Pequod People

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One of the things New Orleans is famous for is crazy people. A city needs two things to be a real city: street cars and a sprinkling of blown out minds mumbling to heaven or shouting imprecations at the traffic. New Orleans has its fair share of both.

While most of the shouting, mumbling, prophesying, imprecating, fulminating folk are harmless souls who have lost the struggle with the urban hive and take it out on the Cosmos, there are citizens just as crazy who stay engaged and crafty. They remain a danger. Social Ebola. The rhythm of language suggests I should now add, “and to themselves,” but unfortunately that would not be true enough. Shunned and avoided by most, secretly detested behind their backs by many others, admired by a few aspiring imprecators, they maintain their grip on key parts of the social toolkit, never recognizing that they are just as mad as the old guy on the corner drinking out of a paper bag, yelping galactic threats at the streetcars

Captain Ahab understood himself: “All my means are sane, my motive and my object mad.”

Do our urban Ahabs understand what they look like? What they are?

Okay. Zipping right along here, we come to this week’s Pequod, the wreck of Stuart H. Smith’s and Peterson M. Yokum’s white whale hunt, to wit: their lunatic suit against Bourbon Street bar Funky 544 and a few others for playing music they don’t like very much. Damages sought were up to $32,000,000.

Let me put that in context: thirty two million fucking dollars. Or maybe $20m, as I saw in one place. But what’s $12m one way or the other when we’re having fun, right?

They lost in court. They did not get the $32 or the $20 million. They didn’t get anything. After nine days of legal fencing, the jury of their peers told them to piss off.

But legal Pequods have more than one life. They pop up like Palooka dolls, and our local Hatters will probably be back for more. They can appeal. They can sue another bar. As long as their money holds out, they can harass and snipe and ankle-bite and generally be a pain in the kazoo. They don’t care that we think they are queasy, cheap people. To them, money makes them rich.

They have not lost entirely. There is a lot of collateral damage, wreckage and broken rigging they can take satisfaction in. Ahab was ready to take all the lives on the Pequod down to the cold bottom with him for a chance to land a harpoon in his white whale. Stuart H. Smith, Polly Elizabeth Anderson and Peterson M. Yokum seem as ready to take satisfaction in wreckage as winning, as did Ahab, as the whale crunched the rest of him, and the sea took the hapless crew. They cost their victims small fortunes in legal defense and wasted time.

Let’s widen the net a bit – not that you can catch white whales in a net, but I’m trying to be poetic here, so give me a little slack, okay?

In 2012, Peterson M. Yokum, presumed principal, though of course we suspect more of an impressionable rubber stamp for Smith’s Ahab, added VCPORA and “French Quarter Citizens for the Preservation of Residential Quality of Life” as co-plaintiffs.

I love that title: for the Preservation of Residential Quality of Life. Think of it next time you hear one of them mank on about preservation and their “Historic Gem.” They don’t use the full title any more, but it tells you what the FQ preservationists really want to preserve. History may have a cameo role, but would be better preserved if they knew more about it. They want to preserve the French Quarter’s new, unhistorical role as a retirement home for the corporate classes. What is now called the French Quarter or even the Vieux Carré has seen a lot of action in its time, since Pauger laid it out in 1721, but co-optation as headquarters of a grey power movement – probably a new role.

Vieux Carré means Old Square. Okay, “square” is passé – but so are these guys.

This may be the case in the tangle of Pequodian pursuits where the judge threw VCPORA/FQC out as having no standing. Doesn’t matter. If they are not in the crew, they are in the choir.

Raise a glass to the sinking of the Pequod. Pour out a libation to ask the gods to sink its next assault while making it look as mad and stupid as this one. The next Pequod will be constructed of appeals, new lawsuits, new depositions, interrogatories, discoveries, affidavits, inquiries. Jarndyce and Jarndyce. SmithStag seems to – allegedly! – pride itself on being the nuisance champion of the legal business, lashing out emails with questions and claims and requests which run the meter on the defendant’s legal bill.

The term often used is “frivolous” law suit. But that sounds light and airy, a bit funny. These lawsuits are mean, malicious and destructive. Bourbon Street has the money to survive. Habana Restaurants has the money to survive. But the system is inherently unjust, and I am sure that sustains our Ahabs when they sit down at night with a big glass of grog to savor their self-satisfaction and meditate upon their sense of entitlement, and feel satisfied at the depths of the boredom they inspire. How many hopeful enterprises, bars and bands, never even start because Smith and Michael Martin and Barry Cooper can bankrupt them with impunity using weaponized law?

