Neighbors First for Bywater board meeting – March 20, 2019

Present: Julie Jones, Susan Korec, Mark Gonzalez, Rhonda Findley, Anthony Eschmann, John Andrews, Brian Luckett, Tyler Harwood

Called to order at 7:28 PM by Julie Jones.

The election for the new board needs to happen at the next general meeting. It seems all current members of the board are content to continue to serve, but we all agreed “self perpetuating” boards are not ideal. A few members have volunteered to resign if we need to make room for new members, as we are at the maximum of twelve. We will notify the membership in the general meeting email announcement that we are still accepting and encouraging nominations, and will open the floor at the meeting for any last-minute nominations.

The Krewe of Red Beans is having a block party on the 3200 block of Burgundy on March 30th as part of their “Bean Madness” charity event. Devin De Wulf, the founder and organizer, has obtained permits to sell beer, which has been donated by Urban South brewery. NFB was invited (and gladly agreed!) to man the table, and we get to keep the proceeds. Tyler volunteered to help set up the table, and will bring the NFB banner to hang as well. Rhonda and Susan will work the table from noon until 1:30, Anthony and Mark from 1:30 to 3, Brian and Julie from 3 to 4:30. The last shift is from 4:30 to 6, and we’ll ask via email for other members to volunteer. We agreed it will be really fun, and the bands are good! Tyler will coordinate with Devin and Mark to be sure we have enough coolers for the provided beer.

Julie was notified that NPR and the Lens ran a story about the large HANO development being proposed that featured a 5-minute interview focused on the difference between all affordable housing and the 60%/40% mix. It was suggested that we respond, and the question was raised how to go about doing so, and who it should be from. Near neighbors would be good, and several great candidates were suggested, but that an official statement from our organization may be most effective. Mark agreed to contact Cherry May, who is an event organizer and promoter, to see if she has suggestions. Devin from Red Beans might also have a contact. Rhonda suggested consulting or hiring a public relations expert to help us craft our message. NFB has always welcomed and encouraged affordable housing, and we need to be clear about our reasons for opposing this development. Simply stating that the development is too big leaves us vulnerable to the convenient “NIMBY” dismissal. Time is of the essence, so if we want to look into a consultant we’d need to be fast.

John reported that he recently attended one of Councilmember Palmer’s “Coffee with Kristin” events at the St. Roch Market. The HANO development was mentioned, and the lack of HDLC’s authority on these kinds of developments. Ms. Palmer said she can still base her decisions on their advice. She expressed concerns about the trees, almost all of which the developers plan to remove. We agree the trees remain a major concern. Rhonda is looking into issues with stormwater management, which may not be adequately addressed in the current plan.

We then discussed the Arrive Hotel (a.k.a “Poshtel”), and our need to speak with Councilmember Palmer about it. She has been on vacation, but will be back in a few days. It’s unclear if the project will come up in the next city council meetings. NFB has filed an appeal to the city council regarding the HDLC’s approval of the final design. The design doesn’t consider noise issues for near neighbors, and the city attorney claims the HDLC doesn’t have the authority to address it. We have hired an attorney and Mark stressed the need to pay him a retainer that he can bill against. Rhonda made a motion that we pay a retainer of $2000. It was seconded by Mark and unanimously approved. The project will not come up until the Council meeting in late April.

Planning the next general meeting was then discussed. Councilmember Palmer expressed interest in having a community meeting / forum regarding the HANO project, and we agreed to offer to host it. Another option is to invite the new HDLC commissioner. It would be good to ask serious questions about her thoughts on issues specific to our neighborhood. Susan will check with Commander Young to see if he can come. It’s been a while since we’ve had him at a meeting, but Mardi Gras was understandably too busy for him to make time. Brian will bring food. Mark will bring plates, cups, and napkins. Steven Jacob was elected to bring water.

Rhonda then expressed serious concerns about crime in the “parklet” located at Independence and St. Claude Ave. Should it be fenced? The owner of the lot did not take any money from the “Main Street Initiative” to put in the parklet, and had expressed concerns about its potential for criminal activity when it was proposed. Men with assault rifles were apparently arrested there recently. Commander Young has been contacted. Some have suggested turning it into a small, fenced dog park. We discussed inviting the owner of the lot to a meeting to discuss possible solutions. Can we help? It may be complicated as he does not live in New Orleans. John has his contact information.

The last item of business was an email Julie received from Joe Brown regarding a friend of a near neighbor that expressed interest in an informal meeting to discuss our concerns with the “Arrive” hotel project. This friend is apparently an acquaintance of one of the developers, and could possibly help mediate, should it be helpful. There was some curiosity as to what his motivations may be, but we agreed there was no reason not to meet him. Mark suggested emailing him to see what his concerns are ahead of time. We agreed to have the near neighbor contact John, whom he knows, to discuss it further.

Meeting adjourned at 8:30 PM.

Submitted by Tyler Harwood, co-secretary

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