Minor Relapse, Electoral Politics, and Music

Last night FOLC had its annual board election. I was excited but also a little nervous. We had a bigger slate of candidates than ever before, fifteen in all, for eight open seats. I wasn’t up for re-election myself; our terms are staggered and mine ends next year. But I was nervous because there was a real prospect for the four incumbents who were seeking re-election to be displaced. In governmental elections I have a severe anti-incumbent bias, but this is not government, and I find I have a great deal of loyalty to my fellow board members.

We had a great turnout, with over sixty FOLC members in attendance, casting their votes. In the end, the incumbents were all re-elected and we have four new board members who will hopefully provide us with a fresh infusion of energy. I’ve posted the results on the FOLC site.

I ended up having to speak at some length at the meeting, and in order to be heard by 60-odd people I had to raise my voice. Unfortunately my poor throat is still on the mend from whatever viral assault I’ve been fighting; I’ve been getting better daily but last night’s activities set me back a day at least.

Sometimes, there’s a silver lining. Some sore throats seem to skew my voice lower by almost a full octave. Here’s what I sound like today, singing the first part of “Philadelphia” by Magazine.

Philadelphia [Sore Throat] by Editor B

Celebrating Saturday, Morning and Night

Saturday morning I was out early conducting a short tour of the Lafitte Corridor. I was skeptical about how many people would be up for a hike at 8:30 on a Saturday morning, but pleasantly surprised when a dozen people showed up, plus a half dozen more who joined us in progress.

Edgar & Vance


Lindsay & Helen

We walked from Sojourner Truth Community Center to Bayou St. John and back. Actually we had to turn back before we reached the bayou. I was worried I wouldn’t have folks back to Sojourner Truth in time for the main event, namely the Walk and Roll Louisiana Summit 2010. I was supposed to be on a panel at the summit titled “Building successes from the ground up: The legacy of walking and cycling advocacy in Louisiana.” But thankfully I was able to get one of my esteemed FOLC board members, namely Edgar Chase, to represent us.

See, I couldn’t stick around for Walk & Roll because I had a prior commitment. The second Saturday of the month is my book club. Don’t get me wrong, I think Walk & Roll was a fantastic event, and bike/ped issues are near and dear to my heart. But I’ve been going to this book club for almost ten years now. I’ve missed a few meetings here and there because of levee failures and the like, but as a rule I do my best to be there. Second Saturdays are sort of sacred to me.

Drawing boundaries like this is important to maintaining my sanity and my sense of balance. There are many needs in this community, and I try to do my part, but in order to stay happy and healthy I have to know where to draw the line, to say “sorry” and enjoy my personal pleasures as opposed to serving the elusive public good.

(As another example, I was recently asked to serve on some neighborhood committees. I was on the verge of saying yes when I remembered that in 2008 I essentially made a vow, to my wife and my daughter and myself, to limit my involvement to one organization only. I chose Friends of Lafitte Corridor and resigned from two other boards. It was a good decision, one I need to continue to honor, so instead of serving on one of those committees I made a counter-offer. I’m going to recruit someone else as a Greenway Liaison for Mid-City. I suspect there’s a FOLC member living in Mid-City who’d like to get more active with FOLC and/or MCNO. This might be the perfect opportunity for getting started. I’m hoping that this will be a way to expand the circle of neighborhood involvement for a net gain.)

So that’s what I did Saturday morning, and I’m glad I did. I really enjoyed talking about Ted Chiang’s Stories of Your Life and Others with my fellow club members. Even so, I felt slightly guilty about not being at Walk & Roll to show my support, and about not being home to help with chores and looking after my daughter, especially after being gone most of last week.

But only slightly.

Actually, that may have added to my enjoyment. I felt like I was getting away with something.

I’m still planning to write more about the trip to St. Louis, by the way.

Saturday night, Xy and I dropped Persephone off with a sitter and celebrated — I wasn’t sure exactly what we were celebrating, but we had a good time which included dinner at Crescent Pie & Sausage. It wasn’t until Sunday that I realized it has been a year and a day since we closed on our new house. I wonder when we will stop calling it “new”?


I was headed to a meeting of the Lafitte Greenway Steering Advisory Committee this morning. I was riding down Conti, just a block or two from our old house, and I crossed through what appeared to be a small puddle. Mind, it hasn’t rained here in a couple weeks, so this puddle was bubbling up from a broken water main or sewer line of some sort. Midway through the puddle I discovered it was much deeper than it looked. As I lost momentum I had to put my foot down to maintain balance, and found myself up to my ankle.

