopped by the Mid-City Community Garden for the first time.

Mid-City Community Garden

Amazing! Here in the shadow of Tulane Avenue are colorful raised beds full of beautiful vegetables.

Cabbage Etc

We were there for a fundraiser event — a mere $5 for a plate of BBQ ribs plus half a dozen sides. Delicious and filling.


But most of all I was impressed by the vision of Joseph Brock and his cohorts. It’s this kind of community spirit that makes me love my neighborhood.

For more information, visit midcitycommunitygarden.com.

Oh, and check out this message, hand-painted on the building next door:

This Owner Don't Care

Keep Out — This Owner Don’t Care — The Block Do!

This really says it all about the problems of blighted property and absentee landlords here.

Postscript: As I was writing this I got word that a former president of our neighborhood organization, Jim Taylor, passed away last night. This makes me sad. Jim was a good guy. He would have loved this garden project. I wonder if he ever got a chance to see it.

Dear Mr. Carrere

Dear Mr. Carrere,

Your name was given to me as a good person to contact in Code Enforcement for the City of New Orleans.

Unfortunately a number of homes in my immediate neighborhood remain hazardous eyesores that have not been properly remediated since the floods of 2005.

Today I am writing to you about what I consider to be the worst of the lot: 3016 Bienville. This double today stands with both doors open and moldering furniture visible inside from the curb. It has never been gutted or even secured. Since I live literally around the corner, I pass by this house often. What I see makes my blood boil. But imagine how the people feel who live one or two doors down or across the street and must gaze upon this travesty every day — not to mention keeping their kids out of harm’s way.

This is a historic shotgun double, and as such it is an important part of the fabric of the block. It does not need to be demolished. Indeed its demolition would add injury to insult. It should be renovated. And in the meantime, it should be secured immediately.

It makes me furious to contemplate how a property owner could be so irresponsible, and so disrespectful to me and my neighbors. But furious or not, I understand that some people are just bad eggs. I can accept that. What I wonder about, and the reason I am writing you today, is to ask this question: What can the city do to hold the owner of this property accountable? What will you do?

For my part of I have filed every kind of report I can imagine on this property. We have received assurances that he’s going to sell, etc. And yet today the building still stands there without even the rudimentary and step of boarding up the front door as required by ordinance.

Personally I believe the owner should be fined and punished to the fullest extent of the law.

At the end of my rope,

Bart Everson

PS: You can see a picture of the house here.

3016 Bienville

Note that this photo was taken almost two years ago and not one thing has changed since then, except the weeds have gotten higher.
Continue reading Dear Mr. Carrere

Brick Trick

Here’s my new desktop wallpaper, courtesy of Brother O’Mara:

Brick trick

This photo was taken on Iberville in Mid-City, up near N. Telemachus. I’ve passed by this drainpipe many a time and thought it would make a great picture. I finally snapped a crappy shot with my phone, which led to Brother O’Mara to visit the location and take a much more compelling photograph.


I commented a year ago (to the very day!) that some sidewalks around our home were impassable, some friends recommended a stroller upgrade. They didn’t understand that our stroller wasn’t the problem. The major obstacle just around the corner was Gwen’s FEMA trailer, as pictured here:


I don’t think any stroller in the world could jump over that thing.

Well, Gwen’s renovation is finally done. She’s out of the trailer and back in her house. And some time last week the FEMA trailer was removed at last. And now that stretch of sidewalk is passable. I know because I walk it every day with a baby strapped to my chest. Navigating that block was actually a bit tricky, and it just got a lot easier, which also means safer. So I’m happy for Gwen, for myself, and for another sign of progress on the long hard slog of this recovery. It may not seem like much, but it means a lot.

Now if I could just get my other neighbors not to park on the sidewalk…

Sex Offender Notification

We got a Sex Offender Notification in the mail, about a guy who’s living six or so blocks away. The card lists the following offense: “03/27/1995 14:81 2-Molestation of Juvenile.” There’s a mugshot, as well as his name, sex, hair and eye color, race, height, weight, age, and of course his address. It’s also got his nickname: Merkey.

