Thursday, December 07, 2006

Treme Transformation Continues

Since Katrina, the Historic Faubourg Treme Association has gathered a lot of steam. Our neighborhood is changing as people have begun to realize that this area is prime, non-flooded real estate. The Vieux Maison Francaise (French Heritage Foundation) is helping to renovate and save three historic homes. The Soulie cottage on Treme St. and the Passebonne Cottage at the African American Museum and one of the houses that are part of a set of sister houses called LeBlanc Row.

We have been having meetings every couple/three weeks, to get our infrastructure in place and this week I was accepted as an at-large board member. I seem to be attracted to nothing but the most challenging neighborhoods. We have a grant to invest in beautification projects, planting trees and landscaping and installing some historic markers. We are also getting more and more very talented new residents. Post-K new faces include Judge Rose Ledet, Daniel Taylor, the architect for the LIFT project and Pat Evans just moved in on St. Claude St, she is a professional neighborhood advocate who works at UNO. We already had some unique people who love our city in Treme, like Scott Veazey who does top notch renovations and has done a couple more renovations in Treme since Katrina. His house will be featured in New Orleans magazine this month. Of course, Naydja and Adolph Bynum who already own many beautiful properties and they have bought four more and are about half way done with two of those renovations now. Meg just bought this house at St. Philip St. and uncovered a historical legacy that was buried under brick and old asbestos siding.

So much is happening in Treme, it's hard convince people that aren't here. You have to see it to believe it.

Meg's Gets Medieval on the Termites

Meg had a case of drywood termites in a house she renovated about two years ago. This creole cottage is quite a sight tented. Meg's at her friends house while the gas procedure is done which takes a couple days. Her dogs are with someone else and her food is at yet another place til she can get back in.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Marmorino Veneziano on Ursulines Street

You're probably wondering what's going on with my rebuild. I'll post an update on that tedium soon, we're all in the hands of the evil insurance companies and so it's like the whole city is in a coma. If you didn't have to file a claim, you have no idea how frustrating it is and how it makes you want to just walk away from the whole city. So, to fight that feeling, I figure that this is a good time to spend on the neighorbohood organization, writing grants, and to gain inspiration from local artists. Part of the reason I think I haven't been posting here so much is that I have been working in the superior blogware over at Metroblogging and now this Blogger formatting pisses me off because it takes me too long because it has too many glitches.

My neighbor and I have been having this ongoing discussion about superior interior details as she rebuilds her house from the flood. We have been going on and on about this interior paint finish using wax over plaster. It sounded like so much work that I just shrugged it off because I am not big fan of the faux finish except in the historical context found in antebellum plantations and some turn of the century homes in the city. So my friend, MaPo took me over to her friends house on Ursulines in Treme to see the results of this technique which involves a couple thin layers of a plaster with crushed marble in it and then an application of a wax paste that is then buffed to a soft glowing finish. It's really the finish as much as the color/texture that impressed me, a finely buffed wax that is fundamentally a matte finish but with a translucent quality that reflects light. Sandy says that she cheated and used a power buffer and it was fine and saved a lot of time and energy.

In addition to the wall work, I was really happy to be able to see Sandy and Bill's house. It's one of those houses I have always looked at from the outside and wanted to go in, and finally I got to see it. One of my favorite things in New Orleans is getting invited to private parties just to see the inside of people's homes here because you never know what architectural elements you will be treated to once inside. A beautiful courtyard, a carriage house, balconies or galleries you can't see from outside, old fireplaces, beautiful woodwork including some inspiring custom cabinetry and sometimes brick between post walls or the view from above, in this case, St. Augustine's steeple !

For more details:
Stucco Italiano

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Historic Faubourg Treme Association Takes Aim at Blight, Crime and Grime

Adolf Bynum, Beautification Committee Chair, Initiates Treme Cleanup Day

Since Katrina, Naydja and Adolf Bynum have spearheaded a new and more solid neighborhood organization in Treme. Prior to the storm there were a number of factions vying for control of this neighborhood because it stands as an icon to the culture and history of the city. We have the Backstreet Cultural Museum which is dedicated to the history of the Mardi Gras Indians, St. Augustine Church, the African American Museum, and Charbonnet's Funeral Home, and we were also the home of Joe's Cozy Corner, where Kermit Ruffins spent a good deal of his time. We also have Armstrong Park, home of Congo Square and we can claim the old Treme Market as part of our colorful past as well as Storyville. So there has always been a high degree of interest from various groups to steer the neighborhood.