I rode on a few more blocks and considered going to the meeting with a water-logged shoe, but when I reached Broad I thought better of it. I went back home, changed shoes and pants. I could still have made the tail end of the meeting, but I went to work instead.

By my count, this morning’s meeting is the eighth greenway-related meeting I’ve attended in as many days — or it would have been. I try to delegate, but people seem to want me at everything personally.

My shoe may be wet. My enthusiasm remains undampened. But I don’t feel too bad about missing this morning’s meeting.

Sunshine & Sausage

Selection Committee

Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.
— Otto von Bismarck

I had the chance to observe a bit of sausage-making yesterday. I attended the meeting of a committee charged with selecting a team to design a greenway for the Lafitte Corridor.

A little context may be in order. Some sixteen months ago, the previous mayoral administration selected Design Workshop, from a field of fourteen applicants, to begin design of a greenway in the Lafitte Corridor. We (meaning the board of Friends of Lafitte Corridor) were happy with the selection, but the process was a bit mysterious and vague, taking place behind closed doors. That June, a couple hundred people turned out to hike the Lafitte Corridor and meet the designers. Our spirits were high, and it seemed that real progress was imminent.

By contrast, our spirits were quite low when the administration terminated the contract with Design Workshop in January. It represented a major setback for the project. I hasten to add that the termination didn’t reflect in any way on Design Workshop but had to do with obscure technical matters relating to a conflict between the city’s policies and procedures versus the requirements of the federal government. The policies and procedures were tweaked accordingly. The administration re-issued the request for proposals, but before they could be evaluated, their term in office was up.

Then a new guy comes into office. First order of business: gotta revamp those policies and procedures again. Gotta make it more open and transparent. Well, OK, that sounds good, but could we please get on with it?

So here we are again, right back where we were sixteen months ago. And yet what a difference a new mayoral administration makes. Last time, this process was hidden from view behind closed doors. Citizen groups like Friends of Lafitte Corridor had to rely on rumor and gossip just to divine what was going on in our own government. This time, everything was different. This meeting represented the very first selection for procurement of services made under the new policies and procedures. I was able to attend the meeting and observe as the committee discussed their criteria, proposals were evaluated on a matrix, scores tallied up, and a selection made.

All I gotta say is, despite the immortal wisdom of Otto von Bismarck, that’s some pretty sweet sausage. Sunshine would appear to be the best spice.

Oh, the selected team? Design Workshop. Yes, again. They have been chosen as the best applicants twice now. Last time there were fourteen proposals. This time there were thirteen, but they were not all the same as before. So the process may be different, but the result was the same. I think it’s safe to say that Design Workshop is well-qualified for this work. The citizens of New Orleans can have confidence in this choice — and also in a process for spending public money that is open to public scrutiny. It’s a far cry from participatory budgeting, but it is a step in the right direction.

I’m certainly happy with the selection. It’s great news for this project. But it’s important to keep this in perspective. We’re finally back to where we were in April of 2009. The contract still has to be negotiated. Last time that process took half a year. Hopefully it will go more quickly this time, since it was already negotiated once before. After that, of course, the contract has to be signed by all relevant parties. That took a month last time. Then a notice to proceed has to be issued. Then and only then can the work begin — the design work, mind you. Not construction, not yet. It will still be a good while before we break ground. A good design phase is absolutely essential for a quality product, and the active participation of all relevant stakeholders is essential. And I think that is the message we need to keep front and center in the months ahead.

Hike Report 2010


Saturday was the Sixth Annual Hike of the Lafitte Corridor, a great day for me — or it would have been, if it wasn’t sandwiched between the death of two pets and some other personal drama I don’t want to go into right now. As it was, my mind was just a bit clouded. The event turned out to be very cool, and I appreciated that, but I couldn’t fully enjoy it.

Forthwith, an assemblage of random notes and related media.

Here are my opening remarks before the hike.

Kickoff Speech by Editor B

How many people made the hike this year? Not sure exactly. 156 attendees registered in advance, 118 people signed in Saturday morning, and Lake counted 130 heads at one point. Approximately 80 people made it the full three miles to Canal Boulevard. Whatever the exact number, it was a bit less than last year, but that’s to be expected given the circumstances. Last year this project seemed on the verge of actually happening, and we’ve clearly taken a step back. But I still felt this was a very respectable showing and I was very happy with the turnout.

