Oh, we’ll be watching!
well. what. a day- so far. I can’t even tell you everything that has transpired as it would require too many words here, but suffice it to say, the French Quarter has temporarily joined the current reality – but only because it was forced to do so. But that is its main purpose- to gather and to connect; if it doesn’t do THAT, then why keep it at all? So I am glad it does do that well still. And can get better at it.
I have seen and heard many wringing their hands all week over the news that the Take Em Down Nola/ Black Lives Matter leaders have decided that tonight that Jackson Square will host the citizenry of their city and I guarantee that some have been ridiculously locked up in their homes and stores all day frantically reading FB for clues as to what is happening a few blocks from their front door. To their credit, others are calm and interested in what is happening at the rivers edge (I have spotted many, many FQ residents and business owners) and are out here listening. And the other 6000+ people or more here from across the city and across the region are less concerned about their windows and more about their lives and their neighbors’ lives. Today’s over-zealous locking of the park within Jackson Square to protect their favorite ol’ Andy statue is compounded by the news that, as of 5 pm, we see the police setting up very limiting barricades everywhere in the Square, telling everyone they cannot have bottles of water out for folks, or any other items on the street. And yes, we hear that the police have stated that they have moved piles of bricks that were stashed (so odd THEY spotted these “bricks” and there are no pictures of these dangerous stashes and are telling business owners that there are “people arriving from all over the country with buses lining Canal Street” which I’d like to see some evidence of before I commit to THAT conspiracy theory. Listen- the outside agitators label? I’ve been labeled that in my life and so I know how it gets thrown about I don’t disagree AT ALL that it IS true at some level, but lets also not believe everything the authorities tells us that seems to play right into their hope that people will turn on each other out there and also give up. And the one thing our NOPD should know how to spot and handle -after years of Carnivals parade routes – is a big group of folks spoiling for a fight. They have closed many of the surrounding streets off to vehicular traffic and are on every corner. So they need to do the job, and do it without escalating fear needlessly with stories of piles of bricks and buses lining Canal Street or shooting tear gas into the peaceful crowd.)
But if you hope a march will be a lockstep show of polite disagreement, to just safely and carefully dance at the police state’s ball in order to feel better in 20 minutes and then go home meekly to rejoin the capitalist bread line, then you are actually gonna be disappointed. Yeah shit gets heated (for example, a thrown item just now, but the speaker chills everyone down- “we don’t need no m’fn police; stay calm. ….I’m going to ask you sir, please remove yourself from this black-centered place.. and white allies? walk with him til he makes his destination”) So folks are able to keep it calm it when they have the space and the agreements they need.
Protest is about exhibiting and working through active trauma inflicted on the body politic by authorities but it also allows for refined and situational organizing that is a beauty to behold when done well. And when done well, it offers new leadership, new power centers, and pushes policies into previously off-limits ground that makes the world we all live in a better place. Organizers like Take ‘Em Down NOLA and #BlackLivesMatter will lead us to that better place.
Some thoughts this morning about what happened last night in New Orleans (yes, it’s going to be a thread): Before the confrontation on the bridge, there was a two-hour rally in Duncan Plaza and a two-hour march that took us up St. Charles Avenue, down Jackson and then turning onto Magazine Street. I saw organizers calmly address a few who were unruly. Throughout the march, there were calls to maintain discipline, periodically they would stop and raise one finger in the air as a sign to the crowd to regroup. I saw no violence or damage. Crowd was taking care of each other. Throughout the march, the NOPD blocked traffic by stationing their cars one block back from the protesters.
When we reached the onramp to the Crescent City Connection, the ramp was clear and it appeared that NOPD had stopped traffic. I’ve heard people say the protesters should not have been on the Crescent City Connection bridge. I don’t understand that argument, but I’m open to hear the reasoning. If it was appropriate for them to take St. Charles Avenue or Magazine Street, what makes the bridge different? The CCC also has a history that gives it weight as a site of protest. After Katrina, Gretna police blocked the bridge and fired weapons to prevent a group of black evacuees from crossing. The Justice Department decided that the officers did not break the law.
