Saving Your City Is Terrorism

So says Bryan Batt in a recent T-P editorial. (Thanks to Karen of Northwest Carrollton for shedding light on this!)

The city can rebuild, grow and retain its inimitable charm … Our lazy “that’s the way we’ve always done it” mentality needs to be buried along with the moldy Sheet-rock. That debilitating philosophy never worked and never will.

Recently, some outrageous stunts border on terrorism. The public housing situation is sad, but threatening to “run off” tourists if the complexes aren’t immediately reopened is not the answer. It is sad that a church in the lower Garden District burned down, but standing in front of the wrecking ball is not the answer. After this city burned years ago, it was rebuilt, and I’m certain many of our French ancestors were infuriated at the Spanish architectural reconstruction, but today it is what we cherish and protect. I’m sure some people on Fifth Avenue protested the building of the modern Guggenheim museum, but years later the Frank Lloyd Wright structure is a beloved landmark. I find it ridiculous and appalling that anyone would oppose a desperately needed grocery on the blighted eyesore corner of Claiborne and Carrollton avenues.

… We can rebuild, but takes the willingness to see beyond today, adapt, compromise and grow — or else die like the dinosaurs. Of course keep and protect the historic; that is what defines us and makes us unique.

All New Orleans has is its history. Condos and box stores, built in an architecture style at odds with this city (i.e. none), will only kill us in the long run. Also, none of the people who oppose wrecking a church in its entirety or building a Walgreen’s far away from the street are against rebuilding and growth. We want growth but that which respects and maintains our city’s uniqueness.

How do we “keep and protect the historic that is what defines us and makes us unique” without opposing complete demolition or a chain store that plans to build with no respect for the historic? This essay is what is known as a contradiction in terms that sucks up to all involved parties. As Karen says, “Get your facts straight.”

It is insulting on Batt’s part to suggest that the laziness on our part keeps New Orleans from flourishing. Quite the opposite. It takes bravery and vigor to stand in front of a wrecking ball to save a small portion of the Coliseum Place Baptist Church for posterity, while it is laziness of thought to demolish it all leaving nothing for the city and everything for feckless developers. Terrorism is the city’s building inspector towering over and giving a menacing look to our city councilperson and neighborhood association board for trying to delay the demolition until we had more concrete answers. As for the Walgreen’s on Carrollton and Claiborne, no one opposes it; the citizens of that area merely ask that zoning laws are followed and that the store is pedestrian-friendly.

Nice way to twist the situation to your (or your brother’s political sour-grapes) advantage.

Stay in New York, Mr. Batt, and don’t write about things of which you are no longer a part.

22 Comments so far

  1. Markus (unregistered) on July 13th, 2006 @ 12:40 pm

    To equate the St. Bernard radicals threatening to run-off tourists is so damned offensive, I can’t believe he could send it to print. Then, I reconsidered the last name involved.


  2. Lisa Palumbo (unregistered) on July 13th, 2006 @ 12:58 pm

    How can you compare any piece of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture with a cookie-cutter, Walgreens brick box? Does he really think that one day we’ll want to treasure and protect the likes of these things for their architectural value?

    Please!


  3. jack (unregistered) on July 13th, 2006 @ 1:10 pm

    I’m not as much of a preservationist as most of the people who write on this site. With that said, I think there’s something in what he’s saying. We need to look forward and we need to take chances. And yes, there’s going to be sacrifices in terms of architecture and culture. Just because something’s old, that doesns’t make it worth keeping. I don’t see a lot of people riding horses around town so we’ve moved forward some. It’s a tough call trying to balance the past with where you want to be in the future. I tend to be overly progressive at times, so being aware of that, I try and get some opposing views on me so I don’t get carried away. A good example of that is Laureen’s input when she visited my shanty last week.


  4. Maitri (unregistered) on July 13th, 2006 @ 1:16 pm

    Just because something’s old, that doesns’t make it worth keeping.

    If it is the oldest baptist church in the country and will provide more interest to a new building it’s worth keeping.

    Again, the blight around Carrollton and Claiborne must go but not to replace it with a sea of parking asphalt at the end of which is the Walgreens. The Walgreens is fine, just make it in tune with the local architecture and people (like this).

    Don’t be silly and exaggerate; no one wants to go back to horse-and-buggy or keep the shanties that are falling apart, we just want to preserve and strengthen architecture and zoning ordinances that which makes our city unique.


  5. Heather (unregistered) on July 13th, 2006 @ 2:24 pm

    If we are going to expect changes in the education and health care systems it seems like we are going to have to accept that other things are going to have to change as well.


  6. Adrastos (unregistered) on July 13th, 2006 @ 2:31 pm

    The architecture is one of the things worth saving in New Orleans. We don’t need to abandon it to progress. Our flaws as a city are systemic and attitudinal, not architectural. London, Paris and Barcelona are modern progressive cities that have tried (not always successfully but tried) to preserve the old alongside the new.