This was the first time we asked people to register in advance. I was hesitant to do anything that might seem to create a barrier to participation, but it sure does make planning easier. We used Eventbrite for this purpose. This was my second time using Eventbrite, and I remain impressed.

Here are some nifty graphics generated by the site.

Hike Registration Map from Eventbrite

Looks like we had people coming to hike from all over the country.

This chart shows that most people waited until a day or two before the event to register.

Hike Registration Chart from Eventbrite

Indeed, people were still signing up less than an hour before the hike began.

Registration was free, but people had an option to donate an amount of their choosing. We raised $175 through the registration process ($189 before fees) and we also collected $65 in donations at the actual hike. However, this was not conceived as a fundraiser.

We enjoyed the sponsorship of Massey’s Professional Outfitters once again, as well as Merrell, a shoe company out of Michigan. Rouse’s also chipped in to underwrite the cost of lunch.

The coolest surprise of the day, for me, was the musical entertainment which was provided my the Sunshine Steelers, an instrumental due consisting of acoustic guitar and steel drums. Very mellow and laid back, the prefect accompaniment to lunch.
Continue reading “Hike Report 2010”

The Greenway Shuffle

Now might be a good time to register for the Lafitte Corridor hike on May 8.

2009Walk-YellowBldgCrowdphoto by Charles London

Here’s a new song I’ve been singing lately.

Two step forwards, one step back
Doing the greenway shuffle

Last year we took two steps forward. This year we’re taking a step back. I have to keep reminding myself: We are still making progress.

Over the past several years I’ve organized an annual hike of the Lafitte Corridor. It’s been a way of rallying the community in support of the greenway project. (If you’re not familiar, the project aims to transform this vacant space into a new public amenity. You can find more information on the website of Friends of Lafitte Corridor.) It’s been a way of keeping people engaged, keeping their spirits and enthusiasm up, while we grind slowly toward the goal.

This year, the situation is reversed. I’m the one who needs my spirits rallied. I’m the one who needs to see that the community desire for this project is as strong as ever. Because frankly I have been discouraged.

We’ve been slogging away at this project for years now. Last year it seemed we were finally making headway. The city had issued a request for proposals, and selected a team led by Design Workshop to do the work. Contract negotiations were still underway when we had our hike, but a number of people from Design Workshop came and hiked with us, and one of the principals addressed the group at the end of the hike. Spirits were high, and it seemed likely that we might even see a groundbreaking ceremony by the time of the next hike.

Contract negotiations between Design Workshop and the city continued over the summer. Wow, did that a long time. Then, once the details had been hammered out to everyone’s satisfaction, the contract entered a phase of being routed around City Hall being signed by various officials. That seemed to take forever as well. Finally in November the mayor signed the contract and I breathed a sigh of relief.

But I exhaled too soon. Turns out there’s something called a “notice to proceed” that has to be issued before work actually begins. We kept waiting for that, but it never happened.

Then we got word that HUD was raising questions about the policies the city had in place for awarding contracts. See, this work was to be funded through HUD’s Community Development Block Grant program, aka CDBG, so the feds have a say. The city administration revised its policy. But they also decided to preemptively re-bid the three projects funded by CDBG.

To this end, they terminated the contract with Design Workshop.

I looked on in horror throughout this process. It was like watching a train wreck in slow motion. Well, that’s how it seemed to me, because I really wanted to see this project move forward. Perhaps the city did the right thing. Perhaps I don’t know all the details. I wish the city had asked HUD to review the procurement procedures that were followed for this particular project. The Friends of Lafitte Corridor had been monitoring the whole process from afar; we thought the deal with Design Workshop was clean and solid; we were fairly confident that HUD would have given it a clean bill of health. But who knows? That’s all water under the bridge now I suppose.

The city issued a new request for proposals. The deadline was this past Monday. Now the city is evaluating proposals, and unfortunately we don’t have much confidence in the process this time around. For one thing, the administration seems to want to get a contract done before their term is up, which is in three weeks — despite the fact that it took them six months to negotiate last time. And there are other cause for concern. That’s why I sent off a letter to the Office of the Inspector General yesterday.

(Please note: Though I signed my name to it, I did not actually pour out the blood, sweat and tears that went into writing that letter. It’s an exhaustively researched document; I couldn’t have done it if I tried. It was a collaborative effort, with a couple key members of the FOLC Board doing the heavy lifting.)