Meg Lousteau, titled Executive Director, gunslinger for VCPORA, told Dave Woolworth when he was researching the Oxford Acoustics soundscape report for City Council, to just make the decibel limits low, so she could sue people whenever she wanted to. That’s the mentality. Game the law and bugger the city.

Stuart H. Smith, Esq. plead guilty to a criminal charge last week and is on a suspended sentence and two years probation for what I would call attempted intimidation of public officials and others in pursuit of their duties, reduced to “cyberstalking” on a plea bargain. Other people who have been on the wrong side of his abusive attacks would like to see him disbarred.

Can we do anything about his firm’s litigious abuse? It does a lot of malicious damage, too. Possibly not directly. The courts are not directed by public opinion. Lawyers Smith, Cooper and Martin and VCPORA/FQC, convinced of their own righteousness, clearly don’t care how awful we think they are.

Perhaps we could ask intelligent City Council members like James Gray, who has his own problems with the political use of legal action in connection with the Holy Cross development, or Nadine Ramsey to tell VCPORA/ FQC that if their convicted criminal of a legal adviser carries on with his campaign of litigious harassment, they can count on no support for their endless unpopular positions before council forever. Maybe Jared Brossett and Jason Williams would join, but I wonder if they see their political bread buttered on that side. Susan Guidry – can’t tell. She seems thoughtful, but her positions are not always easy to predict. And Stacy Head – don’t think so. A preservationist in wolf’s clothing, a declared hater of Bourbon Street.

We can request a legal change. Let’s ask City Council and Baton Rouge to consider statute to end this abuse of law and the courts for vigilante purposes. Start with all the Council members, and State Senator Edwin Murray and Representative Helena Moreno. Tell them a legal structure that allows Smith and his legal associates and the French Quarter protectionist clubs to be amateur secret police needs reconstructing.

I wonder if they even expect to win. Their cases against the T-shirt shops were poorly researched, constructed and argued, and they lost. Their soggy, self-serving arguments against Habana Restaurants, presented so far in a manner of maximum arrogance, least likely to win support, are getting an administrative raspberry from the Vieux Carre Commission, probably because the members are mostly professionals who do not need campaign contributions. Maybe they just want to employ the law as a stick for castigation of the sinners. That would be us, the sinners.

Remind the politicians of what Judge Politi said in The Good Wife: When the law is an ass, somebody has to kick it.

Meanwhile, I would recommend laughing at the failed persecutors. Criticism is limited. Even though the biggest chunk of their motivation seems to be straight self-interest, like residential property value appreciation and making sure that no one under 35 is allowed to walk unattended in residential areas, because as everyone knows, they get drunk and throw up in your window box, they exhibit cult characteristics. In their fantasies, criticism might confirm the virtue of their intentions.

But straight-up mockery, that’s worth it. Don’t fall for the “power” of money, or the law, or “preservation.” or respect for age, title, position, reputation or the normal requirements of social politeness. A person who signs on to this rubbish loses his or her claim to dignity. Just laugh at them. Not light, friendly laughter. Scorn and mockery, as mean as their attacks. Point and jeer, if you feel up to it. From the rank-and-file VCPORA dues-payer to probationer Smith, and although he seems to be a true New Orleans character with some saving eccentricities, you can include Yokum as well – while we are trying to get their stuff put down, just laugh at them.

 

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The End of the World

The End of the World has made some strange bedfellows.

Noam Chomsky says people have enabled disaster. Smart enough to create complex industrial/consumer/war economy, fueled by extracting and burning hydrocarbons, but not smart enough to understand the cost or control the distortions of capitalist economy. So skipping a few hundred steps, masters and subjects will coordinate in a dumb danse macabre until the ice caps melt, the seas rise and the coastal cities disappear, the permafrost under the earth melts, releasing enormous amounts of greenhouse gases, and diminishing resources, unbreathable air and the chain of related events make human life as we know it impossible, if not the life of most of the species on earth. So we will cause our own extinction.

Slavoj Žižek says the world is ending because the computers will get the better of us. Androids and electronics, machines and information will overwhelm the human race. We will be replaced.

Franklin Graham, son and heir of Billy Graham, evangelist to the powerful, says the IS beheading Christians and the Chinese tearing down churches make him feel that the end times are upon us. Jesus will return, and I think that means most of us are in trouble.

