Tuesday, June 20, 2017

This worked out better than it could have

It's almost old news now but it looks like they're all clear to go through with this deal between the city and the port over the Public Belt Railroad. Theoretically, a contiguous public space stretching the length of the riverfront from Bywater on up to Canal Street is going to be a nice thing to have.  I don't like the way the mayor calls it an "opportunity," though. 

Mayor Mitch Landrieu said Monday (June 12) a property exchange with the Port of New Orleans gives the city the final piece -- two French Quarter wharves -- to create "the largest contiguous riverfront footprint in the United States of America" connecting Crescent Park to the upriver side of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

"There will be no other city in America that's got that level of opportunity on the river," Landrieu said.
"Opportunity" for whom?  For most of us, a public park along the river is a pleasant place to be, to watch the boats, to attend a festival, maybe. It's an "opportunity," though, for people with money to invest in real estate or in tourism-related businesses. And that means we're about to go through several rounds of arguments over whether zoning laws, building codes, and such should be tweaked to their advantage.  It will probably go badly. 

The good news is the Public Belt isn't going to be privatized which means the Port and the various businesses who depend on it will continue to function without having to pay an unnecessary toll to some interloping firm with a railroad monopoly.  In the long run, even that may not matter much. But, for now, it's a pretty good outcome.

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