Gulf marine life in great danger from diversion of flood levels of Mississippi River

As an unprecedented amount of floodwater makes its way down the Mississippi River, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened the Bonnet Carre Spillway at New Orleans for the second time this year.

Corps officials try to limit spillway openings to minimize the impact of invasive freshwater species entering Lake Pontchartrain, as one of those impacts could be harming marine life. St. Bernard Parish President Guy McInnis says they have documented 26 dolphin deaths in the past two months, and most of the animals had freshwater lesions. Though Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries officials have not made a direct link to the influx of fresh river water, officials in coastal Mississippi have after conducting a number of dolphin necropsies.

For oystermen, the opening of the spillway is always a cause for concern because it leads to plummeting water salinity levels as the freshwater suddenly dilutes the estuary’s brackish waters, which can kill the oysters they harvest.

As of June 6, 2019, the news is that our other spillway will open to reduce pressure on the levees. Most folks in New Orleans are largely unaware of the Morganza Spillway, including where it is!

 

So, here is some good information on the Morganza Spillway:

 

Morganza Spillway

 

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Maspero’s founder passes

Once upon a time Cafe Maspero was one of most locals’ favorite places both in its original location on Chartres, and then its Decatur Street location. I remember many fine sandwiches there always paired with excellent service – that is, until it was sold a few years back.

An article about Maspero’s and Charlie that  was first published in The Community Standard magazine in Volume 1, No. 4, February 1975.

Is there a way to “control” tourism?

A thought-provoking article about cities like ours that are in danger of being submerged by a new level and type of tourism:

“You could say quality tourism people travel because they’re inquisitive and want to learn,” says Stephen Hodes, founder of local tourism think tank Amsterdam in Progress. “Unfortunately, that kind of tourism is on the downward trend. The new tourists are the status seekers, who travel because it’s good for the way other people perceive them. They’re people who go to sites, take a selfie first to show they’ve have been there, and otherwise aren’t interested.”

This might be annoying, but you can’t legislate against disinterest. What you can do, Udo says, is channel and distribute people more effectively. Even people who say they want an authentic local experience can fall unwittingly into a tourist rut. People who want to be responsible can, for example, cause hold-ups by riding bikes during morning rush hour.

“If you look at factual data, people behave very much alike,” she says. “Many people go to the Van Gogh Museum in the morning, and on a canal boat in the afternoon. That puts pressure on the city at certain places in certain moments, which can end up creating collisions with the locals.”

The city is thus in the process of tailoring its “I Amsterdam” app to match suggestions to visitors’ tastes, and recommend activities at times when they’re not normally full of people.

This idea is one that I have floated in the past for New Orleans. For example, why not a tourist pass for streetcars that operate every 15 minutes with guides, music, and selfie opportunities to alleviate the pressure on the other cars needed for locals?

It’s time that New Orleans begin to direct this non-stop rush of people into better organized events in the French Market area for those tourists who want to eat and drink in a festival space, reward business with special signs and other incentives in FQ, Treme, and Marigny that are willing to offer detailed assistance for visitors , add hotel-based education videos in lobbies and elevators of hotels warning of fines for tourists who engage in casual vandalism, noise at late hours or litter*.

and one more thing: Allow locals to do  “mystery shops” on tour guides with loss of license as the punishment for continued historical inaccuracies with and assigned online classes to keep one’s license.

 

  • there also needs to be cardboard trash containers added every 2 blocks on Fri-Sun in the FQ, Marigny Triangle, and CBD.

https://www.citylab.com/life/2019/05/amsterdam-tourism-travel-tips-vacation-cruise-hotels-airbnb/590221/

 

Latest news from our mayor: She has put a stop to the ridiculous idea of one of our newer, (actually pretty good) all-woman parades who wanted to have a “bridge from one Mardi Gras to the next” by adding a JULY parade.

Hey Nyx- We ain’t buying your bridge. Nice try though. 

 

Tour Guide advice on how to behave in our cemeteries. Sad that this needs to be said, but it does.