I’m really discouraged that it’s come to this.

And that’s why it’s important to me to see a good showing at this year’s hike. That’s why I need your help. Last year we had 200 people show up. This year we’ll be hiking just days after a new administration has taken office. We need to show the new mayor that the community still desires this project.

But I’m just about running out of steam, folks. My enthusiasm is at a low ebb. I need your help to promote this event.

Sure, we can and should use social media to push this thing forward, but that’s somewhat limiting. Digital campaigns tend to reproduce the same social divides that keep us apart us in real life. We need to reach beyond the internet and let people who aren’t wired into our social networks know about this thing. We need to let them know that we’re only just getting started — that nothing has been decided yet — that there is still time to get involved “on the ground floor” so to speak and have a voice in how this thing is designed.

We are partnering with Massey’s Professional Outfitters again this year. Rouse’s will be providing lunch. Through our friends at the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy we’ve connected with Merrell and they’ve signed on as a sponsor too. Their creative department is working on a flyer which I hope may be available soon.

There will be food, and music, and in general it should be a fun event. So please register and join us May 8, and help me spread the word.

Walk & Talk

Audio slideshow from Urban Pathways to Livable Communities conference in New Orleans, February 25-26, 2010.

A walk of the Lafitte Corridor hosted by Bart Everson of Friends of Lafitte Corridor and Daniel Samuels of the Lafitte Greenway Steering Advisory Committee.

Spontaneous Public Sculpture

Lafitte Corridor

This sculpture mysteriously appeared on the Lafitte Corridor last week, just in time for the Urban Pathways conference tour. I was surprised and touched. It’s worth nothing that Friends of Lafitte Corridor did not solicit or commission this sculpture, though in retrospect I’m pretty sure I know who made it. It is, quite simply, yet another indication of the community’s desire for the greenway project to move forward.


[Photos by Joseph Brock]


If I haven’t written here as much lately, perhaps it’s because I feel constrained from public discussion of many of the topics which are currently preoccupying me.

  • There’s an election coming up, and I’ve got opinions, but I’m afraid to express them. Whoever wins, FOLC will have to work with them. It won’t help FOLC’s cause if the president (me) makes public pronouncements on one side or the other. Whoever gets elected can wield considerable influence for (or against) the greenway project. Therefore it seems most wise to keep my mouth shut.
  • Speaking of the greenway, we’ve been having some frustrations there as well. It’s related to the mess outlined by the American Zombie. FOLC has sent a letter to the administration and continues to try to get a meeting. There’s plenty more to say, but discretion seems advisable at this juncture.
  • On a more personal level, there’s been some unfortunate infighting amongst my co-workers. Not in my unit, happily, but close enough to impinge on me. It’s actually been fascinating, in a sad way, to see all this unfold, but I’ll be damned if I write about it. That could only serve to embarrass those persons involved, and possibly my employer. I resolved long ago not to embarrass my employer in my writings here. That’s in fact why I never mention my employer by name, and just refer to “the University.” I like my job too much to play it any other way.
  • By the same token, I’m not going to write about Xy’s discontent with her work environment, except to say it’s bad. Real bad. Leaving the interpersonal differences and administrative challenges aside, she’s sick of the hours. So am I. She’s tired of working a ten hour day and then having a couple hours of homework per night. She feels she’s missing out on her daughter growing up. So she may well be looking for another line of work come fall.

If no one read this blog, I could sound off on any topic with impunity. If I had a huge readership, I could perhaps wield some influence through my writings. As it stands, I’m in that broad middle zone where I get just enough attention to constrain but not enough to liberate.

And of course what’s going on in Haiti right now makes all this seem rather trivial, but I don’t have anything insightful to add about that either.

So I just don’t have anything to say right now. Sorry.


WWOZ will be airing a “Street Talk” segment on the Lafitte Corridor greenway project today (Tues 1/12/10) at 2pm sharp. Listen on 90.7 FM in New Orleans or on the web at wwoz.org or just use the handy player on the FOLC website.

Buying It Back

There’s an article in today’s paper on a subject near and dear to my heart. I’m even quoted herein. My comments follow.

Greenway Ahead

by Lolis Eric Elie, The Times-Picayune
Saturday September 05, 2009, 10:42 PM

In a move that could help create the first new public park in New Orleans in two decades, the Trust for Public Land has obtained rights to buy the site of the ill-fated Louisiana Institute of Film Technology.