  7. Maitri (unregistered) on July 13th, 2006 @ 2:39 pm

    If we are going to expect changes in the education and health care systems it seems like we are going to have to accept that other things are going to have to change as well.

    And in the process we throw the baby out with the bathwater? Education and health care have suffered in this city, our history hasn’t.


  8. NO_Doc (unregistered) on July 13th, 2006 @ 4:47 pm

    Since the early days of last September I have felt that New Orleanians need to be vigilant about what happens to our city in multiple ways. We need to be careful with who we elect, and what they do in office. We need to be involved in efforts to physically clean up the entire city (kudos to the Katrina Krewe, among others). And yes, we need to preserve the history and archetecture or our city while we rebuild. The problem is we need ways to communicate with developers and companies that do not involve people who are not flexible and reasonable. Many times in the past, neighborhood organizations have opposed new construction no matter what it looked like. I agree that some projects have tried to ram development down neighbor’s throats by paying off the politicos, but there were also times that extremely vocal and unreasonable (i.e. “there is no way anyone can ever develop that property to my satisfaction so it will never be developed”) people kept projects from moving forward that would have helped the neighborhood.

    In all things….balance.


  9. NO_Doc (unregistered) on July 13th, 2006 @ 4:49 pm

    Education and health care have suffered in this city, our history hasn’t.

    And if you think health care has suffered in the past in New Orleans…to quote Bachman-Turner Overdrive, “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”.


  10. luckydog (unregistered) on July 13th, 2006 @ 6:17 pm

    Ironically as I sat on my front porch my neighbor approached me and asked if I would consider signing a petition. I asked her what is for, and she replied – my friend Jenel heads the North Carrollton neighborhood association and she is going before the city council to protest the current design plan that Walgreen’s is insisting on with the proposed construction on Carrollton and Claiborne.

    We talked for a while and she showed me historic plans back to 1950. She also showed me the proposed plans. The Association is not asking Walgreen’s to not build. They are asking them to build responsibly with a thought for the historic and aesthetic.

    The corner of Carrollton and Claiborne is butt ugly with the exception of the park. Even the park needs a little help! Not only does a city ordinance back the neighbor’s wishes for tasteful development – but we should want that too. The Street Car line ends right there. It would be very good for tourism and the area to have a nice park and a nice Walgreen’s and hell why not a nice grocery store with curb appeal. After looking a Walgreen’s plans I can see where the residents are objecting.

    This is not holding up progress – this is simply progressing with integrity. Why not get it right?

    I emailed Jenel and told her to check out New Orleans Metro Blog – so hopefully she will give you more information.

    I fail to understand why McDonalds on St. Charles, Whole Foods on Magazine and EVEN Wal-Mart of all companies were willing to modify their designs, and yet with Walgreen’s it their way or no deal at all.

    Obviously the City Council played a big role in forcing the above compliance, so if you have a chance please sign the petition.


  11. Lisa Palumbo (unregistered) on July 14th, 2006 @ 3:35 am

    Thanks, Lucky Dog, for saying it so well. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen unfortunate tourists disembark the streetcar at the end of the line, look around in dissapointment, then reboard. This intersection should not be treated casually in terms of aesthetics and the potential impression that development decisions make on the people who have to live with it, not to mention the city’s visitors.

    We do need a grocery store in the neighborhood. Badly. And I know this is the deal we have to make to have one. But I question the soundness of the whole deal from a business perspective. There are Walgreen’s stores located 1.1 and 1.6 miles from this intersection, a major regional transit hub, so having another one is overkill. Walgreen’s would cannibalize a little less of their own business by just reopening the store at Carrollton and Earhart, .4 miles from the proposed new store.

    I have to wonder if the Walgreen’s developers have stopped and asked themselves how a blatant disregard of the wishes of the community –their potential customer base –will affect their future business at this location. Maybe Jay Batt should tell them that business can be a lot like politics; if you piss off the constituants, they won’t vote for you. Of course, Walgreen’s is probably counting on it being an insignificant number people who’d care enough about this issue to shop elsewhere. And it’s possible they’d be right. That’s almost as sad as having to live with an ugly suburban box in a spot that deserves much better than that.


  12. jack (unregistered) on July 14th, 2006 @ 8:45 am

    I’ve been thinking about it and I’m going to back out of this whole thread. The thing about the preservationist movement is that it’s too emotive. Even if the oldest baptist church in the country burns down, they’re still going to want to preserve the rubble. Well, I just don’t see the logic in that.


  13. Maitri (unregistered) on July 14th, 2006 @ 8:54 am

    That’s where you’re wrong, Jack. I’m not a preservationist if it means stupidly fighting for something that is obviously decrepit. An architect and forward thinker at heart, I, too, want to see new development in this area. All I ask for is that it’s done with some character and style becoming of New Orleans. This will actually bring MORE money into the area from an economic standpoint (tourism). Who wants to come here to see the Saulet apt. complex or a standard-issue WalMart/Walgreens?