4 I don’t understand NOPD’s decision to block bridge. I hope they explain today. The standoff lasted an hour. If they let protesters passed, I believe it would have caused a shorter disruption to traffic. Other than as a show of force, I don’t know what the NOPD accomplished by confronting the protesters. I can say NOPD endangered the protesters with their actions. By stopping the movement of the march, people start bunching up closer. Social distancing was not happening, although nearly everyone in the march was wearing a mask. My colleague and I were trying to stay toward the edge, both to observe better and maintain more distance. The guardrail on the CCC, however, is low and that would be a hell of a fall. I moved us into the crowd, since it felt safer. I was worried that if there was a panic in the crowd, people could be shoved over the edge and die. The NOPD’s use of teargas could have set off that panic. The NOPD tweeted “the crowd refused to comply with three orders not to attempt to walk across the CCC.” This is not true. Maybe leaders at the front were given orders, but the crowd was told nothing by NOPD. Before we fell back, I was a few yards from the police line. I could see the row of helmets. I heard no orders from the police. Nor did I hear anything when we moved farther back. After the tear gas was fired, most of the protesters retreated. Many people were encouraging people to slow down, walk and not do anything that might cause panic or chaos. I was surprised as we left that the NOPD allowed traffic to enter the CCC while it was occupied by protesters. When we arrived, the onramp was clear. When we left, it had a line a vehicles with a semi in the front. Although the cars were stopped and many seemed supportive of the protesters, allowing traffic onto bridge seems like it would endanger both the protesters and the officers. I asked Mayor Cantrell’s office about this, but they still haven’t responded to my email from last night. At the base of the bridge, the organizers had stationed bike taxis to take away anyone who was injured. (End thread)
I have been gathering photos of different ironwork motifs in all four quadrants of the Quarter and will be researching them further when I am able to get to the wonderful HNOC’s Williams Research Center.
Here are all of the (18) monogram and initial motifs I have found – so far.
I have found them on Burgundy (2), Dauphine (1), Bourbon (1), Royal (5), St. Louis (1), Chartres (3), at the Pontalbas, 2 different motifs on the Skyscraper at St Peter and Royal, on a modest brick house on Dumaine (where the AP scrollwork from the Pontalbas is on the gate transom of a house in mid block for some mysterious reason) and two on Esplanade. Most are found on second or third-story balconies, but a few are on front doors, and a few others are on a gate.
Thanks to The Collins C. Diboll Vieux Carré Digital Survey at HNOC I was able to research each location to see if I could find a likely reason that particular monogram or initial was added. I am also searching for other history books to find other information as needed so I will continue to refine and add to this list in the next few weeks to capture each monogram and its history.
Have been long confused by description of the Bosque House: “The central panel of the rail has a most graceful arrangement of scrolls in the character of the best 18th-century work and in an oval at the center appears the monogram of Bartholome Bosque, curiously backward when seen from the street.” It doesn’t seem backward any longer.
Yet, in the 1930s pictures of the scrollwork it does indeed look backward in the picture:
Love the description too:
The wrought iron railing of this balcony is perhaps the finest feature of the façade and is comparable to only three or four other examples in New Orleans — the Cabildo, the Pontalba House, and the Correjolles House at 715 Governor Nicholls. All these railings are of about the same date and are all probably the work of the same craftsman, who, in the case of the Cabildo and the Pontalba House is known to have been Marcellino Hernandez, a local blacksmith of great skill.
I went to look at 715 Governor Nicholls and its ironwork certainly resembles the Bosque House:
Next up: the anthemion or palmette motif.
How do we redesign public spaces like those in the French Quarter for physical distancing needs?
Can we better activate public/private partnerships to renew the French Quarter for locals?
What can we do to spur activity to those businesses that are open and following protocols?
By all indications, the city’s recent activation of the 15 mph/local traffic only for Moss Street in Bayou St. John has been wildly popular among city residents. Based on that, one can see the city is willing to try some ideas out to increase space for safe pedestrian and human-powered traffic in different neighborhoods.
If the goal is to increase safe-distanced activities, renew the communal vibe that New Orleans does so well, get some sales kick-started among local businesses, and to ease some of the anxiety that comes from being quarantined…
… just walking through the Quarter, ideas pop up:
• close off specific targeted, appropriate single blocks for weekend activities, for kids or for musicians. Partner with local NGOs like NOMF, MACCNO, Arts Council, La Children’s Museum to activate a single block of the Quarter over a few days. I have long been in favor of Wilkinson Row being made into a pedestrian mall over weekends, maybe into a “Buskers Alley” where musicians can play on a particular painted space for 90 minutes before moving on.
Maybe also use Exchange Alley as a locals-only juried art market. This will not only bring locals and visitors together but will also increase activity to those businesses that are off the main avenues.
• Allow residents to nominate their block and, with majority support of its residents and businesses, build a day of low-stress, locals-focused activities.
