New Orleans residents have been reaching out to Occupy NOLA using Facebook and Twitter.
A Bywater resident posted the following on the Occupy NOLA Facebook Page on Wednesday, February 20:
"Just a heads up to the Occupy community: On Monday, February 25, [The New Orleans Recreation Development Foundation] NORD is going to close down Markey Park in the Bywater. There were a series of lively, well-attended meetings about how to redevelop the park with a grant from the Trust for Public Land. Overwhelmingly the neighborhood wants part of the park to remain an off-leash dog park. The design firm observed the daily use of the park for a week, remarked how highly-used it is, then came up with three plans, all of which divided the space in thirds, for a playground, a dog park, and a free space. The meetings were a testament to civic involvement, cooperation and democracy. Then, Vic Richards, the head of NORD, surreptitiously commissioned his own plan, without dogs and rammed it through. This park is an integral community meeting place and it is about to go from being highly used to a drive-by "show park" for developers. The community is angry that we were told we'd have a say, and then clearly did not. P.S. The proposed "dog run" at the Riverfront Park will be much smaller, on-leash, and is, at this point, is not constructed."
Meanwhile, community members have been organizing to bring their dogs to protest the closing of this community space. The following Op-Ed appeared in NOLA Defender on Friday, February 22: BYWATER RESIDENTS LEFT OUT OF MARKEY PARK PLANS
"The Trust for Public Land (TPL) had several public meetings to get input on the redesign of Mickey Markey Park. The first meeting had a very large turnout, and the facilitator, a professor of social work at Tulane, declared it a great public meeting. At the second meeting, TPL’s landscape architects presented three great designs that included space for off-leash dogs. The process ended there. The final, approved design (Editor's Note: Design plans are available here http://www.thebywater.org/dbNewsletters/022013.pdf ) was rammed through the system. It has no space for dogs, and there was no chance for dog owners, parents or anyone else to give public input into this last design." ~ Randi Kaufman.
The Bywater Neighborhood Association posted the following updates on its Facebook page on February 21 and 22 in response to queries regarding closing the dog park on February 25 ( while this seems rather unofficial, it is the only communication we've found from them so far).
To quote one community member who responded on the Bywater Neighborhood Association 's Facebook page, "This reeks of gentrification and developer influence."
The Bywater Neighborhood Association's February minutes include the plans for Markey Park and are worth studying.
NOLA Defender's article RIVER FRONT Park Plans, Process Raise Ire of Marigny-Bywater Residents outlines the plans for the River Front dog park.
An immediate concern is the proposed dog park at the River Front’s lack of compliance with federal handicap accessibility laws, which could certainly pose a problem for people with service dogs.
The greater concern is that the democratic process was subverted in a discussion of public space. This will not be the first time democracy has been held hostage by the City of New Orleans.
Moreover, CEO Victor N. Richard III's position appears questionable according to an article published in Louisiana Weekly in January of 2012. Matt Davis explained: "The recruitment process is unfolding as members of the recreation commission have fought to counter suggestions that the Landrieu administration is pulling the commission’s strings. WDSU-TV reported in May about the administration’s efforts to script the meetings, providing lines for each of the board members." The fact that the River Front Park was supposed to be finished in time for Super Bowl XXVII can only make one wonder if Mayor Landrieu is attempting to create a more permanent Verizon Super Bowl Boulevard.
See the community members' Facebook Event SAVE Markey Park for details.
As more of this story unfolds, advocates of democracy can write to Councilwoman Kristin Giselson Palmer and Victor N. Richard, CEO of NORD to express their displeasure.
Councilwoman Kristin Giselson Palmer
Victor N. Richard III
(NOTE: email link was not working on NORD website and may not be correct)
800 Race St.
New Orleans, LA 70130
The Trust for Public Land has a Louisiana State Office
1137 Baronne Street
New Orleans, Louisiana 70113
On a side note, we are delighted to see a NOLA resident using the hashtag #OccupyMarkeyPark on Twitter, but that should not be taken as any indication that we intend to start an encampment in the Bywater at this time.
As much as we love cats, Occupy The Stage will stand with dogs, humans, and advocates of democracy and public space.