Angels eat gumbo

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The Chase family is heartbroken to share the news that our Mother, Grandmother and Great Grandmother, Leah Chase, passed away surrounded by her family on June 1, 2019. Leah Chase, lovingly referred to as the Queen of CreoleCuisine, was the executive chef and co-owner of the historic and legendary Dooky Chase’s Restaurant. She was a major supporter of cultural and visual arts and an unwavering advocate for civil liberties and full inclusion of all. She was a proud entrepreneur, a believer in the Spirit of New Orleans and the good will of all people, and an extraordinary woman of faith.
Mrs. Chase was a strong and selfless matriarch. Her daily joy was not simply cooking, but preparing meals to bring people together. One of her most prized contributions was advocating for the Civil Rights Movement through feeding those on the front lines of the struggle for human dignity. She saw her role and that of Dooky Chase’s Restaurant to serve as a vehicle for social change during a difficult time in our country’s history. Throughout her tenure, Leah treasured all of her customers and was honored to have the privilege to meet and serve them.
While we mourn her loss, we celebrate her remarkable life, and cherish the life lessons she taught us. The Family will continue her legacy of “Work, Pray, and Do for Others.”

Grateful To You,
The Chase Family

In lieu of flowers please make donations to the Edgar L.“Dooky” Jr. and Leah Chase Family Foundation – P.O. Box 791313 New Orleans, LA 70179

 

Peter Boutte

As the pillars fall

And history fades away 

Angels eat gumbo

Megan Braden-Perry

Sad day, though we know Heaven is the best place ever. Rest well, Mama Leah. 💕

A true raconteur, freedom fighter, black Creole queen, and truly the grande dame of Creole cuisine. 

 

Jessica Harris, an author and expert on food of the African diaspora, in a 2012 interview:

“She is of a generation of African-American women who set their faces against the wind without looking back.

 

Jarvis DeBerry

Mayor LaToya Cantrell

Leah Chase served presidents and celebrities, she served generations of locals and visitors, and she served her community. She was a culture-bearer in the truest sense. We are poorer for her loss, and richer for having known and having loved her. She will be badly missed.

 

Ian McNulty’s lovely obituary

 

Poppy Tooker celebrates her friend on her show Louisiana Eats.

 

Dames de Perlage tribute to Chef Leah

 

 

Can the French Market be “saved”? Part 1

It was reported over the weekend that our energetic and active mayor has decided to do something about the French Market. As a 20-year activist in food systems with a 40-year family residency in the French Quarter, I was certainly excited to hear that, although I think the setting has already been improved a great deal in recent years. The main reason this seems opportune is 1) the  limited availability of any public spaces in the city to try small, discrete pilots that center around cultural connections and entrepreneurial zeal means that this might be a unique moment, and 2) also because the current FM Director has been quietly impressive.

I have a personal history with this space, as a resident who was sent to the market to shop for my family’s table, and as a place I developed many of my teen-aged interests in books, bikes, clothes, music, gifts…this was definitely the bazaar that I was in 3 – 4 times a week.

Since the beginning of 2003, I also had a work history with this space when my non-profit, (known then as ECOnomics Institute, and as Market Umbrella since 2008) operating  as Crescent City Farmers Markets, became involved in its operation. The history of the March 2003 – August 2005 Crescent City Farmers Market is recorded here because there will be many that immediately suggest that local food  and in particular a farmers market-is what should be added; in fact, I have already fielded some of that type of comment on social media. And it should be noted that the 2014 reopening of that CCFM market was recently shelved and moved to the Rusty Rainbow location on the Crescent Park where it has already attracted more shoppers than this post-K version had in the FM shed location.

Back to 2003: That is when the then-director of the French Market, Richard McCall* invited us to reopen a farmers market in the shed area. We knew it was a tall order but I remember very well that when Richard McCarthy, ECOnomics Institute’s founder and director asked me, “do you think we should try to work with the French Market?” I answered, “I can’t imagine how we can operate markets in New Orleans and not deal with the existing public market,” which fit what he had already been thinking. So we embarked on this relationship with the French Market to see if we could revive it as a place for local growers and eaters.