Pre-Katrina, it suffered from a rash of drug violence which has been plaguing the second line scene for the past few years. Joe's Cozy Corner was the site of a few murders. North Robertson street still suffers from some bad elements who persist but we could see that the storm had created a vaccuum of leadership and for a while, crime. We decided this was the time to get start a very solid and very professionally managed neighborhood organization that would welcome all residents, erasing the past bad feelings that existed between old, ineffective groups that had failed to make any real positive impact in the area. After Katrina, the blighted ghetto looks more like a slum. The Historic Faubourg Treme organization is dedicated to the smaller historic area of Treme and focused on our main problems of Crime, Blight and Grime. In order to be successful, we have to keep our mission very focused, we want to make a measurable difference.

Trash is a big problem citywide right now. People can't seem to remember what a trash can is used for, throwing household trash in the street in grocery bags. Debris, which is everywhere was being picked up by the Army Corps of Engineers but we need to get residents back into the habit of renting dumpsters for construction debris.

We cleaned up a couple blocks of N. Robertson in late July preparing for our first ever Night Out Against Crime. This, the day after a quadruple murder on St. Ann and
Claiborne. But we hosted a very nice Night Out event and the media showed the good things happening in our neighborhood. We're a determined group.

On Aug. 20,2006 Adolf hosted a cleanup of most of the neighborhood that included many many residents and the city's sanitation department provided staff and trucks.
It was another great step toward our mission.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

African American Museum Reopens

The African American Museum had been bogged down in political and financial scandal
for the past three years due to mismanagement and fraud in the Morial administration. It was painful to see it from the street everyday and not be able to go inside or to see tourist traffic around the area. My friend Meg is on the board now and one of the board members is a key player in Jazz Fest too, so there are much more qualified people running it now. The building and the grounds are gorgeous, it's a great place to host an event. The jazz photos currently on display are the best I have seen, really, a must see collection. Tomie is the Director, she's got a great personality.

The buildings on the site suffered little or no damage from Katrina. A tree fell in the front, busting up the wall but missing the building by only inches.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Tubs Finally Come 'Home'

Pre-Refinishing, back in October.

The people at Southern Refinishing have been so unbelievably nice to me. They held these tubs without charge since they took them in August. They could see the situation I am in. They expressed their regrets, we've all lost so much. They told me that they had evacuated to Mississippi from the Westbank and the house they were in was ripped apart. The son said he'd always wanted to see what a hurricane was like. He's over the curiosity of hurricanes. The father told me he lost his wife in January. It's getting to me, lately. I am in another wave of sudden tears again.

The most valuable part of these tubs is the feet, they are hard to get and the tub is useless without them. In my excavation, a set of feet turned up, they were in the POD. I gave this set of clawed feet to them.

Larger POD Arrives

I had to empty all the stuff out of the POD because I finally got the PODS exchange done this week. Whitney helped me get the stuff out and Jen helped me put the ironwork back. The new pod was from corporate, the old pod was a franchise pod, they are all on the same lot. However, they couldn't be there at the same time . . . but they did make it in the same day, that was important so that my stuff wouldn't be out there all night.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Treme Begins to Recover