Rusty Costanza / The Times-PicayuneHikers walk through an overgrown area of the Lafitte Corridor in 2008 during an annual outing.

The city needed the trust’s help with the Lafitte Greenway parcel because federal money the city is relying on to buy the property won’t be available for several months.

“The city’s Office of Recovery Management called the Trust for Public Land and asked us to help them with the acquisition of this property. That’s exactly what we do, ” said Larry Schmidt, director of the trust’s New Orleans office.

“We help cities, states, the National Park Service and agencies like that acquire property. We do the appraisals, the survey work and we acquire the title and hold it while the city’s funding is being assembled, ” he said.

The 18-acre strip, now held by a mortgage company, is part of a mostly city-owned three-mile tract that follows along an unused railway bed beginning near Basin Street Station, continuing along Lafitte Street across North Carrollton Avenue and ending near Canal Boulevard.

The area includes the Sojourner Truth Community Center, a gas station at Lafitte and Broad streets where public employees fill their cars, and the old brake tag station at Lafitte and Jefferson Davis Parkway.

“All these facilities will be repurposed to serve the greenway corridor, ” said Dubravka Gilic, director of strategic planning for the city recovery office.

Daniel Samuels, an architect, is a founding member of Friends of Lafitte Corridor, a three-year-old community group that has been the most visible advocate for creation of the corridor. He said the idea of turning this area into public space is not new.

“City planning documents have recognized the potential of that corridor going all the way back to the 1976 Claiborne Avenue Design Team Study done by Cliff James and Rudy Lombard, to successive phases of the New Orleans New Century Master Plan, which was started in the 1990s, ” Samuels said.

The old LIFT site, one block wide, is the widest part of the three-mile stretch. The rail bed corridor becomes extremely narrow as it runs alongside such privately owned buildings as the Rouses Supermarket and Bohn Ford buildings on Carrollton.

The purchase by the Trust for Public Land will ensure that a city deal could be sealed quickly and that the land would be dedicated to public purposes. The trust expects to sell the land back to the city by the end of the year.

Eliot Kamenitz / The Times-PicayuneLarry Schmidt, director of the New Orleans Office of the Trust for Public Land stands on some of the 18 acres at Lafitte and North Galvez streets that will form the first leg of the parkway.

The city has dedicated $11.6 million of its federal Community Development Block Grant money to the greenway project, Gilic said. Of that total, $4 million is reserved for purchasing the former LIFT site and the remainder will be devoted to designing and building the corridor, she said.

Friends of Lafitte Corridor hopes that the entire space will be developed, not just the plot where the film institute was supposed to be.

“The main thing that I have always kept in mind with this project is that it needs to be a safe, contiguous path, a trail, ” said Bart Everson, president of Friends of Lafitte Corridor. “But if it can have park-like amenities along it then that is value added.”

The Design Workshop, a firm in Austin, Texas, will spearhead the design effort, working with local partners that include Eskew+Dumez+Ripple, an architecture firm, and Bright Moments, a public relations firm.

Before the area was a railway bed it was the Carondelet Canal, linking Lake Pontchartrain to the French Quarter via Bayou St. John.

“We have encouraged our designers to coordinate with the Sewerage & Water Board to make all the efforts to re-introduce the water back into this space, ” Gilic said. “That will definitely be one of the elements of this project.”

Gilic said the designers will conduct five rounds of workshops designed to gain public input into the development.

The property the trust will buy consists of two adjacent parcels that LIFT bought in 2006. Slightly more than half was owned by Norfolk Southern Railroad, while the rest was owned by the city.

LIFT abruptly collapsed two years ago when federal investigators started looking into its dealings. In April, LIFT director Malcolm Petal was sentenced to five years in federal prison for conspiring to bribe a former state official, Mark Smith, in exchange for Louisiana film-industry tax credits. Last month, Smith was sentenced to two years in federal prison for his role in the scheme.

. . . . . . .

Lolis Eric Elie can be reached at lelie@timespicayune.com or 504.826.3330.

Thanks Lolis. OK, it’s me again. Just several points I’d like to add.

