Held at “Beanlandia” (the former Giordano Furniture warehouse at 3300 Royal St.)
Since it was our first in-person general meeting since early 2020, we visited some before the meeting started in earnest. There was pizza, wine, and water provided.
At 7:12 p.m. Julie Jones introduced NOPD 5th District Captain Gwen Nolan to the group. Capt. Nolan read the number of reported crimes in our district so far this year in several categories, and the number of auto burglaries was the highest number by a hefty margin. She told us that they had arrested two suspects that they believe were responsible for a majority of the burglaries, and they are currently in jail awaiting trial. One of them is also being charged with attempted murder. Since they have been detained the number of car break-ins in the area has dropped dramatically. The police were able to catch them because a citizen called while witnessing a break-in. Another citizen saw related suspicious activity on their surveillance camera and called it in. Capt. Nolan encouraged us to install cameras and submit any useful videos to the new email address NOPD has set up – firstname.lastname@example.org. When submitting include the date, time, location, type of crime, and your contact information. She also implored everyone to be vigilant, and not leave any valuables in our vehicles, especially guns, even for short periods of time. It seems most of the time the thieves are looking for guns.
Capt. Nolan then told us about the Louisiana 211 system. 211 callers can be connected with services that provide assistance with basic needs like food and clothing, after school child care, elder care, Covid-19 information, or help with opioid addiction. There is a video on the 5th district Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/NOPDFifth) with more information.
There have been three car jackings in our district this year, and all three cars were recovered. The three cars were found parked together. There is a warrant out for the arrest of a suspect. Wanted posters are posted on the 5th district Facebook page and are updated regularly. Capt. Nolan encouraged the group to help. Videos of the monthly NONPACC meetings and weekly MAX meetings held at the station are also posted on the Facebook page. The MAX meetings are every Tuesday at 1 p.m. and NONPACC meetings are the 2nd Wednesday of each month at 6 p.m. Both are open to the public.
An attendee asked Capt. Nolan’s opinion on leaving his car unlocked to avoid having his window broken. The Captain said some people leave notes stating there is nothing left in the car, but it’s not known if that works. Locking up your car makes it more difficult for crooks, and that is preferable. Another attendee commented that a criminal could hide in an unlocked car, which would be an unpleasant surprise.
Capt. Nolan is hopeful that crime can go down in the 5th district as she has seen success in other parts of town, however there are still not enough officers to effectively deal with current conditions. She asked us to help recruit new officers, and clarified that not all police are on patrol. Some are in labs or photographers. An attendee encouraged Capt. Nolan to put that information on the 5th District Facebook page. Another attendee asked why the pay level for NOPD is not competitive enough with nearby areas. NOPD often loses officers to Jefferson Parish or St. Bernard. Capt. Nolan suggested contacting City Council to ask them to help. The group thanked Capt. Nolan for joining us.
Julie then introduced Devin De Wulf, the founder of the Krewe of Red Beans. Devin gave us a brief history of the Krewe and how it grew to around 800 members, and splitting into two separate kid-friendly parades on Lundi Gras. At the start of the pandemic the Krewe started a mutual aid effort by delivering food to weary health care workers. They got donated money to ailing restaurants in the process, and paid out of work musicians to deliver the food. The project was a huge success. Delivering groceries to at-risk friends of the Krewe was the next idea. That project grew into Feed The Second Line, which is now a thriving non-profit offshoot of the Krewe, and delivers groceries to people in need all over the city. Other Krewe mutual aid efforts were Fest Fest, which hired musicians impacted by the cancellation of Jazz Fest to play small, socially distanced backyard shows; and Hire a Mardi Gras Artist, which paid out of work Mardi Gras float artists to make “porch floats”. The Krewe also collected donations to fund cleanup and repairs after Hurricane Ida and the recent tornado. Through these many efforts the Krewe raised over $3.5 million and provided paying gigs for more than 250 New Orleanians in need.