Tim LaHaye, evangelist, preacher, prophet, creator of the enormously successful Left Behind stories, one of the world’s leading flakes, always thinks the world is ending. He is into belief, not evidence or reason. We could say that the end of the world is really the business he is in.

So two rationalists, careful, creative thinkers coming at it from different corners of the ring reckon we are about to cash in our chips, and two others, who from various social springboards tell us that the complex reasonings of. Christian eschatology – a big word for the belief that everything is going to end in the Rapture and all the associated stormy events – are either true, or perhaps too complex and you can get to the big triage, heaven or hell, by pop reasoning based on lines out of ancient science fiction.

So with all that going on, the world ending for the humanists and the bible-thumpers both, I don’t suppose it matters much that the City Planning Commission and groups of highly respectable New Orleans citizens are working hard to bring about the end of New Orleans history, often in the name of preserving it.

I think it is telling that the CPC seems to be sparsely populated with professional architects, landscape designers and town planners. They seem to me to be mostly political appointees, Prominent Citizens, or their relatives, who may be a bit too indifferent to the field, or too busy, or too much in the business of arranging compromises, conflict resolution and arriving at decisions between conflicting interests. What politicians do – try to run a balancing act between battling groups of impassioned amateurs.

In the name of History, the “preservationists” – protectionists, really – which they rarely show any understanding or appreciation of, pursue chocolate box visions of residential respectability situated in areas where old buildings and houses of architectural interest are. They call setting up a quiet reservation for prosperous retirement in these areas “preservation,” generally dropping the word “history” from “Historical Preservation,” especially here, because their pink-tinged fantasies have, of course, very little to do with history. If I could find the right time-traveling bookie, I would bet that the people that built and lived in their neighborhoods – the Irish Channel, Garden District, French Quarter, Marigny – from the early 19th century, through the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Golden Ages, the Great Depression, through to Preservation heyday, would find the current tribes insufferable.

They have all racked up a few good notches in their flintlocks. VCPORA was a leader in keeping the French Quarter from serious rape and violation who thought it was a crumbling old slum not worth saving. They were active in preventing Robert Moses’ spaghetti bowl of elevated motorways from ruining Elysian Fields and the riverfront. But that does not make them right when they are dead wrong, and have slipped away from preserving into building cotton barrier walls around themselves.

What they don’t mention is that the most implacable and important enemy of Moses’ vision of cities as shopping centers for the suburbs was Jane Jacobs, not VCPORA, not preservationists of the unthinking kind. And Jane Jacobs was also an implacable opponent of “Euclidean zoning.”

“Intricate minglings of different uses in cities are not a form of chaos. On the contrary, they represent a complex and highly developed form of order.” (Jane Jacobs, The Life and Death of American Cities, p222)  The fundamental problem with Euclidean zoning is that it incorporates an overly simplistic notion of what constitutes an ordered environment—a notion that ignores how cities actually operate. Jane Jacobs has taught us not to fear cities. Our challenge is to reform our zoning regulations to let cities be cities—to let them become the dense, complex, highly ordered places that Jacobs has shown us.

Jay Wickersham, JANE JACOBS’S CRITIQUE OF ZONING: FROM EUCLID TO PORTLAND AND BEYOND, https://www.bc.edu/dam/files/schools/law/lawreviews/journals/bcealr/28_4/04_TXT.htm

Jacobs’ point is that neighborhoods are complex. Residential zoning is monoculture – or no culture, the death of cultures, the death of life cycle. Neighborhoods need variety of use and of buildings, so there is visual surprise and a complex tapestry of sounds, smells, colors, sizes and shapes.

What are the new amendments and the old CZO setting up? Planned sterility.

We can’t review the CZO in detail in a NOLAscape. It would take a book. Opposing in a commentary to the political board – would they really read it, or follow the arguments?

Let’s just do one: one of their music rules.

Restaurants can have bands of non-amplified instruments, but not in the French Quarter.

The CPC seems – emphasize seems – oddly unsophisticated in city planning, but they seem to understand politics and some are lawyers. They know this thing can’t stand up to a serious judicial challenge. But they do it anyway. Why? Nagging, I suspect. VCPORA says no music in the FQ. Why not? Quality of Life. QoL. Translation: we are boring old farts; music is noise; younger people that hear music get drunk and throw up in front of your house.

