As a FQ resident, I am following the Royal Street pedestrian mall uproar with great interest. Here are my thoughts, also shared by some of my neighbors:
- I find the reasons for the NOPD closing the mall in the fall suspiciously close to the new arguments made by the businesses in the December letter. Shall we then assume that there was a prior conversation with the NOPD about summarily closing the mall without engaging the neighborhood associations or talking with the media first? If so, shame on you both.
- The argument against the mall for reasons of controlling terrorism are almost universally scorned by those I talk to in the Quarter. First, the LA Supreme Court sits across the street from the police station, second, the cross streets remain open and third, most people assume it would be easier for the bad guys if the street was open. Odd how other street closings have not been turned down for the same reason in any other situation or area.
- It feels like two issues are foremost for these businesses: convenience for deliveries/shoppers and reduction in the street culture that they believe negatively impacts their business. Neither of those will be solved with the loss of the pedestrian mall. As for the transient/homeless population in the Quarter, it is as large as I have ever seen it and many stay 24 hours a day on the same corner with noise and activity at high levels at all hours. It is clear to those of us who live there that the homeless and transient population problem needs more solutions and a process of its own and the dissolution of the five hour per weekday, 8 hour weekend per day mall will not alter it in the least. As for shopping, the amount of people who would find street parking is so minimal and counted against those who slowly and carefully make their way up or down Royal to shop slowly seems ludicrous.
- Statements like “the mall serves no benefit” are confounding to hear being spouted by business owners, especially those located on alleys that rely on foot traffic to reach their door. Really? No benefits at all? That sort of statement makes me believe that those against the mall have no interest in cooperating on a real solution. I hope they can listen to those of us who do find benefits to it: for example, some exciting and worthy musicians continue to use the mall to showcase the vibrancy that is the ever-changing New Orleans music scene.
- All day or night street closings in the Quarter have become constant for film productions, special events and repairs. It does not seem that these are coordinated with neighbors or businesses to control how many are closed at any one time or if one event over another should take priority. Seems to me a “heat map” of those closures and regular traffic back ups is something that a social entrepreneur may be able to help the city to collect data on to see what is really the main problem before we change 40 year old ordinance for a few businesses.
I’d ask that those that are in favor of this move actually openly prioritize the reasons they want this to happen and constructively work with their neighbors to solve their issues while realizing that many of us do see benefits to retain the mall.