Thursday, July 16, 2015

New Orleans Neighborhoods - Algiers Point Batture

Seeing as how I live on the Best Bank, I want to kick my "Neighborhood Journey" off with an issue that is one of the most pressing to Algiers denizens at the moment... the re-zoning of the Algiers Point batture from a "green zone" to a designation called "maritime industrial".

Approximate footprint of the land in question... per Google Earth
The land is currently owned by the Port of New Orleans (and other landowners please see update below) who along with District C Councilperson, Nadine Ramsey, claim the land was "mis-zoned" in the new City Zoning Ordinance (CZO).  Ramsey says it was an oversight and should be corrected to qualify it as a "maritime industrial" space.  They cite that the tract of land on the river side of the levee was designated as "maritime industrial" in the city's master plan and should therefore be labeled as such in the CZO.

It has the the appearance of a shell game and it's set off a sharp protest by Point residents due to the fact that it could allow developers to come in and build towering condos (110 feet) or any number of commercial/residential developments that would change the vista of the river and block access to an area that has traditionally been used by all "wankers" as a park...of sorts.

Advocate reporter Chad Calder has a good synopsis of the issue including some protests vocalized by Algiers citizens last night at the Mayor's, District C, 2016 city budget meeting:

Algiers Point residents: 'Outrageous' to rezone riverfront land we want to kept as green space

It appears the first time Councilperson Ramsey brought the issue up to the public was in a town hall meeting she hosted at the Algiers  Public Library on June 29.  There she allowed City Planning Commission Executive Director Robert D. Rivers to introduce the issue:

Councilperson Nadine Ramsey Town Hall Meeting - Algiers Public Library from Jason Berry on Vimeo.

What is confusing to me is that Ramsey says the batture was "mislabeled" as green space in the CZO map and that it has always been "maritime industrial".

Curiously, in the video above, Robert Rivers clearly states that "maritime industrial" is a new zoning classification.  How could it have always been "maritime industrial" if it's a new classification?  I have sent an email to Mr. Rivers for a clarification and I will post his response as soon as I get it.

There were a lot of questions with few answers in that meeting.

By the time the District C city budget meeting hosted by Mayor Landrieu kicked off last Tuesday night, Algiers folks had put the pieces of the puzzle together and realized there could be mischief afoot:

2016 City Budget Meeting - District C - Algiers Point citizens voice their opposition to rezoning of batture from Jason Berry on Vimeo.

Here is the response to the citizen's concerns by Councilperson Ramsey and the Mayor:

2016 City Budget Meeting - District C - Councilperson Ramsey and Mayor Landrieu on Algiers Point Batture from Jason Berry on Vimeo.

Ramsey stated that she is open to opinion from her District C constituents and I sincerely hope that's true.

That certainly wasn't the case for her own district's citizens in the town hall meetings she held previous to the CZO vote. In every one of those gatherings she refused to take any questions about the CZO, especially regarding the last minute amendments she had yet to introduce which dramatically affect not only District C but the whole city (more coming on that):

Councilperson Nadine Ramsey Town Hall Meeting - West Bank and Bywater from Jason Berry on Vimeo.

I'm curious how she expected public input on amendments she had yet to introduce.  Why didn't she explain those amendments in these town hall meetings and allow public input?

What was really fascinating, in respect to  the city budget meeting, was the Mayor's response to the batture zoning issue.

Landrieu informed the Algiers residents that New Orleans is the hottest real estate market in the country and that waterfront property in every city is considered prime real estate.  As for height restrictions he says you can either have long, skinny buildings along the river where "no one can see anything" or you can have tall buildings (I suppose suggesting that these tall, skinny buildings are somehow less of a hindrance to viewing the river).

He then went on to break the bad news to the Pointers (Algiers) about "what's not going to happen".  The residents of the Point were not going to be able to say "I gots mine and nobody else can have theirs"...essentially confirming their worst fears about what probably "is going to happen" regarding development plans for the batture.

Interesting he would frame it that way.  Right now the batture is green space that everyone can share. The Mayor's logic seems to be that the residents of Algiers Point are being selfish for wanting to keep sharing it that way.  

We'll see how this plays out but the fact that he addressed District C with that diatribe leads me to believe that the beans are already boiling in the pot.

I'll do my best to keep you posted.

UPDATE:  A commenter pointed out to me that the Port was not the only land owner of the parcels that comprise the section of batture in play .  He/she is correct.  Some parcels are owned by The City of New Orleans and other parcels are owned by Crescent Towing & Salvage Company.  Other parcels had no information as to the land owner.  I have created a map from the property tax database:


UPDATE 2 - Comment Bump:



Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "New Orleans Neighborhoods - Algiers Point Batture": 

Great piece! Also know that the Chairman of The Port of New Orleans is also President of Crescent Towing and Executive Vice President of the parent company Cooper T Smith/The Cooper Group of Companies. The Crescent Towing land is currently zoned as HI (High Industrial). The proposed change to MI (Marine Industrial) allows for many more uses then HI as you stated. I believe it also allows for terminal access for a something like a cruise ship (would have to verify). If you go to the Cooper T. Smith website you will find that they have branched out into Restaurants and wishes to pursue more in the hospitality industry....here it is directly from their website:

Cooper Restaurants

In 1997, Cooper/T.Smith acquired the Ruth’s Chris Steak House franchise in Mobile, Alabama and subsequently went on to open Felix’s Fish Camp Grill and Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Ridgeland, Mississippi, near Jackson. In 2010, the BLUEGILL Restaurant, a Mobile Bay Causeway tradition since 1958, was acquired and re-opened to rave reviews. The success of this division has prompted us to pursue future expansion in the hospitality industry. 




4 comments:

Lord David said...

It should also be noted that two of the biggest developers in this game, on the East bank, anyway, are Sean Cummings & Pres Kabacoff, the same two uber rich boys who are hosting Ms Ramsey's political fund raisers.

Filling a politician's war chest can buy you a city's worth of new zoning laws, it seems.

Dambala - Jason Brad Berry said...

Well in this case we don't know what is planned or who is planning it. I actually feel more comfortable with local developers than out of town.

Anonymous said...

I keep hearing the incorrect information propogated as fact from article to article. The land of the batture is not all owned by the port of New orleans. According to the tax assessors website the majority of the parcels to be rezoned are owned by Crescent Towing and the City of New Orleans. Only one small portion of the area is owned by the port of New orleans.

Anonymous said...

Great piece! Also know that the Chairman of The Port of New Orleans is also President of Crescent Towing and Executive Vice President of the parent company Cooper T Smith/The Cooper Group of Companies. The Crescent Towing land is currently zoned as HI (High Industrial). The proposed change to MI (Marine Industrial) allows for many more uses then HI as you stated. I believe it also allows for terminal access for a something like a cruise ship (would have to verify). If you go to the Cooper T. Smith website you will find that they have branched out into Restaurants and wishes to pursue more in the hospitality industry....here it is directly from their website:

Cooper Restaurants
In 1997, Cooper/T.Smith acquired the Ruth’s Chris Steak House franchise in Mobile, Alabama and subsequently went on to open Felix’s Fish Camp Grill and Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Ridgeland, Mississippi, near Jackson. In 2010, the BLUEGILL Restaurant, a Mobile Bay Causeway tradition since 1958, was acquired and re-opened to rave reviews. The success of this division has prompted us to pursue future expansion in the hospitality industry.