I wish that was a funny line I made up, but you can actually see it in many preservationist communications. In their mythology, young people are drunks who throw up. Stuart Smith, to whom they give prizes, and Cheron Brylski, who serves as his and their publicist, tend to get a little more arrogant and unguarded and put it in writing. Upon such stuff is zoning based.

The lawyers on the CPC must know that courts have ruled that music and art come under the constitutional speech guarantees. Amplification has been held allowable. Volume can be regulated, not how you get there. Furthermore, you can regulate volume but not content. Certain music requires electronic instruments, which must be amplified. You can’t do a great job on hip hop with a mandolin and a harp. An opera singer can raise the roof without a mic; most pop singers can’t: content bias.

Why would they back a thing like this that they know violates high court interpretations of music cases? I reckon it is that compromising procedure: try to get the factions settled down. Let’s go for maximum realizable public muttering instead of shouting. So much easier than a real decision.

I suspect the trick they would count on is that they cannot shut down free speech, but they can blackmail owners with their ABO. They can, but a well-financed opposition would take it down as institutional extortion. I suspect the reason they stretch it is that one of the main – possibly the principal – underlying structures of the CZO is ever-increasing residential property prices.

Another linked idea is how many days a week a restaurant must have music. That must be for grandfather qualification, perhaps probing for another way to attack Antoine’s, or to prevent future Antoine’s. Shall we take a poll: if you have shares in neither, which do you prefer, Antoine’s Hermes Bar or the exclusivist neighborhood lobby clubs?

The CZO self-advertisements use “walkable” among their buzz words, but what does that mean if there is no place to walk to? New Orleans does have the right beginnings: small blocks, lots of corners, narrow streets. But the planners and the protectionists want height uniformity, for some reason. They are all acrophobes. They want design uniformity, and strict controls on commercial “incursion” into residential precincts. Only commercial enterprises of the most innocuous kind, that make no impact on residential tedium.

Looks to my untrained eye that the residential geometry is going to be: areas for the Owners and Masters; for the Administrators; for the Managers, the cubicle folk; and servants’ quarters that you have to commute from, on a picturesque streetcar. It already is but tricks like minimum lot size congeal it into law.

It was not like that in old Rome and Pompeii, and still is not completely in New York. Palazzi for the Masters, yes, and houses for the Admin class, and similar houses for the Corporate Citizen, and servants’ quarters, yes – but all around each other. They formed a joined up system, so why the distance? A habitat for Corporate Man.

City Council is even working on making jaywalking a crime. That’s a great complement to walkability, isn’t it? The classic pro-SUV law, which rules on the Los Angeles boulevards, imposed on the narrow streets of the 18th century city.

The mixture and churn that made New Orleans attractive while so many other cities went sclerotic, stiffened by zoning, suburbia, Puritanism and evangelical Protestantism, is making itself increasingly illegal.

The planning tries hard to look slick, whizzy and modern, but I suggest they are way behind, stuck in an 80s-90s paradigm, apparently oblivious to townscape ideas movement, and to Shared Space.

The hope for New Orleans: its lively, enlivening, celebratory anarchy, if enough of it is left to fight bad ideas and survive the mayor’s new safety patrol. It has been partly tamed and put under supervision – Mardi Gras, Southern Decadence, T&C. Get your permit, get your security, all that. But is there still enough raw anarchy to wear down the laws against art, creativity, innovation and neighborhoods worth walking around?

Well, if our leading public intellectuals and sky pilot fantasists agree that our world is ending, maybe best not to worry about it too much. Eat, drink and be merry. Let the directors of the city base their goals for New Orleans and you on the protection of residential property value over . . . what was that about Life, Liberty and all that traditional Enlightenment stuff?

I guess we’ll see.

 

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Brylski and the Upstarts

Talk about your historic gems – these tidbits come to us from Cheron Brylski’s Krewe of Truth email circle. I am absolutely in awe. She tries to be funny in one part! And almost makes it. A bit heavy-handed and then apologizes and explains, probably feeling quite giddy at the unfamiliar feeling. She wants to watch out for a nose bleed! The Krewe for the Kleweless is usually so clunky and boring, you worry for them. Does their blood go round fast enough to sustain the brain cells?

But here it is. The sign of life. The stuff of legend.

What do you think about Brylski and the Upstarts? Sounds like a band, right? I am going to propose them to play the next French Quarter Advocates event.
Subject: FW: French Quarter Advocates Poll – Habana Outpost

Check  out the forwarded email below, which was sent out by the president of FQAdovates.