The students from Tulane's Dept. of Public Health worked to help the neighborhood recover in October. My neighbor, Jen, in the uptown building is a grad student in the department, so we did a couple of great projects together. We did the Rapid Population Estimate for the city and got St. Augustine church cleaned up so they could open a food pantry with Second Harvesters which was very successful. The students were invaluable to the neighborhood and the church. They also did resident surveys to help assess the needs of the neighborhood. Their presence has been so good for Treme. Recently however, there has been some strife regarding the church and our local Momma D. (there are more than one in the city, I think they are regional matriarchs for large ghetto areas). One day, Momma D. said to one of the students who has worked tirelessly for the food pantry, "I'm sick of you white girls comin' in here thinkin' you gotta help the niggas . .. ". This is the crap that goes on in Treme and makes us the most dysfunctional neighborhood in the city. This made poor Erynn cry. These Momma D. women used to impress me, I thought they were the most functional and visible in the poor black community. Over the years though, I have seen this other side too and in some way reveals how afraid they are because they can't perform the supportive function in their neighborhood that they portray. I think they are counterproductive because they are unwilling to volunteer with the students. They want the credit or they won't do anything at all and they tear down the people who are trying to help. God forbid those people be white.

Recently, the archdiocese was going to cut funding and fold St. Aug parish into Peter Clavier parish. The kids from Common Ground rallied with the parishioners and just last Friday the archdiocese relented and announced that they will support the parish for another 18 months and keep Father LeDoux as priest. During this time, the parish must prove they can be sustainable.

Another great step in the recovery is the French government's announcement that they will help rebuild the Passabonne Cottage which is part of the Villa Meilleure, otherwise known as the African American Museum. My friend Meg is on the new board, so that is finally moving forward from the quicksand of the Morial fraud investigation by the feds.

On the bad side, the gangstah element began to rear its ugly head in the form of a renegade street party on Sunday two weeks back. This began in the front of the Candlelight, one of the few functioning bars left on N. Robertson St. When the cops failed to show up to shut it down, after about five hours, a bunch of us women, both black and white, made an appointment with Jackie Clarkson, our councilwoman and the Supt. of the 1st Dist. of NOPD. It was a good meeting and the following Sunday, the cops had this huge mobile police unit parked in front of the bar. Thank god it's election time for one thing but we do have a good relationship with the police who don't want to see the shoot 'em ups on N. Robertson start again like they were prior to Katrina.

Another great development as of this morning . . . the pile of debris from Mette Skou's property has been cleaned up! God, what a relief. Somethings that were bottlenecks seem to be dissolving. The neighbors across the street landscaped their
easement, it's gorgeous. Looks better than their building.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Mardi Gras Day and Thursday

I walked by my property on Mardi Gras day, after going by the Backstreet Cultural and St. Augustine Church. They are threatening to shut St. Aug. The diocese doesn't want to commit the money. There were reporters from Sweden interviewing Father LeDoux. I took some photos of him being interviewed. I love that church, as do all Tremeans. It was a little depressing if you think I was supposed be staying there by Mardi Gras. It's all too depressing if you think about it too much at all. None of my immediate friends are in my place, that's making it a little hard at this immediate moment too. They try. But these are the cards in your hand. How ya gonna play em? You can throw down anytime. Or maybe throw away one at time.

If you recall, I had two clawfoot tubs I had refinished way back in mid-August.
August 3rd Post Well, over the last couple months I called them, waited a couple weeks, they had a death in the family. A couple weeks later they called me back to say the tubs are ready. That was a couple weeks ago and it's my turn to call them back. Keeps poppin back into my head, gotta take care of it. I have to find a place for them. The pod is full. I open it, stare at it. Shake something around. Close the door, walk away. I think I have decided that I have to empty the pod and get a bigger pod. The pod people can come on St. Pat's day, the 17th. The lady over the Southern Refinishers on the Westbank was super sweet. She knows how hard these things are to DO. They are holding them for me and she assured me not to rush and compromise the finish of my tubs. How 'bout that.

I am working on that and calling contractors for estimates. HA ! I actually had a couple call me back and they are so tired. You can tell over the phone. I am very fortunate because my architect gave me four numbers of local guys who know and love old buildings. And they are calling me! The principal calls me, not some secretary and they are just beggin me to be patient that it will be at least a couple weeks. "Call me back and remind me and I'll keep you on the list", they say. I say, "Ok, Will do, Please keep me mind".

So yesterday, I go pull the weedeater off the property for a couple friends who need to use it and discover that there is this pile of debris from the neighbor's house on N. Villere in my freakin yard. I am pissed.