• Add amenities to increase the use of the French Market for locals: add storefront library outlet, senior center activities, add “splash pad” from 6-8 p.m. at Flea Market.
• Use hotel meeting rooms for senior events: bingo, movies, low-stress exercise classes.
• Add shade trees in pots, for now, later plant permanently.
• add data collection to measure traffic flow, including using ping counters (as we are doing at farmers markets across the US) to measure how many, how long, and the direction they originated.
• Walking loop tracks mapped out with signage.
• Misting areas across Riverfront, Royal, Bourbon, and Burgundy on weekends during daylight hours.
• Invoke Carnival parking restrictions for the first weekend per month to increase pedestrian activity throughout the summer and fall.
• Create locals’ pricing on weekdays and evenings at French Market parking lots.
• Add circular bus route every hour Weds-Sun, stopping only on Esplanade and Rampart that goes towards UNO, another that goes to lower 9 and one that goes to Broadmoor area.
• Allow all New Orleanians the annual opportunity to purchase two 6-hour parking passes that can be used in residential permitted areas in FQ, Marigny. They should be able to purchase online that week before and print out to affix to their passenger front window. They would have unique codes that, if used more than once, will alert meter staff to issue high penalty tickets.
• Allow boutique hotels to offer courtyard or meeting space for pop up businesses to sell provided they do not directly compete with existing FQ businesses.
• Allow some pop-ups rules and incentives for commercial space landlords to encourage businesses from other neighborhoods to be able to vend in FQ for a month or so.
• Rework Decatur (ala FQF) to become mostly human-powered between Conti and Dumaine. Put temporary rotaries at Conti and at St. Phil to allow for easy u-turns.
• Add cardboard trash cans to every block Thurs-Sun.
• Add maps, signage, explanations of FQ history, and proper social distancing etiquette using local artists’ creativity.
• Add plywood walls for temporary chalk walls on Royal and Decatur.
• Allow more street vending for New Orleans culturally-specific items (yaka mein, callas, red beans, tamales etc) that prioritized walking/biking food vendors, maybe prioritize Jazz Fest vendors.
• Add multi-lingual signage everywhere.
But we also must consider the worker:
• As mentioned on these pages previously, incentivize rent control at the Pontalbas for FQ service workers. We’d change the Square overnight to a much safer and much more animated city center. Do the same for upper floors on Canal Street.
• Create shuttle services from edges for local workers to safely be able to park and get back to their vehicles after work. Incentivize worker parking in lots around Quarter.
• Build a circular bus route that runs during the shift changes such as 10 am, 2 pm,10 pm, 2 am. and goes to lots and surrounding neighborhoods.
• Penalize FQ employers who offer no bike parking or public transportation options for their staff.
• Allow mule carriages to do deliveries for FQ businesses and residences from items dropped/aggregated/stored at French Market.
And what about the residents?
• Reduce the number of out of date freight zones and no parking areas through a thorough audit.
• Add a circular bus route from FQ to other areas on weekends.
• Incentivize businesses that add services for locals including package receipt, concierge services such as grocery pickup, repair services (bike), pet services.
• Allow residents reports of STR violations to kick start a vigorous investigation which would use indicators such as multiple key boxes, trash out on Monday morning, photos of scofflaws, an excess number of people on balconies and late noise violations to spur the immediate removal of those visitors and hefty fines to owners. In addition, create a city office for STR management at French Market.
• Add senior activities in French Quarter, add senior center (Cathedral school building maybe?)
• Build a captains per square block system much like the Beacons of Hope system brilliantly used to rebuild the Lakeview and other areas post-K. Allow those captains to have priority access to city departments to assist in problem-solving, materials to welcome new residents, rewards for beautifying their areas and so on.
• Find places for dog-friendly activities.
• Keep an up to date online map of all current ‘no parking’ temporary permits to ensure that they are not illegally expanded or continued and that they are not conflicting with other temporary permits.
• Allow residents to apply for single temporary no parking spaces on their block when moving in or out.
• create a better flow for exiting or entering the Quarter via Rampart or Esplanade with better traffic controls. For example, it is almost impossible to turn left on to Rampart for long stretches of the day; street lights need to be better placed.
These are all my own ideas (or from my pals) and I am comfortable that some (most?) may turn out to be very unworkable. The point here is to think BIG how we can reconnect and revive our deep connections and our businesses while still becoming a more healthy city.
So in that vein, what are YOUR ideas?