If you put in the password – jackson – you can access their fictitious “poll” and other info. Take a look at the results of their “survey”, & you can see it appears they are “stacking the box”.

In case you didn’t already know, French Quarter Advocates is an upstart organization that was founded by a former president of another French Quarter organization who left office under a cloud. It is also avidly supported by a certain real estate mogul who owned (or co-owned) the corner gas station for about 10 years and allowed the property to fall into its current despicable condition. Eventually, that owner sold it in 2012 to Mr. Meenan for a profit of approx. $360,000. (These figures/facts are according to Orleans Parish Assessor’s website).
Miz Brylski, seems to be trying on a new persona. Maybe she had an exciting Labor Day weekend.

You may be searching for the word facetious, Ms B., not fictitious. French Quarter Advocates (try to ignore the inventive spelling) put up a poll you could take about Habana Outpost. It was real, all right, but had a bit of a game atmosphere, not easy for the zombie tendency to understand. But we are going to help them. Because they need it. For all their experience  of influence and arm-twisting, they are just not very good at being people.

Let’s us have some fun, too. Let’s dig the NOLAscape rusty scalpel into that paragraph, “In case you didn’t already know . . . .” Trying on innuendo for size, she calls FQA an “upstart organization.”

What does that mean, do you think?

Unless an organization is eternal, maybe the Illuminati, or Scientology, it has to start. French Quarter Advocates started earlier this year, in April, launched by people getting together who liked the idea of a French Quarter neighborhood association, who had never joined VCPORA or French Quarter Citizens because they could not stand their unsavory politics, sleazy ways, dishonesty, snobbery and addiction to vigilante lawsuits; or had joined, but left in disgust; or had been one of the officers or directors in place when FQC went crazy last year. (Citizens erupted in a major conniption in 2013, possibly engineered by the lawyer/puppeteer who might do these things for fun, as video game replacements. The former President and a fair number of other directors, officers and member shot their way out of the corral in a sort of Hoodie showdown. The OK Cabildo. We’ll come back to that. with a bigger story. A veritable Brazilian Telenovela of FQ class.)

For now, enough to say they did not leave under a cloud. They left the cloud. FQC and their symbiotic host VCPORA are a dark cloud of decay lowering over a cold swamp. It is not a nice place. You would not want your kids to play there. Every one of the ex-members is relieved to be out, like people escaped from a bad cult, and look back on their time in the club with frissons of horror.

I did some research to find out who the mogul is. Damn, a mogul, right here in a NOLA! I want to meet one. I didn’t go to the a parish Assessor’s web site though. I just asked.

It turned out to be Michael Wilkerson. I have spoken to Mr Wilkerson on the phone a couple of times, but I didn’t know he was a mogul. I am combing Amazon for books on mogul etiquette, so I know how to address him properly next time we speak. I hope I don’t have to bow. I don’t think I would be very good at that.

Dame Brylski of Truth says the mogul allowed the property to fall into its current “despicable” condition. She does have a funny way with adjectives for a flack, but okay, her clients think it is good enough. Would it be ungracious of me to point out that Habana bought the site two years ago and wants to make it live and clean and safe, and Ms Brylski’s Hoodie clients are trying to prevent them doing it? I hope so.

When French Quarter Citizens discussed Habana Outpost, Mr Wilkerson, the mogul, was a member, and supported Habana. Whoops. The good Citizens started frothing and foaming again. Can’t disagree with the klatch.

Anyway, Mogul Wilkerson eventually left FQC in disgust and detests them as roundly as anyone. Conflict of interest, they accuse him of now. I can’t see why. He is in the property business. He sold a property. Not his any more. He just didn’t agree with the coven’s little gaggle of dogma deciders.

FQ Advocates started by mutual interest of a number of people. It didn’t “upstart.” It just started, publicly and transparently. It is not sneaky or secretive, in the time-dishonored VCPORA/FQC ethical vacuum. FQ Advocates is quite open. Want to know how many members, maybe even who they are? Just ask them. What they are for, what against, what measures they might use to advocate or lobby? Just ask them. If they haven’t decided yet, they usually say, “We don’t know yet.” Isn’t that something? No screechy preaching; no arrogance, no lawsuits, no lies. Friendly people with a positive attitude. Pretty exotic, isn’t it? Think it might catch on? I can understand why Brylski’s Kleweless Krewe is suspicious. They haven’t seen much normal behavior. If you have seen them at work on issues like the sound ordinance and the T-shirt shops, you know that their definition of truth is . . . unusual.