We got one of these years ago and it really creeped me out in two different ways. There’s the unsettling factor of contemplating a neighbor’s alleged crime. And then there’s the weird Orwellian factor of the notification itself. I’m not sure which disturbs me more.

1995. That’s fourteen years ago. Did he go to jail? For how long? And what exactly was he alleged to have done, anyway? Molestation of a juvenile… If this is to have any value beyond titillation and fear-mongering, I need more details. If he raped an infant girl, for example, I’m going to regard his presence quite differently than if he had consensual sex with a teenage boy.

Good Morning

Woke up to the sound of screaming. Actually I was already half-awake — I slept sitting up last night cradling the girl to help with her congestion. But the screaming got my attention. Xy had just gone out the door to catch her car pool ride to work. That wasn’t her voice I was hearing — I didn’t think. I extricated myself from the girl, taking care she wouldn’t roll off the bed. Sure enough, Xy and some neighbors were gathered in front of the house across the street, the Big Red Barn as I call it. Xy told me to call 911, and I did. She said there was a fight in the lower right apartment, and she went alongside the building and threw some junk at the window. She said a guy was choking a woman. There was a lot of chaos with people coming and going. I wasn’t dressed so I stayed inside and kept an eye on the girl. Xy’s car pool picked her up. The cops came about 15 minutes after my call, but by then all was quiet. They knocked on the door, got no answer, then got back in the car. By the time I pulled on some pants and shoes they were gone.

Xy called from school with her theory of what went down. Her imagination can run wild at times, but this seems plausible. The Latino guys across the street hired a pair of prostitutes. One woman was black, the other white. There was a dispute about money, and that’s why the guy was fighting with the black woman and she was screaming. The white woman left her there. The black woman departed shortly thereafter, with or without the money in question. This apparently all happened before Xy even left, because she told them, “Don’t ever come back here, I’ve got your license number.”

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

Neighborhood Grabbag

Here’s a number of Mid-City things on my mind lately:

  • Looks like they’re working to renovate the bar at the corner of Bienville and Rendon. Anyone know if they’ve applied for a liquor license? We should keep an eye on this. I don’t mind a bar near my house as long as they know how to prepare my favorite cocktails, but good bartenders are hard to find these days.
  • Speaking of bars, has anyone been to Lookers at Jeff Davis and Canal?


    Can we at least agree that’s a terrible name for a bar? I wouldn’t be caught dead in a place called Lookers.

  • Speaking of Jeff Davis and Canal, I notice they’re tearing up the earth all around the statue of Jefferson Davis. Does anyone have any idea what they’re doing? It looks like the continuation of a project that’s been going in fits and starts for years, but what the end goal is I can’t imagine. Perhaps they are going to put up an electrified fence to ward off vandals. Or maybe lights to illuminate the visage of this great champion of white supremacy at night. In any event, we never seem to hear about this project through MCNO so I can only assume the folks behind this have no desire to communicate their intentions to the neighborhood.
  • I read yesterday about how the City is persecuting some poor woman for painting the sidewalk in front of her house. They want to remove the sidewalk and bill her for it. So today as I was walking my daughter to daycare, I took a picture of a typical sidewalk in our neighborhood:


    This is neither the best nor the worst Mid-City has to offer, but it’s clearly in need of repair. Compare this with the painted sidewalk the city is all worried about:

    davids house

    That makes no sense to me. Where is the sense of priority?

Update: When I posted this to our neighborhood discussion group, one person replied, “I think your comment on white supremacy was out of line. I personally take that comment offensive.” At first I thought he was defending Jeff Davis. Then I thought maybe he just didn’t like hearing anything about racial politics. Then it occurred to me that he might be coming from a completely different angle. Really, his complaint was so vague that I really didn’t know what he meant. I thought it best to at least clarify myself, which I did thusly:

I am sorry. I did not intend to offend anybody. I was trying to write about some neighborhood issues with a humorous slant. Perhaps you thought my comment was made in earnest, so please allow me to clarify: I believe the ideology of white supremacy is wrong. I’m against it, and when I cited Davis as a “great champion” of white supremacy I was being sarcastic. That is, I do not feel there is anything “great” about white supremacy. I understand that in the time of Jefferson Davis almost all white Americans believed in white supremacy. Yes, Jefferson Davis was a white supremacist, but he was far from the boldest proponent of that cause. Today white supremacy is largely repudiated even amongst white folks — as most clearly evidenced by the election of Barack Obama. I think that’s progress. Yet the past is not so easily escaped. I believe the notions of white supremacy still have a tenacious hold in all our minds. In our region of the country in particular it is a special moral challenge which we all should face up to. I understand this is complicated. I’m not trying to put myself on a pedestal of moral superiority. I say such things in hopes of renewing the commitment we all share as we work together for a more just and humane society.

Bienville Square

I spent an hour or so today and another yesterday distributing 200 fliers around the immediate neighborhood on behalf of Mid-City Neighborhood Organization.

Here’s the text of the flier:


The Mid-City Neighborhood Organization
Requests Your Attendance
at a Public Meeting
Grace Episcopal Church (3700 Canal St.)

To Give Input on a Proposed, 54-Unit, Mixed-Income Housing Development that is funded largely with public grants and tax incentives.

It Will Front on Bienville Street and Be Bounded by N. Salcedo Street, N. Rendon Street, and Conti Street

The Legal Notice Published in the Times Picayune Follows:

Notice to Public: BPBM, LLC is making an application for Housing Tax Credits and LRA/OCD Piggyback funds, with the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency and LRA/OCD to develop Bienville Square, a new construction Mixed Income development consisting of 50 new apartment units. The project will also include an on-site community center which will provide social services, including after school programs, adult education program, and computer training. The site is located in the 3100 block of Bienville Street, New Orleans, Louisiana 70119. The site is bounded by Bienville Street, North Salcedo Street, North Rendon Street, and Conti Street. The total cost of development will be $11.285,750 and will be funded with approximately $3,527,350 in investor equity generated from the sale of tax credits, $6,100,000 in CDBG LRA/OCD Piggyback funds, and $1,658,400 in private equity and deferred developer fee.

Published in The Times-Picayune 8/10. Updated 8/10



The site in question is on the next block over from our house. It housed a FEMA trailer site after Katrina, and it’s currently vacant.

Vacant Lot in 300 Block of N Lopez

Obviously what’s built there could have a big impact, positive or negative, on us and all our neighbors. The idea to build housing on this site has actually been in the works for years, but the previous owner didn’t seem interested in engaging the community anymore than he absolutely had to. Now the property is changing hands, and the new developer says he wants a dialog with the neighborhood. I don’t know if that’s just lip service or if he’s for real; but a lot of times we don’t even get lip service.

The weather’s been beautiful, so it was very pleasant to walk around the neighborhood and talk to people. Interesting, too, to see the state of things around here. We still have plenty of vacant houses that have not been renovated since the flood. We have houses that look unoccupied and dilapidated, but when you get close you hear the Saints game or a baby crying and realize people are living there after all. And we have a few really nice houses too, and all manner of in-between. All right next to each other.

People asked me if I was for or against the development. The answer isn’t a simple yes or no for me. I want to learn more. Since public money is involved, I feel all the more strongly that the public should have a voice in the process. The architect for the project is Clifton James; us Mid-City residents got to know and trust Cliff in the Lambert process, since he was our assigned planner. So that’s a positive. But I’m particularly interested in that “community center” that’s mentioned in the legal notice. It sounds great — a little too great. That makes me suspect it’s just a publicity stunt, so to speak. They shouldn’t get public money on the back of an empty promise.

PS: The girl was feeling well enough Saturday that Xy and I took her with us as I passed out fliers — her first taste of community organizing.

Also, I should note that the neighborhood organization’s main request was that the developer throw in some units for purchase. The developer has indicated he’s receptive to that. A few owner-occupied units could anchor the block. This area of Mid-City is overwhelmingly composed of rental properties, with homeowners like us sprinkled here and there.