Beanlandia, the large building our meeting was held in, had been the Giordano Furniture factory and warehouse since 1947. The Krewe of Red Beans bought the building last October. The Giordano family offered owner financing as banks were unwilling to loan money for the purchase. The payments are being made by collecting donations from “members” of Beanlandia. Anyone can join by choosing a monthly payment in any amount. The Krewe plans for the building to be a Cultural Facility, which is an approved use with the current zoning.
Devin told us his plans for different rooms in the building. One would be a large space where the public could watch the Krewe of Red Beans, Mardi Gras Indians, and other artists create their suits and related art. The room we were in is toward the back and is the largest and longest. It is planned to be a “bean museum” with large murals made from beans on the walls. He would like to put a small stage for live music on one end and a concession stand with a small bar on the other that could serve alcohol. Another large room would be a classroom, and the front entrance will be a popsicle stand. There is space on the second floor where the office for Feed the Second Line would be, as well as a sewing studio for Mardi Gras Indians. In the future Devin hopes for a “bean restaurant” as well. There is also a large back yard and a modest parking lot.
The building is a “fixer-upper”. There is no heating or A/C, and no restrooms. The renovations are being funded by members, and the architect is a member of the Krewe. They hope to add openings in the back wall with garage doors so the space can be open air when weather permits, cutting down on the need for running a large, potentially noisy A/C, which would likely be located on the back side of the building.
The facility would be primarily for members, but tourists would be welcome and their donations would fund the space and the Krewe’s other non-profit initiatives. It will not be marketed as a tourist destination. The plan is for the live music sound system to be deliberately small, just enough to host the brass bands and other bands that march with the Red Beans parade so they can benefit from the facility as well without the expense and hassle of special permits. Devin plans on hiring a consultant to minimize sound outside the building, working with neighbors to designate “quiet times”, and establishing an ongoing neighborhood advisory group to improve and adjust live music policies over time.
The “concession stand” (bar) is thought of as part of the ambience of the space, and not the main reason to visit, nor would it be the primary source of income for the space. Like the sound system it will be deliberately limited, and the hours of operation would be afternoon / early evening until 9 p.m. The facility will close at 10 p.m. Because the building is across the street from a playground there are special rules about alcohol permit availability. Beanlandia is eligible because it is a non-profit. If 70% of near neighbors approve they can get the permit. If the permit is not granted the space will be BYOB when not having a special event, which is less desirable because there is less control. In the unlikely event the Krewe is forced to sell the building the new owner would need to apply for a new conditional use unless they are also planning a non-profit cultural facility. Conditional Use for alcohol isn’t available to most uses. It is available to cultural centers and to hotels.
The other thing the Krewe needs to proceed, and perhaps the most daunting issue, is a parking waiver. There is a small parking lot behind the building, but it is not possible for the facility to provide the required amount of parking in our tightly packed historic neighborhood. One idea is to reserve spaces for near neighbors in the parking lot when parking gets tight on the street. Devin noted that most of the Krewe members live in the area, so will likely walk or bike to the building, which will hopefully help.
The krewe wants to avoid hosting larger private special events, such as weddings, which can be disruptive to the neighborhood. In the case they are unable to get the conditional uses they seek these types of events may be financially unavoidable. Without the necessary conditional uses being granted 12 special events per year are allowed under current law, and can run for 3 days (Fri, Sat, Sun). Devin added that since a large portion of the membership lives in the area they share a common desire for the space to be more of an asset than a nuisance. Devin lives with his family two blocks away. He shared his phone number and email with the group and encouraged anyone who likes what the Krewe has planned to become members.
Julie then told the group it was time for the NFB board election. Since no new nominees were introduced she asked if the group would vote by acclimation for the current board to continue to serve. Cherry May put forth the motion and Steve May seconded. There were no votes in opposition.
The meeting ended at 8:25 p.m.
Submitted by Tyler Harwood, NFB Secretary