Neighbors First for Bywater – General Meeting – May 5, 2021, 7PM

Held via Zoom video chat.

Our guests were District C Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer and her Chief of Staff Andrew Sullivan. 

We visited and waited about five minutes for any late arrivals. Councilmember Palmer then told us her team had recently been updated on the NSA (the blighted old Naval Support Activity property on Poland St). Brian Gibbs and Shawn Barney have joined Joe Jaeger on the development team. Both have extensive experience with producing affordable housing and securing funds from the government for such use. They are concentrating on building 603, the one closest to Poland Ave. first. It is the final stages of “conceptual approval”, which would secure the financing from HUD. 275-300 units, 177 affordable units. The final closing on the financing from HUD will not be until the first quarter of 2022, and construction would presumably start immediately after that. There will be first floor retail. Mr. Sullivan added that an additional $5M of the developers’ money (not HUD funds) has to be spent on “public amenities” (e.g. fixing streets, sidewalks, ect…) 

The other two buildings are planned to be leased out for commercial use later in the future, and they specified it would not be used for cruise ships, though the port has expressed interest in leasing space for some other purpose. It seems a cruise ship terminal is unlikely at this point, which is a big relief! 

There is supposed to be onsite security at the property currently for 108 hours a week, however that could mean a single security guard. Providing more security is apparently “cost prohibitive”. Once developers have secured “conceptual approval” they plan to start slowly moving work crews and equipment onto the property, and it is hoped that the activity will help alleviate security problems to some degree. New lease amendments are also being approved that should more successfully hold the developers accountable if they do not meet requirements. All plans need to be turned in to the city by December, and extensions would be difficult for developers to get. 

1032 Montegut Conditional Use has been denied. Councilmember Palmer tried to work out compromises with the developer but he was not interested.

There is resolution to designate Allen Toussaint’s “Southern Nights” a state cultural song. Currently there is only “You Are My Sunshine”.

Julie asked about sustainable tourism. Councilmember Palmer explained that better management is needed. One idea they have been looking into is the concept of a “night mayor”, essentially a way to extend city services into the later hours more effectively. Amsterdam pioneered this concept and saw a dramatic decrease in violent crime in tourist heavy districts. They have “ambassadors” that assist tourists, but also help deal with noise issues, conflict resolution, or intoxicated people. They are in a better position to assist because they know the area businesses and residents well, and it frees up the Police to simply deal with crime. A “night mayor” or “Office of Nightime Economy” would be a similar concept, which sounds like it could be an employee of the City that would work more closely with restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues than the current city government is able to. Though the French Quarter would obviously benefit the most, this office would cover the entire city. As it is, a 9-5 city government is not ideal to effectively deal with things like code enforcement in the late hours, nor do they have a very successful way to interface with businesses and residents during times most places of entertainment are busy. 

Proposed regulations regarding Live Outdoor Entertainment are on hold for the moment until deficiencies in the sound ordinance are addressed. 

Julie asked about how long the Mayor’s ‘emergency powers’  stay in effect. Mr. Sullivan explained that the Louisiana constitution states that as long as there is a public health emergency the mayor has a right to maintain emergency orders. The City Council can technically void those orders but that would cause too many problems.

Julie then asked for thoughts regarding the many hotels coming up in Bywater. Councilmember Palmer said she continues to push for these kinds of developments to be located on commercial corridors and not in the residential parts of the neighborhood. Most of the hotels being developed now were approved before she came into office. There haven’t been any updates regarding the proposed hotel by the “Rusty Rainbow” bridge to the park on Chartres St. Coditional Use was approved and they have something like 3 years to break ground before it is nullified. 

There was a brief discussion regarding the real estate market. Prices in Bywater seem to be pretty inflated as of late. 

Tyler asked if there were updates regarding the property at Piety and Burgundy where the old Schwegmann’s building burned down. Julie said it is still in litigation.

Stephen Haedicke asked if the City has thought about dedicating more resources to Mental Health Services, since it seems like people are struggling more than usual these days. Councilmember Palmer mentioned concerns about rises in domestic violence, likely a result of the pandemic. COVID has also made it difficult for people to find treatment for Mental Health Issues. There has been an increase in homelessness as well. They are adding 200 beds to one of the shelters this year. 

Councilmember Palmer and Mr. Sullivan were thanked for taking the time to speak with us.

The meeting ended at approximately 7:45PM.

Submitted by Tyler Harwood, NFB Secretary

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