The Municipal Auditorium inside Armstrong Park has been shuttered since Hurricane Katrina flooded it in 2005.Errol used to be so worried about what was going to happen to the former site of his beloved Rex ball. I hope he was sitting down when he read this report. Not only does it say the former debutante show hall is hosting a different sort of pageant these days, but it also tells us there's not yet enough money to shoo off the vagrants.
City leaders said there isn't enough money in the bank to fix it, and they've reached an impasse with the Federal Emergency Management Agency over funding for repairs.
The auditorium used to host large events and Mardi Gras balls, but now it is boarded up, littered with trash and smells of urine. Squatters break into the building at night, leaving workers to repair the entrances in the morning.
Edward McMillan, who is staying at the Covenant House across the street from Armstrong Park, said one of the first things homeless advocates told him is to stay away from the auditorium.
“I heard there's a lot of stuff going on,” McMillan said. “There's a bad situation… They (are) having sex in here. You know, people sleeping in here when they get put out from their places or they (are) homeless. They don't (have) nowhere to go.”
In a statement to WDSU, Erin Burns, press secretary for Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the city of New Orleans, said the city has worked hard over the last 11 years to get enough money to fix the auditorium.That's odd about the arbitration, though. They said the same thing back in August.
Burns said FEMA offered $7 million in 2010, which has since been increased to $41.7 million, but she said that’s not enough to cover the cost of renovations, which the city estimates at more than $80 million.
“At this time, we have reached an impasse in our negotiations,” Burns wrote. “To resolve this dispute, the city and FEMA will enter into an arbitration process so we may secure the necessary public assistance funding to cover all eligible repairs to damage caused by Katrina.”
Eleven years after the Municipal Auditorium in Louis Armstrong Park was flooded during Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans officials say a check from FEMA to pay for repairs could be coming soon.Had they decided to put off the arbitration earlier? Because it's been more than 90 days. Maybe there's just been a delay and there isn't anything new they can announce about the plan. Weird, though.
After years of fighting over the cost of needed repairs, the city and FEMA entered arbitration this month to settle an impasse in the negotiations, said Hayne Rainey, a spokesman for Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
That process is expected to wrap up in the next 90 days and could pave the way for a private developer to take over management of the site.
In any case it hardly matters if all we're doing is fighting to throw public money into a building that we're just going to purpose toward some privatized profit taking activity like the St. Roch Market. If that's as far as our imagination can take us now, we might as well let the vagrants keep it.