FQA supports the Habana Cafe. Get it? Your protectionist clients, Ms Brylski, do not. But they obviously are not very smart on this because yesterday at the Vieux Carré Commission, most of them found it simply impossible to grasp the concepts of first submittal and conceptual approval. One of your Best and Brightest came up with a flaw on the toilet count based on preliminary drawings. What?  Is this woman in the right meetin? She had some architect give her some arguments based on building code. First, Habana Cafe should not be there, and to prove it, their stage one renderings are not the same as a final building code proposal.

Until you get the tendency toward articulate yo yo-ism under control, maybe you should be real careful with the sarcasm. Work on learning how to use it.

Bryan Drude, President of Advocates, addressed the VCC with dignity, at least. He did not try to tell the very experienced architects on the panel how to evaluate plans, according to the lights of a set of close-to-clueless amateurs. He did not try to tell the VCC what its job was and what its own rules say – which I am sure Lary Hesdorffer knows better than even the Hoodies’ crankiest bylaw engineer does. With cordiality and respect, Bryan informed the VCC at the Council Hall Wednesday afternoon that acting on behalf of FQ Advocates, he had met with Sean Meenan to explore the project, that he was satisfied it was good for New Orleans and the French Quarter, that he had polled the membership, and could inform the Commission that he and FQA support the proposal. VCPORA/FQC could announce no such thing, because of course their oligarchy doesn’t care in the least what the real people of New Orleans, the French Quarter, or their membership think about that or anything else.

While you are working on how to be funny or try your hand at satire, dear Ms. Brylski, you want to teach your clients how to avoid the cringe-making dumb-assity of telling Nicholas Musso and the architectural commissioners how to understand architecture and design. I don’t know how many years of independent practice and visiting professor time Mr. Musso has racked up, including a speciality in restaurant design. I have been told the combined years of professional architectural experience on the Commission exceeds 110. BrylskiCo is not the clients, right? So can you see it? I think you either have to get them under control and properly coached, or postpone the foray into irony and humor.Here’s a late-breaking and then I’m out of here, off to City Hall to watch the Council embarrass itself with some dumb and unconstitutional ordinances. In her article on yesterday’s VCC session, Jaquetta White of the Advocate says:

But Bryan Drude, who represents an upstart group called French Quarter Advocates, said 75 percent of its members are in favor of the project. They believe replacing the abandoned and blighted gas station with a commercial use would only improve the neighborhood, he said.

What does that “upstart” in the Advocate tell us? Jaquetta White is on Cheron Brylski’s email list, and either wasn’t thinking or had some deadline desperation, because experienced reporters do not take Brylski-isms at face value.

 

Here’s the whole Krewe of Kleweless post. One of the things to watch for: in Hoodie-land, young people are always drunk and disorderly. Sometime the range is 18-25, sometimes 20-30, but they are always drunk and always threatening the orderly tranquility of the reproduction-free retirement home these groups have turned the residential French Quarter into.

Subject: FW: French Quarter Advocates Poll – Habana Outpost

Check out the forwarded email below, which was sent out by the president of FQAdovates.

If you put in the password – jackson – you can access their fictitious “poll” and other info. Take a look at the results of their “survey”, & you can see it appears they are “stacking the box”.

In case you didn’t already know, French Quarter Advocates is an upstart organization that was founded by a former president of another French Quarter organization who left office under a cloud. It is also avidly supported by a certain real estate mogul who owned (or co-owned) the corner gas station for about 10 years and allowed the property to fall into its current despicable condition. Eventually, that owner sold it in 2012 to Mr. Meenan for a profit of approx. $360,000. (These figures/facts are according to Orleans Parish Assessor’s website).

