Why do the powers-that-be of New Orleans feel the need to change what is frequently referred to as “the most unique city in America” by imitating attractions of other cities?
Category Archives: Architecture
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Please pitch in to clean up graffiti in the French Quarter on Saturday, January 13, 2013 — every bit of elbow grease helps this grassroots effort!
Received via email earlier today in response to my requesting confirmation of what I’d heard from a reliable source:
“The administration pulled the ordinances from the GA [Governmental Affairs] Committee agenda and they plan to withdraw the ordinances. If they don’t, Cmbr Palmer will withdraw them.”
(Source: Email from Nicole Webre, J.D., Legislative Director for District C Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer)
First and foremost, I thank Councilmember Palmer and her staff for their responsiveness (in this case, taking the time to communicate promptly and directly with this constituent during a budget meeting). I also applaud their willingness to reconsider this matter in general — I can’t imagine that choosing to withdraw these ordinances was an easy decision to make. And I’m grateful a matter that could only be described as contentious from its inception will not turn into yet another bitter and ugly fight.
That being said, it is clear that this matter is one of distinct concern to the citizens of our community. While it would be easy to declare the withdrawal of these ordinances a victory, it really isn’t. Concerns regarding public safety, maintenance, and sanitation must be addressed more effectively — that hasn’t changed.
In order to move forward, those who supported the proposed ordinances and those who opposed them need to find a way to work together to improve the safety and general condition of the Jackson Square pedestrian mall. I’m hoping, too, that our city’s administration and Councilmember Palmer’s office can facilitate a meaningful and long-term strategy to address the areas where all would like to see consistent improvement.
Finally, I’m hoping that this becomes an opportunity for an inclusive and collaborative effort. These repeated skirmishes are tiresome for everyone; can we please move on, into new territory?
Let this be a benchmark moment for our citizens, the artists and performers who make the Jackson Square pedestrian mall (as well as our city’s so-called “cultural economy”) live and breathe, and our elected officials to begin working together to create solutions.
If not now, then when?
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Attempting to ban loitering at Jackson Square for four hours daily? Mayor Landrieu and City Council, is this really the best that you can do?
Could it be that the French Quarter of New Orleans might have its very own “sister city” — the walled city of Pingyao, in China’s Shanxi province?
Does this not look eerily similar to the intersection of Decatur Street (left) and N. Peters Street/the French Market (right) in the French Quarter (albeit with the streets and angles being depicted in reverse), looking in the direction of Canal St. (minus the Joan of Arc statue in the green space triangle)? It’s a virtual mirror image of that sliver of our own Vieux Carré.
Similarities between the French Quarter and Pingyao include:
• Tourism as the primary economic driver;
• infrastructure concerns resulting from “hoards of tourists”;
• projects involving the collection of “oral histories” from residents;
• Disneyland facsimiles (New Orleans Square at Disneyland vs. Pingyao being compared to the Temple of Heaven pavilion at Epcot);
• hole-in-the-wall shops offering “reflexology foot massages” (there are at least four in the French Quarter these days);
• music blaring from loudspeakers; and
• concerns of local businesses being overwhelmed by “souvenir shops selling mass-produced junk next to bars and restaurants.”
Consider this: two cities, half a world apart, offering alarmingly identical experiences to their respective visitors… isn’t that homogenization defined?
“‘The exodus of indigenous residents and the loss of confidence in local Pingyao cultural traditions may be the single biggest threat to Pingyao today,’ says UNESCO’s Dr. Du Xiaofan. ‘There are threats that the Pingyao could become nothing but a city full of souvenir shops, restaurants and hotels,’ adds Tongji University’s Shao Yong.” Sound familiar?
The N.O. Tourism and Marketing Corporation, and the N.O. Convention & Visitors Bureau, and the Morial Convention Center would still like to increase the number of tourists present daily in our city from the current estimated 24,000 visitors per day to an average of 37,500 per day (an estimated 95% of whom would likely visit the French Quarter). There are concerns that this many visitors would likely have a detrimental impact on the quality of life for the residential population of the French Quarter and surrounding neighborhoods, resulting in a further decline in the number of full-time residents.