  1. This land transaction takes FOLC full circle. We were initially galvanized by news the city was selling this land to LIFT, back in February 2006.
  2. I’m not sure why there’s the emphasis on “park.” I don’t know if TPL has strings attached to this deal where the city has to make it a park. I’m not sure quite what to think of that. I’m in favor (obviously) of a greenway, but that’s not necessarily the same thing as a park, though a park would certainly be compatible. But I know of at least one organization that wants to build a school there, which I think is an intriguing possibility. Most of all, I’d like the greenway to be recognized in the public mind as a source of economic revitalization, not just green space.
  3. And why did TPL have to get involved? Was it because of cashflow issues, as the article suggests? The ordinance by which the city authorized the sale of this land stipulated that the city would have the first right of refusal to buy this land back if the film studio should fall through. But I believe this land was sold at LIFT’s bankruptcy auction, to the highest bidder. What happened to the city’s first right of refusal?

    And therein lies the story behind this story, which to my knowledge no journalist has taken up. Back in May 2006, the City Council passed an amendment (Ordinance #22,241) to the original act of sale (Ordinance #22,197). There’s a lot of obfuscatory legalese in these documents, but when sifted it seems that the only purpose of this amendment was to waive the city’s right of refusal for most of the city-owned acres, all but the so-called “paper streets.” The language is crafted in such a way that I’ll wager most of the council didn’t understand the city was giving up anything. The only conceivable purpose of this little legislative sleight-of-hand would be, presumably, to help LIFT with their financing. LIFT of course has since been implicated in other matters of influence-peddling. So was this another dirty deal? I sure wish a journalist would look into this.

    Oh, the sponsor of that amendment? A certain councilman, voted out in 2006 but looking to make a comeback in 2010. So it would be nice to know if my understanding is accurate or if I’m way out in left field.

  4. Oh, and the city has now allocated $11.6 million for the greenway? Hot dog. The things I learn reading the paper!

P.S.: I just noticed the graphic is wrong. And since it’s attributed to Friends of Lafitte Corridor, I’m inclined to correct it. The parcel being purchased by the city is wider than what’s shown. It actually extends the full width from Lafitte Street to St. Louis. The tract become considerably wider as it approaches Claiborne.

Hike & Bike

So how many people came out for our hike? Can we call it 200? The Times-Picayune did. So if you’re keeping score, the annual breakdown looks like this:

2005: 3
2006: 18
2007: 17
2008: 60
2009: 200


Photo by Charlie London

See also the video on WWL.

Our budget for publicity? More or less exactly zero. Word spread mainly through online means. It was listed on Meetup.com, for example.

The weather was beautiful, and that surely helped. But obviously this is an idea whose time has come, and the people of New Orleans are hungry for it. The voluminous turnout demonstrates that amply.

I was delighted and more than a little overwhelmed. It’s strange how you can be with such a large group and still feel mostly alone with your thoughts. That’s because I was usually out in front, trying to guide us the right way. After all, the path isn’t there yet — you have to use your imagination.

I enjoyed myself and still managed to take a few pictures, but such a large crowd did generate logistical challenges. I was worried we wouldn’t have adequate transportation back to the point of departure. We’d been planning on a modest increase in number, maybe 75 hikers. Our sponsor, Massey’s Profeesional Outfitters, scrambled to get extra food for lunch, but they had only chartered one bus.

Last year I said we might need to register people in advance, but we didn’t. Perhaps we should have. We will have to consider some major modifications to the game plan next year. If we break ground on this project at this time next year (could happen!) we might have 400 people or more.

It all worked out in the end, though, and I was pleased with the event as a whole. We had a number of speakers address the group at key points along the hike, which I think added a much-needed dimension of educational richness. A megaphone would have been handy.

I think this will go down in my books as one of the coolest days of my year, if not my life, except for one little blemish toward the end:

My bike got stolen. It was locked to the fence in front of Armstrong Park. Right there on Rampart Street. In the middle of the day. Someone must have had a pair of boltcutters and some big balls.

Dear Goody Clancy

Here’s a letter which I hope to present directly to representatives of Goody Clancy at tonight’s District 4 meeting (6PM @ Jesuit).

Dear Goody Clancy,

Friends of Lafitte Corridor has been reviewing the Master Plan draft. It is quite impressive. However, there are several points that concern us. We believe that the revitalization of the Lafitte Corridor, with a central greenway, offers a model for nurturing the values of sustainability and community that the Master Plan draft espouses. Therefore I am sending this follow-up to my recent e-mail.