Lindy Boggs

What’s that floating in the water? Yes, it’s a portable toilet!


This picture was taken on the entrance ramp to the basement of the Lindy Boggs Medical Center on September 24, 2008. This is not Katrina flooding. Apparently all the Katrina water was pumped out. But the basment has filled back up with water since then. Basements without electricity to run pumps are kind of a bad idea in New Orleans.

I’ve started a new photo set called “The Facility Formerly Known as Lindy Boggs Medical Center.” Only five pictures there, but no doubt more to come.

Actually I should probably start a group, and invite others. Some other people have been taking interesting pictures at the site. Here’s one from Xy’s cameraphone.


Those are electrical trucks bedding down for the night, after a hard day of restoring power, after Gustav.

Creating a group on Flickr only takes a minute. Here it is: Lindy Boggs. I think this would be a good place for pictures of Lindy Boggs herself, as well as pictures of the hospital in its heyday, as well as its current state of dilapidation.

Now to invite some others. I remember Derek had a nice photo from last summer:

Mid-City Emergency

Which of course must be contrasted with how it looks now:


Any others?

Jeff Davis Overpass Cleanup

I’ve often fantasized about organizing a cleanup of the Jeff Davis bike path. (For some reason I thought tribal drumming would provide a good accompaniment to the task.) It seems the Big Easy Roller Girls are actually doing it. Now I can fulfill two fantasies in one fell swoop.
Continue reading Jeff Davis Overpass Cleanup

Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)

Police sirens drew me out of my house Saturday around midnight, and I was surprised to see a hundred young people in the street. I live behind Warren Easton High School. Their dress made it clear the school was having a dance. The police were commanding the crowd to disperse.

This morning I talked about it with my neighbor Charles. Word on the street is that some W.E. students ran into some students from John Mac at the nearby McDonald’s and there was some straight-up old school beefing. I don’t know whether it came to blows or if a weapon was discharged but something obviously went bad or the dance wouldn’t have broken up that way.

At the Meeting

So I went to that meeting last Monday night, the scoping meeting where the Veteran’s Administration sought public input on the possibility of locating their regional medical center at the old Lindy Boggs site. I won’t rehash the background details, since I already wrote about that last week. Instead I just wanted to record a few notes about what went on at the meeting before it’s completely faded from my mind.

Before the public comment, a number of officials spoke, but the person who made the biggest impression on me was Ed Blakely, the Recovery Czar. I was really taken aback by his comments. He basically said if the Lindy Boggs site was chosen, the VA would get no help from the City of New Orleans. His office will provide assistance for one site only: the “preferred site” in lower Mid-City. In other words, the City will help take land through eminent domain and raze acres of historic neighborhood — but won’t provide any assistance if the VA decides to build on the site of an old hospital. I found that strange, to say the least. Why would the City be so adamant about this? Should the Recovery Czar be bending over backward to help the VA Medical Center get built at the best possible site in Orleans Parish, regardless of any preconceived notions about where that site might be?

When the public comment section began, I saw essentially two camps: suits and citizens. All the suits spoke about the value of “synergy,” justifying the need to build in lower Mid-City next to the planned LSU Medical Center. All the citizens said, build it at Lindy Boggs. It was really quite dramatic.

I also heard a couple veterans speak. (Imagine that.) They just want the damn thing built as quickly as possible so they can get some decent medical care. Building at Lindy Boggs would seem to be the quickest route, since they’d be dealing with a single property owner, no need to mess with eminent domain, etc.

I really didn’t want to go to that meeting in the first place, but I attended out of a sense of civic duty. I kind of suspected the fix was already in, and this was all a charade. Much of what I saw there bore that out. Yet since then, I’ve heard that the VA really is considering all the possibilities. So I will be following this issue with great interest.


A friend of mine posted the following on our neighborhood discussion group:

I was working at my other house I am renovating tonight around 8:50 pm. Rendon/Conti St. Heard four/five shots fired. Looked out the back door as the shooter sped off. Shortly after I heard the cries across the street and realized someone was shot. It seems a baby was shot in the arm instead of whoever they meant to shoot. That puts me within 200′ of two drive by’s within two nights. Real scary. I heard they know who did it so I guess that means at least another drive by the next couple of nights. Street justice they call it. What a shame.