This morning I go over there and I am trying to straighten out the tarps and drain water off them. Two seconds goes by and my hands are bleeding already (cuz as someone would yell at me for not puttin on my gloves). Some white lady is coming over to talk to me. It's Mette Skou, she's spends part of the year in Sweden and part in Treme. She gets just inside the fence when I start tellin her that I am in a rancid mood and not fit for human consumption. You know, mental health professionals encourage us to just say how we feel. So, I admit it straight away, Look, I'm a raging maniac, stay 500 ft. back and be ready to run at that. I tell Mette Skou, sorry and that I tried not to get out of bed at all today . . . but I always fail at that promise to myself. It's her debris. She's going to pick it up. So, now we will be having that banal chit-chat I wasn't in the mood for today.

Magically, this nice black dude that is not at all cracked up stops to give me a hand. He doesn't say a word. He hops off his bike and jumps up on the foundation with me. I know he'll want a bit o'money and I'll offer it before he even brings it up, save his dignity, because he kicked ass and we had a very good chemistry, like we'd been tuggin at that tarp together for a week. We had that zen thing going on that I could use more of lately. I hope I see him again. Leonard.

The dog is at the vet, she's not too well. The CD player in the van is broke. That means a trip to the dealer on the Westbank. And I am tired of tinkering with the spaces between sentences on this blogware. Mardi Gras was five days off for me but now I need five days off to recover.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

NPR Story

Eve's producers at NPR finally broadcasted her story regarding recovery preservation in New Orleans. Willie White sounds great. This past week I started working at the Preservation Resource Center which is already fun. It's really a great opportunity for me, I will learn so much !

Our insurance company presented us with a check for a pathetically inadequate amount of money. That fight will continue. For all of us.

Friday, January 13, 2006

The Red List

Willie called today, " We're on The List, you know." I said, "Yeah, I know, I have to change the signs." He agreed, that's a good start. None of us can quite figure out who you call to get off the list. Signs are the very the least I can do.

The List, is the list given over to contractors for the Army Corps of Engineers to go out and demolish and clear houses that are causing a hazard to the people and structures around them. All structurally unsound homes. So, I have been watching the news regarding protesters who don't want someone tearing down their 'home' without their permission and I was thinking that mine was, you know, not applicable anymore. But, as Willie pointed out, the subcontractors don't know what they are looking at, they just want the cash money they get per home that they make, 'go away'. I mean, there's all my materials out there.

So, I'm still in purgatory with the red-sticker demons but I can look back a little and I am very grateful to have Willie White and Meg Lousteau keeping me on top of things. Emily and Brian for going to see it with me for the first time. I also owe a lot to Jim Louis for getting me out there with the chainsaw in the first place. It was a breakthrough day. It was the first thing done and then I just kept going and going. Even Preston Browning at Mercy Corps who called out of the blue one day to offer his help. THIS made me bawl my head off uncontrollably for hours but the only way I would stop crying was to get to work. On something, anything. So, I mowed the lawn around my corpse of a house. And Stephen Peychaud, for being a good neighbor and friend. I can't think of anyone else who I would have wanted to deliver the bad news. He's on one of the sub-committees now for the rebuilding process, this makes me feel good.

So I really do know how hard it is for many people just to begin taking those small steps toward cleaning up this mess we have here. I am a pretty self-motivated gal, but we don't really do anything alone and I am really lucky to have people to support me through this thing. We might not realize how the little things we do might give someone the push they really need to get over the psychological weight and go forward.

I'll put this sign up on Monday.....


Attention Army Corps of Engineers or subcontractor:

This property, 1502 Gov. Nicholls, was on the Red, Danger List due to damage from Katrina, however the owners have already done all necessary excavation on this property and salvaged materials and are preparing to rebuild. This address is no longer a ‘red sticker’ property. However, how we officially remove our address from the list is unbeknownst to us at this time. We have paid a professional salvage expert out of our own pocket in order to prevent further damage to affected structures. This property is now stable.

Thanks for your help in rebuilding our city and providing a very necessary service that will save many people a lot of money, however, this property is NOT in need of excavation nor demolition.

Contact the owner, Laureen or the excavation expert, Mr. Willie White if you have any questions.