It helped that Richard McCarthy and I were two locals who had not written off the French Market, and continued to argue among friends that it was still a place where immigrants entered the entrepreneurial arena, locals still held dear (even if was often with false memories or with unreasonable expectations) and where millions of visitors’ spending could be captured by participating in what is at the heart of what New Orleans does well, meaning operate as a port of entry, celebrate the diverse culture,  and host a wide set of users in our dynamic public space. (Remember times were different back then. Not so out of control with tourists’ expectations, and not 17 million of them either.  Although even then, we did know to calibrate tourists versus residents needs in our work.)

So we gave it a big try, ran this one from 10-2 Wednesdays, and like every other market we opened, we had to try things, and then retry them, and then realize that some of the ideas that worked at other of our markets wouldn’t work there and try some brand-new things.

By summer of 2005, we had reinvented this Wednesday market almost 3 complete times (which was similar to our Tuesday and Thursday’s markets btw)  and hit upon a few truths in doing it, some of which seemed counterintuitive. We also noticed some things about the French Market, which were only noticeable to regular users.

Here is what we figured out:

• As new stakeholders, w were committed to helping the FM staff go through a charette for redeveloping the whole big idea of this space. (Credit to McCarthy who suggested that FM renovate their public bathrooms to be the most beautiful in the city; to me that was the best idea I  heard, which they ignored.) As part of this larger process to help the French Market, we became very publicly supportive of their efforts which was sort of new as before then both entities operated towards the other with benign neglect, which meant no public trash talking and mostly a shrug when asked about the other. With this new partnership, we also did our best to offer whatever analysis we could, which extended to the months after Hurricane Katrina, which I will talk more about in Part 2 of this post series.

• We knew that the small number of residents that were available during Wednesdays would not serve the market that we expected this market to serve. We anticipated that the “trade zone” for this market was actually Treme, Marigny, Bywater neighborhoods , and workers in the Quarter. We knew we’d only get a smattering of FQ residents, but we felt, based on our experience with them at the Magazine street location, they would be among the most loyal users of the market. We didn’t care if tourists used our market and mostly expected them not to.

• That it takes 18 months to 2 years to build a successful market with its own culture and energy and yes we knew that too. And that partners never understand that, no matter how often you say it. And vendors mostly don’t believe it either.

• We had begun to attract notice in our field (including funders) from outside of the region, and hoped we could focus our support from the national field of markets to help us develop this market.

• We had the full support and attention of food activists like Poppy Tooker, and most of the media who wrote about food.

• Ditto with the area chefs, although the type we needed to attract to our markets were hard to find in and around the Quarter. (In short, they had to be chefs known to the public, and in control of purchasing which was not always true of corporate or hotel restaurants.)

What we didn’t anticipate:

• A significant number of our current anchor vendors had been vendors at the French Market, and had less than great experiences with staff and management and could not let go of their (valid) bitterness.

• The free parking would not be a draw because no one understood how to access the lot we were offering and if they did, didn’t want to drive to it.

• New Orleanians are loathe to shop where tourists shop, even if it serves the locals purposes.

• Current vendors of the French Market would feel we were competition, even though we sold nothing that competed with their products.

• Many of the French Market staff simply saw us as more work and resented our presence and even thwarted our market day activities.

• Seniors loved weekday markets and we found out that a lot of centers had shuttles to bring folks to us. Wednesdays became a popular place for those shuttles.

• Our main way to do informal and regular marketing was through yard signs; unfortunately, FQ folks did not like them and called to complain about them regularly, even though we put them out and picked them up right before and after the market. This had not been a problem at the other markets.

• Based on the size and newness of direct-to-consumer agriculture in the area, our anchor vendors could only serve 2 markets full-time as a rule of thumb. For most of them, any more than two markets and either the quality of products or attendance by the growers themselves became an issue.