This happened about three blocks from us.

315-17 N Rendon

Here’s the story from the Times-Picayune:

2-year-old girl shot in Mid-City

By Leslie Williams, The Times-Picayune
Thursday August 07, 2008, 10:29 PM

A 2-year old girl was shot in the arm shortly before 9 p.m. in Mid-City, according to police and neighbors.

She was taken to a local hospital, said Officer Shereese Harper, a spokeswoman for the New Orleans Police Department. Her condition was not immediately available.

The shooting occurred at 315 N. Rendon St., a pink double not far from the intersection of Bienville and N. Rendon streets, police said.

“I heard about four or five shots,” said a neighbor, who asked not to be identified. “When I came outside, I saw a two-door silver car speed by.”

The neighbor said he later pointed out two cartridges on the asphalt in the 300 block of North Rendon to police who arrived at the scene.

A woman started crying and yelling once she realized the child was injured, neighbors said.

Harper said police are trying to determine the motive for the shooting and identify suspects.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crimestoppers, which is offering a reward of as much as $2,500 for information leading to an arrest and indictment in the case. The telephone number is 504.822.1111 or toll-free at 1.877.903.7867.

Leslie Williams can be reached at [email protected] or 504.826.3358.

Stuff like this scares me.
Continue reading Drive-By

VA Lindy?

Yesterday I spoke with Jennifer Weishaupt, president of Mid-City Neighborhood Organization, about the possibility of the VA hospital at the site of the old Lindy Boggs Medical Center (Mercy Hospital).

As you may be aware, Victory Real Estate Investments has assembled some parcels of land, including the old hospital. They were hoping to build a big retail complex, but because of the downturn in the national economy, that’s looking less likely.

So Victory recently offered the land to the Veteran’s Administration. According to Jennifer, the VA has been made aware of the plans for the greenway along the Lafitte Corridor. Indeed, they seem to have an appreciation for the value of it — and it kind of makes sense, doesn’t it, that a public health entity would see the value of a public health infrastructure.

Alternative Site for VA Hospital

The illustration above shows the proposed alternative VA site (yellow border) and the path of the greenway on the Lafitte Corridor (green line).

But moreover, I think the Lindy Boggs site offers some advantages over the current “front runner” location in lower Mid-City.
Continue reading VA Lindy?

A Few Humble Suggestions

The Louisiana Department of Transportation held a public meeting at City Park Tuesday night to gather input for a statewide bicycle/pedestrian master plan. I missed it, but good ole Charlie London tells me we can still send ideas to [email protected]

Here’s what I sent:

I commute to work every day in New Orleans using the Jefferson Davis Parkway bike path. A simple, cheap thing could be done to enhance the safety of this path — just put some of those white bumps on pavement where the path crosses the various streets. This would help motorists know the path is there. Also, how about a sign or two indicating there’s a bike path? And finally, where the path crosses Tulane Ave. is quite dangerous. Cyclists can’t tell when the light will change and I often get stuck on the neutral ground, which unfortunately is very narrow and difficult to be on with a bike because the cars are passing in very close proximity. I’m not sure what the best solution is here but something could surely be done.

I’m don’t know if this is the kind of information they were looking for. Probably not. Oh well. I’ve been wanting to make these suggestions for years and I’ll pretty much tell anyone who listens. I think this path is maintained by the city, not the state. Maybe I should send it to the Department of Public Works or Parks & Parkways.

Update: I got the following in reply.

Thanks for your comments. We are working on a statewide bicycle and pedestrian policy plan for the LDOTD, so while your comment can be part of the public record, which may be helpful to the bicycle and pedestrian coordinator in the future, we aren’t doing a case by case look at all bike facilities in the state – we are focused on the policy that ‘drives’ the project development process.

It’s my understanding that that bike path is city maintained, so you may want to contact the public works department, or the Regional Planning Commission.