Bidding adieu to the Vieux Carré as we once knew and loved it | The Lens

In the title piece, Cannon basically says: Rich retirees from Dallas now enjoy the sanitized ambience of a neighborhood New Orleanians used to live in.

in reply, I say all of this:
Charles, you always get me thinking…
I am sure that Elizabeth Werlein’s failure to keep Pat O’Briens off St. Peter (in the 1940s) was considered a death knell for the Quarter for some locals. Or shall we talk of the loss of the French Opera House (1920s) as the last great day? Or maybe the original Lafitte’s owners losing their lease in 1950s and having to move to a new location? I myself like to talk about the Jax Brewery and Canal Place openings as when my Quarter began to change, but I ended up getting a full-time job at both for a spell and making a living only a few blocks from my apartment, so maybe I was wrong..
What those moments tell me (as does your story of the wax museum) is that all of us want the Quarter to be the place we hold dear in our memories. And that mythologizing a place is not always helpful to active participation in city life; myths rely on heroic narratives that in the retelling are sanitized themselves.

The Quarter still looks and acts like a lot of neighborhoods in the city with the same problems that most of them have -or will soon have- which may have been part of your point, Charles. Like many residents, I appreciate the nostalgic concern for the quick demise of our neighborhood, still with its groceries, drugstore, (expanded) hardware, laundromat, hair salons, locksmith, coffeehouses etc, but feel as if data might be more helpful in this case. Data about the loss of schools and of our low-income neighbors are absolutely some indicators of change that are not welcome to us, but that trend is citywide and pushing downward since 2005. Data about less families is not as clear; 2010 Census shows more families than in 2000 and more elderly, and for the falling numbers of socioeconomic indicators in the Quarter, most not falling as far as the rest of the city, using Data Center/census info. (Census numbers always seem suspicious to me, maybe you too, but there you are.)
My street has lots of regular-folk residents and new shops run by locals and workers who have been at their job for 20 years or longer. So which indicators should I look at? The loss of the little red schoolhouse is very bad, seems imminent and will likely lose us some of those families, but I remember thinking of the loss of the Cabrini Day Nursery on St. Philip in the late 1990s as the first death knell of family life. Maybe though, the real question I should have asked is how many Catholic institutions closed or consolidated in my lifetime already? And how many schools that were deeply embedded in walkable neighborhoods are successful in a charter system where just about every child needs to be transported to it?
The lack of rent controls and addition of gated condos may spiral up here and pit the haves against the rest of us more and more, or it might buck the trend and remain the only neighborhood where those with all of the entitlements must deal with those of us without and force compromises… And what about bike lanes and street musicians and a farmers market and local food businesses working to bring healthy local food to downtown at the old public market? Certainly seems better than the other neighborhood’s public market’s offerings? My building is owned by the two daughters of a longtime FQ family who rent to locals and are fair and good and are not the only ones; my mother has the same story at her place across the quarter.
I don’t know the answer to any of it,or if any of what I offer here is related to saving or destroying the Quarter, I just want us to ask better questions and use better data to get at the real issues.

The added tax for sheriffs for hire is troubling. Yet, we know our commercial neighbors need to have a presence of police and since they asked for it, we residents agreed to share the burden for their needs. We all know that our system of policing needs serious overhauling and we hope this is not permanent and that the city gets the NOPD on track sooner or later. In the meantime, millions of people unfamiliar with the city have to be able to see law enforcement if needed. Not our finest hour for sure, but I doubt that most residents voted for the tax because they think sheriffs are here to act as our police force.

In any case, i am certainly not trying to argue that the Quarter is “healthy” or becoming the thriving place it was in years past, but instead to ask for true indicators of positive and negative nets. To restrain from declaring any area dead or gone or sanitized before it is true. It doesn’t help any of us if the story we base our activism is based on old emotion only and not on data or true trends.
Maybe the smaller city means a smaller Quarter and a whiter city means a whiter Quarter – although again 2010 census says a slight downward trend of whites and uptick of other ethnics since 2000 – but that may have been a post-Katrina blip only. Maybe what will remain after the Katrina money moves on to the next city (in order to extract value from it) are some workers, hustlers and people who love the Quarter and it will remain a neighborhood.
For me, the only constant about the Quarter is the change, which is city life in microcosm. And that means we have to evaluate that change as clearly as possible.

Source: The entire piece by Cannon

About DW

New Orleans resident, writer, activist. Public market consultant.

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