Perhaps a more accurate and truthful poll could have been performed if the poll offered more pertinent questions, such as:

Habana Café
Please choose the statement that most closely approximates your feelings on this issue:
This looks like something that I would like to locate and operate right next door to my home because I love a raucous crowd of 400 drunks congregating outside my front door and overlooking my courtyard until the wee hours of the morning.
This looks like something that I would like to locate and operate within 1-2 blocks of my home, so that I could never again find a place to park and I could constantly pick up broken beer bottles and discarded food containers from my sidewalk each and every day for the rest of my life.
This looks like something that I would support because the whole world knows there is currently a shortage of drinking establishments in the FQ, and not one good taco stand!
This looks like something that I would support because me and all of my 20-something and 30-something friends are growing tired of the blight and ugliness that we and money hungry developers have heaped upon the once pleasant Frenchman Street. It is time to develop and then trash another section of NOLA before we all move back to NYC, Austin, and the West Coast.
This looks like something that I would support because I would love to see modern folding glass doors installed upon the Esplanade gateway of the French Quarter, because that is exactly what is needed to enhance the “tout ensemble” of this important corner of the FQ.
This looks likes something that I would support because I am for free enterprise at any cost, no matter the damage to our historic, irreplaceable FQ. History and silly rules be damned!
This looks like something that I would support because we need a big rowdy, drunken crowd of 400 to stand in this open-air event space and raise a glass and shout “welcome” to the loud obnoxious party buses as they enter the FQ on weekends.
I am still not in favor of this type of attraction in that location, but I dare not say so out of fear my friends will call me a “maw-maw”.
I don’t care one way or the other, because I don’t give a damn about my own neighborhood or about life in general, much less about a historic area of a town that I am only passing through.
This looks like something that an outside developer from NYC would try to force down our throats, even when it is in violation of several VCC and City Zoning laws.
(Author’s note: in case my point isn’t obvious, all irreverent comments above are intended as satire. Though this is a very serious situation that could foretell the future of more irresponsible, destructive development in the FQ if this project isn’t stopped now!)
Please share the FQA email and “survey” below with everyone who needs to know how the proponents of Habana Outpost are distorting the facts.
Sent: Monday, September 01, 2014 3:58 PM
Subject: FQA Poll – Habana Outpost

 
Attention Concerned Citizens:
Please share your thoughts, and vote in our poll regarding the Habana Outpost plan.
The Habana Outpost plan, for the corner of Esplanade and N. Rampart, has been reworked by the developer to Habana Café, with a major portion of the entertainment component deleted from the original proposal. Habana Café will be primarily a casual dining establishment.
While you are stating your opinion to the poll, please check out the results of the previous poll where a majority of responders were either lukewarm towards, or adamantly opposed to, Mayor Landrieu’s proposal to establish a New Orleans Patrol group of uniformed, unarmed “officers” assigned to the French Quarter, the CBD and the Marigny.
You can vote by clicking on the link below, or copying and pasting it into the address bar. If prompted for a password, the password is “jackson”.
http://www.fqanola.org/2199-2/

PASSWORD: jackson

 

 

 

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Habana Corner

Tomorrow, Wednesday, 1:30 PM. Let the games begin!

The blighted corner at North Rampart and Esplanade will be in the arena.

Meg Lousteau and the VC Three (or is their population down to two now?) will be in the Thumbs Down corner. They will be voting for rats, muggers and the shooting gallery. Same old? They need a new tune, really. We may hear that Habana Outpost/Cafe is a branch of the Zetas and would eat the children of the French Quarter. (If there were any.)

Habana Restaurants and Sean Meenan will be in the Thumbs Up corner. Their nefarious plan, and VCPORA is here to tell you so, is to open a restaurant. Can you believe what this awful company is trying to do to our Historic Gem?

Wait a minute – that’s Meg’s line.

What they are planning to do, and Meg’s Minions just don’t know where they get the cheek – is build a fun restaurant and bar on the site, abandoned and crumbling for the last 40 years or so.

Late breaking: Brylski is out of the starting blocks! The Krewe of Kleweless is weighing in, inspired to sarcasm by her buddies’ love of blight and revulsion at what passes for real life. I’ll put that into a quick following piece, and lets pick it apart. Deconstructing a Brylski – good lord, what might we find in there? But It does warm your heart to see them not quite so boring. Maybe the FQ Zombie tendency will shake itself to life a little, and see the human race in color.

The owner of the space, Habana Restaurants, had to put its plans to rebuild the site on hold last December after a virulent disinformation campaign spearheaded by VCPORA featuring inflammatory video and classic fear tactics about the dire consequences to the supposedly fragile French Quarter if an institution so dangerous as Habana Outpost were to open its doors. VCPORA”s aggressive lawyer, Stuart H. Smith, got into the fray, threatening lawsuits, and CM Kristin Gisleson-Palmer rolled over, saying that she had thought it was going to be a nice little Spanish restaurant, not . . . Habana Outpost, which everybody else knew, so we have to wonder whether Ms KGP actually missed it, or we were being treated to a glimpse of FQ politics in action.

