bye bye Dryades Public Market

I guess sticking a tagline with your name is good enough for people to think your business served a cross-section.

This is what every story led with: “Dryades Public Market … the grocery with a mission (italics added) in Central City is closing today.”

Maybe the name public market fooled some people; really there should be a way that they should have been stopped in using that. Unfortunately, there is not.

As someone long involved in local food systems, I watched this idea sited on the ever-valiant Oretha Castle Haley with hope but more trepidation, and even a little more skepticism. Here are 2 posts from my public market blog where I referred to this entity.

In the late stages of design, I had been contacted by the developer, but I pretty much ignored the emails. (1) I felt there were better minds likely in the fray already, (2) I didn’t trust the local partner to do right by farmers based on what was being reported to me by some of them, and (3) I had moved on to more national work and felt I couldn’t give as much local context as I once had.  Still, they kept calling, so I went to meet with them.

In short, they strongly suggested to me that they knew their local partner was full of shit but felt they were too far along to stop. (I also remember that they kept telling me how many parking spaces this place would have-in exasperation, I finally said that in terms of what they wanted to happen and in knowing the area, parking wasn’t going to be the draw that it was for their projects in NYC. That they needed to let that go.)

What they wanted was some help in figuring out how to still make the idea work. We tossed around some ideas, but the lure of the food hub concept was too hard for them to resist  (although my memory was my only suggestion was to dump the partner publicly and reach out to a cross-section of chefs/farmers/organizers to come up with something else. They were definitely not gonna do THAT at that stage.) So what New Orleans ended up with was 3 different plans in about the same number of years: the “food hub”concept, followed by the “food hall” concept (run by good people who brought in other good people but had to do it without the financials being figured out and without a rebranding kickoff), and the last which was a bit of a desperate dab of a high end specialty store and a hot food line. All in all, nothing worked, even with a lot of truly well-meaning people doing their best to make it work.

I see people on Twitter calling for this to be relocated or even revived because of the “food desert” issue, but it is hard for me to see how people think this idea can work for either of those issues. (Also see folks calling out for ALDI’s or Trader Joe’s to come in to the site. Umm, not only is the square footage not even CLOSE to their wheelhouse, but the characteristics of a successful site for either is not even close to being present in New Orleans proper. It sucks but that is what it is. Capitalism.)

Food desert as a term doesn’t adequately describe the problem and for most organizers across the U.S, has been replaced by food apartheid.  This situation also is better served by that latter term, as OCH has long been one area well known for across-the-board disinvestment by the usual money for the 30 years before Katrina. Now of course, every developer is there using it to build more upscale apartments and eateries which serve only the new population. That is apartheid.

I also see people on social media responding to the news of this closing asking for the “culture to be saved” as if DPM had ANY relationship to our diverse, locally relevant food history or public market/corner store/Schweggie history. Let’s be clear: this blip on our screen is a result of the post-2010 culture designed almost entirely by our “cultural” (read NOT) mayor Landrieu, and the many developers who now have a complete hold on the city. That era was all about “white box delivery” as the goal, with the content being figured out later. Meaning so not New Orleans.

Situating this high end “market” (it hurts me to even write that word in relation to DPM) on OCH, in the midst of the incredible work done by long time activists to fight for equitable development was in in itself a mockery and so out of scale to the rest of the street it was doomed to fail because New Orleanians cannot be fooled.  Because what is true of New Orleanians is that, in terms of good ideas, they don’t believe they start with buildings; they believe they start with relationships, and they could see that this one had few.

If you were going for some level of authenticity, you’d go to Cafe Reconcile, Ashé Cultural Arts CenterRoux Carre, Casa Borrega, Church Alley (before it moved), Zeitgeist (also before it moved), bank at Hope Credit Union and so on. If you did those things, I find it hard to believe you would also enter the clubhouse that was J&J/DPM and spend your money there. And many of those “unfooled” New Orleanians I talked to said exactly that.

And yes, I went. I tried. And I felt out of place, and manipulated by a few wicker basket of bananas and apples and fancy water and a jar or two of local honey being sold to me as a grocery store. I left angry and embarrassed as to what this neighborhood which has survived so much was being offered even as the money was falling all over New Orleans. A crappy clubhouse.

