Bywater's Sun Yard hotel on hold until March
The New Orleans City Planning Commission (CPC) has deferred action on zoning plans for the proposed Sun Yard hotel on St. Claude Avenue in Bywater, buying more time for developers to amend their plans or work with the CPC on a compromise. The CPC decided last week to delay action on the plans until its March 13 meeting.
As the CPC heard from the developers' attorney Justin Schmidt Feb. 6, more than two dozen opponents in the crowd held signs that read "NO" or depicted a hand blocking a sun, an image that followed a campaign among residents and advocates to "Block out the Sun Yard."
Developers Liz Solms and Giuliano Pignataro plan to turn the former Truck Farm space and neighboring properties on the lot into a 37-room hotel with a bar, restaurant and pool and a parking lot across the street. More than 30 letters opposing the project were attached to a recent CPC staff report, which outlined several provisos developers need to include in order to meet conditions for approval, including scrapping plans for a parking lot on the other side of St. Claude.
"There's a lot of questions that remain open that were raised in the staff report," said Schmidt, who asked for deferral to have an "opportunity over the next few weeks before the next meeting to clarify those."
Michael Esealuka, a former resident of the proposed site whose lease was not renewed by the property's owners, said the development will have a "ripple effect" with higher rents and property taxes throughout the area and will "continue the process of gentrification pushing New Orleanians out of neighborhoods."
"We are proud residents who want the city to grow and thrive, but we want developments that put community first," Esealuka said.
"It's not the right thing for this neighborhood," said artist and musician Miss Pussycat (aka Panacea Theriac). She suggested the CPC consider the successes and failures of similar commercial developments in progress before committing to another one. "This could be a big failure," she said. "We waited 12 years for a grocery store in this neighborhood. We can wait longer."
Quote of the week
"I think confidence is silent and insecurity is loud. America is the most powerful country in all of human history; you don't need to show it off." — U.S. Sen. John Neely Kennedy, reacting to President Donald Trump's order to stage a Washington, D.C. parade to "show our military strength." Kennedy threw more cold water on the idea: "We're not North Korea, we're not Russia and we're not China, and I don't want to be. And for that reason, I would be against flaunting our strength. We don't need to. Everybody knows we have it."
- Photo courtesy City of New Orleans
- Mayour Mitch Landrieu set for book tour.
Landrieu's Confederate monument book gets first review; March book tour taking shape
Mitch Landrieu's memoir and reflection on race relations and the Confederate monument flap, In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History, will be published March 20, but the book's first big review was issued last week by Kirkus, which called it "a powerful, welcome manifesto in the cause of a new and better South — and a 'better America'":
"Landrieu charts his family's long history of racial fairness; his father, as he recalls, 'voted against  Jim Crow laws at the [Louisiana] legislature in 1960,' falling afoul of the segregationist leadership. The author concludes by noting that while the tide seems to be turning, the conflict endures, with 'domestic terrorism' afoot as 'part of the ho-hum racism that eats through our country every day.'"
Some of the first dates of a book tour are March 26 in Atlanta, March 28 in Philadelphia and March 29 in Washington, D.C.
Gambit requested Landrieu's full book tour schedule from the mayor's publisher Viking Press, but Viking/Penguin Director of Publicity Louise Braverman said the publisher is "still working on a schedule."
Public comment needed on RTA pedestrian bridge
The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA) will host a meeting in Algiers soliciting public input about a forthcoming pedestrian bridge over the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad tracks near the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas.
The meeting, which was rescheduled from a planned date during January's deep freeze, is the second of two sessions seeking public comments about the project. The bridge will help ferry riders get to and from the new ferry terminal, which is scheduled to be completed over the next 12 to 14 months.
The meeting takes place at Algiers Auditorium (2485 Guadalcanal St., Algiers) at 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 19.
City Council to consider Algiers development plans
The New Orleans City Council will consider whether to approve construction plans for a 354-unit mixed-use development along the Mississippi River in Algiers. The New Orleans City Planning Commission (CPC) did not reach a unanimous vote Feb. 6 to support the project being developed by River Street Ventures, so the proposal heads to the City Council without a recommendation from the CPC about its fate.
More than two dozen people showed up to the meeting to voice their concerns about the project, which also is opposed by the Algiers Riverview Association and the Algiers Point Association. The project includes four eight-story buildings with apartments and runs along the levee between Brooklyn Avenue and Socrates and De Armas streets. Opponents fear the project's size and density is out of character for the neighborhood.
Governor calls Special Session on Budget
Gov. John Bel Edwards has summoned Louisiana lawmakers for a special legislative session to help solve the state's fiscal crisis. It's the fifth special session within the last two years and is tasked with finding a solution to the state's nearly $1 billion budget shortfall. The session runs Feb. 19 to March 7, just days before the Legislature convenes for its regular session March 12. The looming "fiscal cliff" is the result of $1 billion in taxes that expire in July. Republican lawmakers largely have rejected Edwards' proposal, and the state could end up making significant cuts to the TOPS college scholarship program, hospitals and programs for mental health and people with disabilities.