Pingyao’s master plan, however, calls for the implementation of a deliberate reduction in the number of full-time residents to enhance its appeal. What might happen as a mere consequence in the French Quarter (not as a result of our city’s master plan) is an acknowledged and planned course of action in Pingyao, who’s annual tourist influx is a mere one million — not the 13.7 million figure desired for our city, as prescribed by the Boston Consulting Group’s report of 2009.
In MADAME VIEUX CARRÉ by Scott S. Ellis, he references the French Quarter’s early preservationists (Saxon, Irby, Fields, etc.) with the following words:
“What cannot be overstated is that this first band of preservationists left a legacy that ultimately became the economic engine of New Orleans. Their influence was slow and sometimes faltering, and there were reverses along the way. But it was at the smoky, absinthe-informed parties of the 1920s Quarter ‘bohemians’ that the foundations for New Orleans’ modern tourist industry were laid. Long after most primary industry has fled, tourism, in many ways great and small, keeps the city ever so slightly above utter destitution. Most of the oil industry has decamped to Houston, but the hotels stay busy. The high-tech sector may roll its eyes when thinking of Orleans Parish, but the souvenir shops of Decatur Street still turn the goods to each new generation of tourists. This first band scraped a few sparkling shards of ‘charm’ from the gutter and exposed the mother lode of unique character that is New Orleans’, and the Vieux Carré’s, livelihood.”
Ellis’ contention that preservationists birthed the modern tourism industry makes absolute sense, but given the recent Hospitality Zone battle and the ongoing skirmishes between the city’s administration and neighborhood groups, the truly warped part is that it may have been this very impulse to protect and preserve that has sown the seeds for the cultural commodification and destruction of our city’s most cherished traditions and customs.
Lately it could be said that the voracious triplets (the Tourism & Marketing Corporation, the Convention & Visitors Bureau, and the Morial Convention Center) seem to want to cannibalize their parent.
In the French Quarter, cast iron ornamentation, fence posts, and columns occasionally feature ornamental pineapples as part of their decorative motif, a Victorian era symbol of prosperity adopted by our city’s earliest French settlers. Much like Pingyao’s tortoise symbol and its relevance to that city’s current struggles, the preservation of our history and local culture desperately needs an infusion of prosperity in the form of community interest. It bears repeating: we are a community — not a commodity.
Please read the Atlantic’s article about Pingyao and consider the corollaries between this city and our own city’s French Quarter — might Pingyao be the Chinese Vieux Carré?: Can an Ancient Chinese City Pursue Preservation Without Disney-fication?
New Orleanians: If you’re not disgusted by the proposed Hospitality District, then you’re not paying attention
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If the idea of creating special legislative districts was devised as a strategy to thwart abuses of power and public money in the Post-Katrina era, is this the best legislation our elected representatives can craft? Aren’t we supposed to be frowning upon endorsing of old-school New Orleans power grabs these days? This is the epitome of the “Disneyfication” that everyone decries: handing over the heart of our amazing city to the tourism and hospitality industries on a silver platter in exchange for an alarming loss of process and control.
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The weather forecast for Sunday looks perfect for the annual Bywater Neighborhood Association Home Tour which is a self-guided walking tour – my favorite kind. I walked the tour in 2009 and thoroughly enjoyed the laid back pace as I got a look into several homes I’d always wished to see and gardens only glimpsed […]
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Last Saturday morning I was delighted to see my favorite New Orleans home featured in Inside Out, the Home and Design supplement to The Times Picayune. I’ve driven past this house/compound on Tchoupitoulas and Race more times than I can count and always wished I could see inside so it was a treat to be […]
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Almost seven years after it was swamped by Katrina, St. Genevieve Catholic Church on Bayou Liberty has been rebuilt. I pass the church on my daily commute, so I watched in January 2007 as they demolished the old church , built in 1958. I have followed and chronicled her rebirth for the past five years […]
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I love to walk around with my camera and take pictures of things of interest to me, mostly photos of sites I find attractive. Here is a slideshow of doors and windows (mostly in the French Quarter) that have caught my eye. Enjoy Here’s a sampling of over 30 pictures that are in my […]