So let’s be real and call this what it was: a bad experiment unworthy of OCH and New Orleans, learn from it,  and move on to better ideas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Covenant House becomes Curfew House for the summer

At the request of the NOPD Chief and Mayor LaToya Cantrell, Covenant House has been asked to open a curfew/prevention center this summer for at-risk youth, ages 10-16.

“I think the police are going to come across young people who don’t know where they’re at or where they’re going, and could be on the verge of getting themselves in trouble, and they’re going to bring them here. We will feed them just like any Mother would. And along the way, we’ll try and find out if there’s any issues; why are they out late at night and no one knows about it?” – Jim Kelly, Executive Director

And the other viewpoint:

City curfew marginalizes kids it pretends to ‘protect’

 

Inequity in city’s health system has adversely affected black New Orleanians, report says 

As New Orleans marks its 300th birthday, the city has yet to achieve health equality for all of its residents, according to a new report from The Data Center. The report says discrimination in the health care system throughout the city’s history has had an adverse effect on the longevity and quality of life of its African-American residents. Even today, the report points out that there is a 25-year difference in life expectancy between people who live in New Orleans ZIP codes 70124 and 70112, neighborhoods only five miles apart, but where residents are 3 percent and 75 percent black, respectively.

 

https://www.nola.com/health/index.ssf/2018/05/new_orleans_300_race_inequalit.html

Where have the missing Jackson Square benches gone? 

After a NOLA.com inquiry, a city representative said that the bench disappearance is only temporary. The eight iron seats were cut from their moorings in order to make room for a little-publicized welcoming ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday (April 21) that relates to New Orleans’ ongoing tricentennial celebration. Mayor Mitch Landrieu is expected to speak at the site in front of the Cabildo (which was once the city’s seat of government).

The benches, which are sometimes used by musicians as impromptu stages and sometimes by music lovers as they watch street performers, will be returned on Saturday, after the ceremony, according to the city spokesman.

And this monstrosity was necessary I suppose:

Large obstruction in the public square that is for a brief ceremony on Saturday morning, which would have been one of the busiest days of one of the busiest months for the vendors of the Square. Instead, the city will push them aside to conduct this meaningless ceremony THERE instead of using available space inside the park, or on the Moonwalk or maybe even just a small dais directly in front of the Cabildo!

Ensure Master Plan Protects New Orleans Music and Culture

E-mail or call City Council by 5 PM July 26th

We’re almost at the finish line, but we need your help!

Groundbreaking amendments to New Orleans’ Master Plan that would protect musically, historically, and spiritually important cultural sites; allow historic music venues to re-open; and help establish a soundproofing grant program are on the verge of passage, but we need more people to contact City Council by the end of the day Wednesday (the 26th) to ensure they do!

Several preservation organizations have come out in opposition to our amendments, the re-opening of historic music venues in particular. One group, Louisiana Landmarks Society (who twice sued in support of the racist Liberty Place monument), has gone so far as to say New Orleans culture has no place in historic preservation!

Please call and/or e-mail City Council in support of our amendments. If you like, you can use the following message:

Dear Councilmembers:

I am writing is support of all of the Master Plan amendments submitted by the Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans, particularly amendment 1.D. “Protect Important Cultural Sites, Activities, and Traditions” in Chapter 6, Historic Preservation, which has 4 parts:

1. A comprehensive survey of existing musically, historically, and spiritually important cultural sites should be completed, and sites should become eligible for protection.

2. Allow historic music venues to be reestablished at sites where such former use is identified.

3. A grant program for soundproofing businesses, similar to a façade grant program, should be developed and implemented, with an emphasis on music and barrooms.

4. Encourage businesses and facilities that promote New Orleans culture through music, entertainment, dance, art, and oral traditions.

Please vote in favor of MaCCNO’s amendments to preserve and develop the culture of the City, and help the economic well-being of our musicians, artists, and culture bearers.

Thank you
[your name]

Contact the City Council here:
Stacy Head, At Large, shead@nola.gov, 504-658-1060
Jason Williams, At Large, jasonwilliams@nola.gov, 504-658-1070
Susan Guidry, District A, sgguidry@nola.gov, 504-658-1010
LaToya Cantrell, District B, lcantrell@nola.gov, 504-658-1020
Nadine Ramsey, District C, districtc@nola.gov, 504-658-1030
Jared Brossett, District D, jcbrossett@nola.gov, 504-658-1040
James Gray, District E, jagray@nola.gov, 504-658-1050