  1. Chapter 13 mentions the Mississippi River Greenway Initiative, but we could find no mention of the greenway project planned for the Lafitte Corridor.
  2. The greenway shows up on the proposed bike route map, but it is not the correct length. (It should extend from Basin Street all the way to Canal Blvd. instead of terminating at City Park Ave.)
  3. Note the two-part structure of the project as the Office of Recovery Development has conceived it and City Planning Commission staff has endorsed: development of a Lafitte Corridor Revitalization Plan and design of the greenway/trail itself. These two prongs are distinct and substantial.
  4. In recognition of the unique opportunities the greenway represents, we recommend a special land use designation for trail-oriented development along the entire length of the Lafitte Corridor.
  5. The integrative nature of the project as “green infrastructure” should be emphasized — integrating active transportation, public health and recreation, economic revitalization, cultural preservation and environmental sustainability initiatives.
  6. For an excellent example of trail-oriented land use planning, please see the Midtown Greenway’s Land Use Development Plan

  7. Attached please find a copy of the City Planning Commission’s recent review of the Lafitte Greenway Master Plan. Note their recommendation to integrate this plan into the Citywide Master Plan and Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance effort.

Feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss these matters in greater detail. Also please feel free to contact my fellow board members: Dr. Lake Douglas who is a professor at the Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture at LSU, and architect Daniel Samuels.

Yours sincerely,

Bart Everson
Friends of Lafitte Corridor

Closer to the Greenway

From New Orleans City Business:

City moving closer to work on creating Lafitte greenway
Redeveloping 3-mile stretch from Quarter to Lakeview billed as recreation hot spot
by Emilie Bahr, Staff Writer

The city has chosen a contractor to plan and design a long-anticipated greenway for a mostly derelict stretch of land connecting Mid-City, Tremé, the French Quarter and Lakeview.

Proponents say transforming the Lafitte Corridor, a ribbon of land that passes through some of the city’s most historic and storm-damaged neighborhoods, into an alternative transportation corridor would offer residents a valuable new amenity while reinvigorating surrounding communities.

In 2006, Bart Everson helped start Friends of Lafitte Corridor, one of the groups advocating for a linear park that has at its center a paved bicycle and pedestrian path.


(Photo by Frank Aymami)

“It’s not just a bike and pedestrian path,” Everson said. “It’s also an economic revitalization plan for the surrounding neighborhoods.”

The corridor runs along a former shipping channel that once connected the northern edge of the French Quarter with Bayou St. John. The canal was filled in 1938, and part of the site was converted to a rail line.

Plans to convert the largely abandoned, three-mile industrial strip into a public greenway have been floated since the 1970s, but the proposals never gained much mainstream traction until Hurricane Katrina.

Jake Wagner, an urban planning specialist helping shape greenway plans, said the storm provided the impetus for translating what for years seemed little more than an idealist’s fantasy into a real possibility. Since the storm, a revitalized Lafitte Corridor has been incorporated in all of the city redevelopment proposals.

The city has chosen Design Workshop of Austin, Texas, to do the planning and design work on the project, which is slated to be built in phases. The trail portion of the greenway will be completed in the first phase, said Debravka Gilic, director of strategic planning for the Office of Recovery and Development Administration.

According to FOLC, about $3 million has been set aside for planning, design and construction, including about $2.6 million in community development block grants.

Everson said the eventual cost of the greenway will depend on the scope of the final proposal.

“The cost is so variable depending on how you want to do it,” he said.

Completion of the trail portion of the greenway could likely be accomplished for about $3 million, but more money is needed to make the project “the true community amenity it can become,” said Billy Fields, director of the Center for Urban and Public Affairs at the University of New Orleans.

“It’s the low-hanging fruit,” said greenway advocate Geoff Coats, formerly of the Urban Conservancy, which has worked with FOLC, other organizations and area residents to get the project going.

At a time of deep public frustration over few visible signs of post-storm recovery, Coats sees the greenway project as one city officials can point to as a success story.

“I think it’s one of the most fully baked, fully developed projects,” he said. “There’s no downside to it at all that I can see.”

Planners envision locals using the greenway for recreation and bicycle commuting, while tourists would make their way from their French Quarter hotels to City Park, the New Orleans Museum of Art and Bayou St. John.

Wagner believes the greenway could be incorporated into cultural heritage tourism.

“You can explain most of the major phases of New Orleans history in that small three-mile stretch,” he said. “You’ve got the entire architectural history of the city” represented.

Fields, former research director for the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy in Washington, D.C., said the greenway could serve as a model for trail-oriented development, a concept that plays on transit-rooted development, or the idea that private investment naturally follows public investment in major transportation nodes.

“You see this in New York, in Tokyo, on a massive scale,” Wagner said, referring to the concentrations of commercial development that can be found in those cities around large subway stops.