Still,  by the summer of 2005, this market was attracting 350-500 shoppers per week. Our other markets were 2-4 times that size, so our anchor vendors were still disappointed in those numbers, although I think many would be happy today with those numbers. As a result, many dropped out, but we had a long list of waiting vendors and we developed a new system that required them to start at this market. This helped in more ways than hurt, allowing us to develop new anchor vendors as our Tuesday and Thursday market had in their time. We had begun to attract younger shoppers who were not yet shopping at our other markets, and our market manager Tatum Evans had built real trust with senior centers across downtown, most of which were using Wednesday and Thursday as their shopping days. This optimistic future for this market was a bit of an issue by 2005 as this market took much more time than our other weekday markets to design, to manage, and to figure out its marketing.  And is serving 350-500 shoppers the right thing for a small, nimble market organization to do when it may be possible to add another “flagship”market location on the edge of 2-3 neighborhoods as our other locations offered?

Then Katrina happened.

End of Part 1.

 

Some of my other posts about the French Market are found here.

*Yes the French Market director and our ED had very similar names and (I believe) had gone to Newman together! New Orleans is way less than 6 degrees of separation…

Part 2: 2005-2010: Our community, our markets, the French Market, and the overall regional recovery.

 

 

 

Long lost poet reaches out

One of the great everyday heroes of New Orleans is photojournalist Cheryl Gerber, who is constantly roaming the streets of New Orleans searching for stories to show the deep humanity of our place. Her book, “New Orleans, Life and Death in the Big Easy” is one of my favorites not only for its gorgeous photos, but for its awareness of the deep racial divide that can be seen by anyone looking. Those inequities don’t cancel out the joy, but it does underscore that our public life is rooted in the reality of the challenges we face here and the fragility of this part of the world,  circa 2019.

 

Similarly, Cheryl has brought to her neighbors’ attention an emerging story about a street person that she had noted in the past (and even had a pic of him) but hadn’t felt he wanted her to approach. Recently, something changed and he came to her, told her a great deal about himself and led her to believe that he might be okay with her being more involved. She stayed up all night, researching the info he shared and miraculously, made contact with friends of his. She found he was sorely missed and had been sought again and again, but as no information had reached them they had no idea what to do next. In their conversations, those friends told her of his talent, his story, and his effect on them. His best friend flew to New Orleans almost immediately to search for him, and on the second trip, they found each other and I defy anyone not to have tears rolling down their face at the telling of that moment which is found through the link below (under Story).

All because of the legendary New Orleans-style tough hide/soft heart and an endless curiosity about others in the public space that Cheryl puts into practice daily.

So the next step is for those of us who want to aid his friends help him get back on his feet in the city he loves so dearly, to follow the link to do so.

And maybe you will also be inspired by Cheryl to find a way to connect to one of your neighbors, maybe even one whom you don’t fully understand. Maybe even help them to find the happiness standing right in front of them on Esplanade Avenue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The myth of the FQ Cornstalk Fence

If you happen to be strolling in the 900 block of Royal as the tour buggies come by, you might hear the driver tell of how the one-time owner of the Cornstalk Fence Hotel and his Iowan (it’s usually Iowa) wife came to have this lovely fence. It seems his wife was homesick for the sight of the crop and so he commissioned this fence to appease her. Even our paper of record told the same tale!

The only problem with this…

there are at least 4 other cornstalk fences in town.

I know of examples in Bayou St. John, Lower Garden District (1448 Fourth Street), in the Faubourg Marigny, and a bit on a fence on Canal Street. And here is another example at the Metal Museum:

The reason is there are so many examples is because it was a cast iron form offered by local ironwork company in the 19th century by Wood, Miltenberger & Co on Camp Street, which was an affiliate of Philadelphia ironwork company Wood & Perot.

 

The BSJ house even has a plaque:

 

BSJ fence

2400 Dauphine

Canal near JDavis Parkway

 

Instead, the story is that this lovely design works for a variety of house styles, especially those with a long fence line. And it continues to be loved across many generations, whether by Iowans or by native New Orleanians.