by Kevin Allman
The New Orleans City Council's April 28 agenda contains an item, entered by District C councilperson Kristin Gisleson Palmer, to restore the name “Congo Square” to the area just inside the perimeter of Armstrong Park. (Though everyone knows it as Congo Square, it was officially renamed “Beauregard Square” in the 19th century.)
Much of the area inside the park gates has been closed since last summer, after former mayor Ray Nagin had dedicated a new “Roots of Music” sculpture garden in late April 2010 — the last week he was in office. One month later, the area was closed for repairs after crews found the concrete had been poured incorrectly, and it remains closed today, nearly a year later. (Gambit's Blake Pontchartrain has the whole story here.)
Oddly, Nagin used the Congo Square renaming occasion today to hop on his Twitter account to show off some pictures of the area. “Since we are not allowed to visit Armstrong Park - Congo Square I will take you on a virtual tour,” he wrote, before sending out a series of photos showing the original dedication, with beautiful sculptures of Buddy Bolden, Louis Armstrong and others in place rather than the rubble on the site today. “Some tried to say the park was F-up,” was his caption on one of the photos.
Here's a photo of the same site taken less than a month ago.
Last June, newly installed Mayor Mitch Landrieu let loose with an uncharacteristically sharp public criticism of his predecessor, telling The Times-Picayune's Katy Reckdahl, ""This project is just another example of a deal the Nagin administration improperly executed. It was ill-conceived and is fraught with problems. This project is under serious review. The people of New Orleans deserve better. We will work diligently to fix it." In an email tonight, Ryan Berni, a spokesman for Landrieu, said the park currently has no scheduled reopening date.
In his tweets today, Nagin seemed to be looking forward to the reopening as well. “Hope u enjoyed virtual tour of Armstrong Park - Congo Square,” he concluded. “Maybe 1 day soon, sidewalks & Louie's toe will be fixed & we can visit again.”