Charlie Doerr, owner of the Bayou St. John store Bayou Bicycles, is among the business owners hoping to reap the greenway’s benefits.

“Our backdoor opens out basically right on to it,” said Doerr, sitting in his office looking through a window at what is currently vacant land. But he is optimistic that one day, he’ll be watching bicyclists, walkers and runners move by. He’s already started thinking about starting a bike rental service to tap into the influx of new visitors.

“Once the thing is open, people are gonna use it and we’ll be right in the middle of it,” he said.

Nice article. Now if you want to learn more, please come to the upcoming meeting of Friends of Lafitte Corridor:

Design Professionals Explain the Work about to be Done on the Greenway and hear about FOLC’s 5th Annual Corridor Hike

Come join us for the latest Greenway update and news of our upcoming Corridor Hike! The City is about to award a contract for Lafitte Greenway design and Lafitte Corridor Revitalization planning. Learn exactly what that entails and how you can have your say in what the Greenway will be like. Lake Douglas, FOLC Board member and LSU Professor of Landscape Architecture; and Daniel Samuels, architect and past President of FOLC; and current Chair of the Lafitte Greenway Steering Advisory Committee, explain the process and tell you what sort of timeline we anticipate for construction. Also Bart Everson and Jeff Schwartz will announce plans for our 5th Annual Hike of the Lafitte Corridor. – It’s all at the FOLC Membership Meeting – Thurs April 23rd at 6:30PM at Grace Episcopal Church, 3700 Canal St.

Bring a friend & sign up for FOLC membership


Been a little too preoccupied to write much here the last few days. Taking care of a sick daughter. Also visiting with my parents; I haven’t seen them as much as one might suppose as they’re staying at Camp Restore and doing volunteer work to help rebuild New Orleans.

Nevertheless life churns on. I suppose the most dramatic development for me personally is that, as of Thursday night, I am now president of Friends of Lafitte Corridor.

I’m both honored and excited to take this position. FOLC and its mission are very dear to my heart. I come on the heels of FOLC’s first president Daniel Samuels, who has done a lot of heavy lifting. During that period I have served as FOLC’s Chair, meaning that I ran the board meetings, so this represents a shift of focus for me, from process to active involvement. Daniel is very detail-oriented at a level I could never be, and I devoutly hope he continues to mind those details as a member of the board. But since a good foundation has already been lain, hopefully I will be able to direct my efforts in a slightly different direction, concentrating more on outreach. As president I believe my primary role will be to represent the organization to the public, to seek partnerships, to build enthusiasm and support for the project of the greenway and the revitalization of the Lafitte Corridor — in short, to share the vision widely. I hope I can do our mission justice.

Still, I don’t think I’ve ever been president of anything. I’ve never wanted to be president of anything before. And so it feels a little weird. Therefore, this might be a good time to remind myself not to confuse authority with leadership. As president, I’m authorized by the organization to do certain things. I’ll be expected to accomplish those tasks. But that’s not leadership. That’s just doing the job. In fact, leadership is never authorized, yet it’s something we all have an opportunity to exercise on a regular basis. It’s not a position occupied but an initiative taken. Indeed, FOLC’s whole project might be seen as an exercise in leadership, pushing forward on a project everyone agrees would be beneficial to the community as a whole but which has never been given priority. No one authorized us; we just started pushing. That’s leadership. I hope I’m able to remember that true leadership can come from anywhere, from anyone, at any time. I hope that I’m able to recognize it when I see it, not as a challenge to me personally, but as an opportunity for the group and the mission.

FOLC in the Zone

WWL-TV will do a feature on the Lafitte Corridor this Thursday morning at 7:45 AM.

This is part of a series called “In the Zone.” They’re covering a different recovery zone each segment. They’ve done almost all of them, so this is one of the last. If you want to see previous episodes in this series, look online.

I did an interview with them Friday, right on the Lafitte Corridor. The camera operator said he’s shot hundreds of stories about projects around town. He said he’s cynical and skeptical toward just about everything — but THIS project turned him on, big-time. That was pretty inspirational to me.

They’re hoping to shoot interviews with a few other folks. Linda Landesberg and Edgar Chase will also appear in studio. The reporter, Rob Nelson, seemed to have a pretty good handle on the issues, so I expect this to be some great publicity.

Please tune in, and if anybody has a means to conveniently capture the broadcast as a digital file, please let me know.