    For the record and the last time, members of the Coliseum Square Neighborhood association did not want to save the rubble. Two engineers, one structural and another mechanical, stated that the front tower (and, if not that, the base of the front tower) were structurally sound and could be saved as a facade for a new condo or restaurant development. That’s all – we actually asked for them to take everything away but that.

    I, too, have no empathy for the people who worship at the altar of the old just for the sake of it. Age, if beautiful and historic, can be preserved by modern architectural techniques and we move on.


  14. jack (unregistered) on July 14th, 2006 @ 9:29 am

    I keep thinking, as far as the church is concerned, that there was a very easy way for the neighborhood association to get what they wanted: All they had to do was buy the property from the owners. Then they could do whatever they want and use the proceeds from “The Baptist Church Tower Honkey Tonk Lounge” to be constructed shortly thereafter, to finance other community projects.

    It was a bad situation to be sure and it doesn’t seem like the owners of the church were at all interested in community input on what happens to the property. But they aren’t really all that obligated to be.

    As for the Walgreens thing, I dunno nothin’ ’bout that. I am familiar with the intersection and I will say this: If I were to take a big, steamy, crap at that intersection it would be an improvement.

    Mostly, though, I’m just amazed that people get so emotional and worked up about these things. I generally don’t feel that kind of attachment to inanimate objects – hell, I don’t feel that strong a connection to most people! So, like the displaced residents voting issue, I’m sort of out there on my own little cold-hearted, unfeeling, lack of empathy island on this one. That’s alright I guess, and who knows, maybe this weekend I’ll keep my empty beer bottles around as a momento of the weekend’s fun.

    Maybe.


  15. Maitri (unregistered) on July 14th, 2006 @ 9:33 am

    The neighborhood association were in talks with the self-proclaimed owners until the dialogue suddenly stopped, and the building was completely torn down (allegedly two weeks after said “owners” formed an LLC).

    As for Walgreens, perhaps you should pitch your modern live-art idea (mentioned above) to the Carrollton Neighborhood Association. Uniquely New Orleans (someone took a dump by my car parked in the Quarter the other day – mmmm, mmm, pleasant – trust me, it wasn’t dog poop)


  16. jack (unregistered) on July 14th, 2006 @ 10:22 am

    I’d get stage fright.

    And I’ll admit there’s something weird going on with the owners of that church. If for no other reason than the time line doesn’t make any sense. I don’t know that we’ll ever know exactly what’s going on there.


  17. termite (unregistered) on July 14th, 2006 @ 10:46 am

    Maitri

    You might find this hard to believe, but back in the 80’s that corner was nice, really. I used to drive past it all the time; I used to love to see the families w/their dogs and such. There was a huge K&B on the corner. And a picture show across the street ‘The Carrollton Theatre’. It was all good. so sad.


  18. Mike Hoffman (unregistered) on July 14th, 2006 @ 11:50 am

    I don’t think preservation is the issue here – the issue is what to do with new spaces, new buildings.

    Do you make everything fit with the old? Do you do something different?

    I would love to see an opposite extreme – if we have to make something new, make it so cutting-edge modern that it looks like it fell from the sky from a place we have yet to imagine. Let it say that we love our historical places but are looking to progress in those new spaces and are willing to think differently about new opportunities.


  19. Maitri (unregistered) on July 14th, 2006 @ 12:14 pm

    Sure, Mike. Like I said, build with architectural style, not the lack thereof.


  20. Karen (unregistered) on July 14th, 2006 @ 1:04 pm

    I do not want Disney New Orleans at that corner, nor does anyone else I know..We would love a ‘new concept” design..something with a nod to Pedestrian traffic and a place to catch the bus and street car..Maybe actually hire an architect! A novel idea Walgreens


  21. vinod (unregistered) on July 15th, 2006 @ 4:40 am

    i quite agree with the title ‘saving your city is terrorism’… so apt… i have seen it happen in mumbai over the years, first during the 1993 blasts and then very recently early this week… we have seen the city come together…ensure the character and constituents of the city are retained..

    very well-written post indeed…


  22. expat-yat (unregistered) on July 15th, 2006 @ 5:06 pm

    Mike’s suggestion isn’t too far off base. One only needs to walk around Boston for an example of how this kind of architectural juxtaposition works to a city’s advantage when done right. Copley Square immediately comes to mind, where the nineteenth-century Trinity Church confronts the very modern John Hancock Tower. This has become one of the most photographed spots in Boston, and similar contrasts can be found throughout the city. As for getting BIG corporations to yield to local flavor, it is possible. Another example from Boston: there is a Starbucks situated at the main entrance to Quincy Market directly across from Faneuil Hall, arguably one of the most historic spots there. You barely notice the Starbucks because their signage is extraordinarily limited and it looks like they were unable to alter any exterior facades. I’m sure this took a lot of coercion, but in the end, Starbucks must have relented. With a lot of work, it can be done, and when done right, the effect is terrific.



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