VCPORA dusted off the old artillery Monday night, recycling the same propaganda video that it used to scare the bewildered last time, warning that the sky would fall, asking its members and sympathizers to blast emails at the Vieux Carré Commission asking them, the VCC, to withhold approval until Habana modifies its plans further to suit VCPORA. The restaurant management and design experts.

Habana had re-cast its plans to a format it calls Habana Café. The plans were conditionally approved by the Architecture Committee of the VCC last week, with a strong recommendation from the Architecture Committee’s staff and clear ratification from committee chairman Nicholas Musso, an architect of vast experience in private practice and as visiting professor at five or six universities, including Harvard. VCPORA spokesmen were there to object, but their protests were embarrassing to watch. Their attempts to lecture Musso on architecture and city planning had about the same cringe factor as if they tried to advise Eric Clapton on guitar technique.

Their suggested email text takes a similar approach, instructing Musso and the VCC’s Director, Lary Hesdorffer, on the rules of their Commission.

The project can be revised according to VCC and zoning rules, and would then fit the character of this historic neighborhood

Not really the way to win friends and influence people. I guess they are used to browbeating politicians, who are vote-hungry, sometimes unprincipled amateurs. Maybe they forgot that there are real professionals who know exactly what they are doing and why – who can distinguish design from land use, for instance.

VCPORA used similar tactics last September, when they prodded the Housing and Human Needs Committee of the City Council and Safety and Permits Department into launching a witch hunt against T-Shirt shops. It was excruciatingly obvious that the Council Members had no idea of the retail trade and S&P was not on top of its game. The trick worked on CMs Kristin Palmer, Stacy Head and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, and through them on Jared Munster’s department of Safety and Permits, which ricocheted around in a state of semi-cluelessness about the laws it was supposed to enforce for a while. They cost the city about eight months of aggravation and expense, and then lost all the key cases.

I don’t think their game has any chance against the much more sinewy knowledge and authority of Musso and Hesdorffer.

Why “hope”? Why do we care? Ah, let me count some ways.

  • North Rampart and Esplanade has been a dark site of blight and danger for about 40 years. People are hesitant to walk past the corner at night. They are afraid it might be used as a shooting gallery and they could get mugged in the shadows or pulled behind the fence. Some cross the street to avoid it. Habana Restaurants has purchased the site. CEO Sean Meenan has moved to New Orleans with his family and says he will ensure that his restaurant is good for the city. When it opens, when the company and the people of New Orleans finally get past VCPORA’s obstructing maneuvers, there will be light and people – safety and a pleasant environment will replace fear and danger.
  • North Rampart is a commercial corridor. It had an interesting music and entertainment tradition, including Cosimo Matassa’s J&M Music Store and Recording Studio and the fondly remembered Funky Butt. Attempts to revive the tradition have been blocked by Jackie Clarkson, now off the game board, VCPORA and members of North Rampart Main Street, Inc., supposedly an organization for regeneration of an underdeveloped, underutilized area, but one that seems to me more in the business of blocking suitable businesses, focussing on what they call “beautification.” I am trying to find out what that consists of. I hope it turns out to be more than facilitating condo development and making sure the street looks nice around VCPORA’s office.
  • The directors, managers, committees and staff of North Rampart Main Street, Inc. overlap alarmingly with the members of the French Quarter protectionist clubs, VCPORA and French Quarter Citizens. I wonder if it is reasonable to suspect that this organization’s purpose is to bring the big avenue under the fist of the neighborhood watch-zombies. .
  • As a commercial corridor with an entertainment tradition, North Rampart really should be developed with reference to the whole city. Zoning can be pernicious and exclusionary – we are about to see that up close and pretty personal in the CZO public comment sessions – but one thing is very obvious: the big commercial streets like Canal and Magazine and North and South Rampart, Elysian Fields and Loyola and Broad and Carrollton and Tulane have impact far beyond their immediate neighboring streets, both from resources that are on them, and from resources that are not on them because residential protectionists have blocked them.

The next phase of Habana Café’s enabling process is tomorrow, Wednesday 3 September, in the Council Chamber at City Hall at 1.30 PM.

Consider coming along to make your views known. Let’s support the real Vieux Carré Commission against the protectionists, who are trying to keep North Rampart boring and dark.

Bob Freilich, September 2014

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