MARSALA: Mass Evictions At West End Lakeshore Park

The New Orleans Municipal Yacht Harbor Management Corporation (MYHMC) has voted to spend $500,000.00 to study the feasibility to close the marine and bird habitat of West End Lakeshore Park citing the citizens of New Orleans need more bars and video poker machines.  If developed, it will be the eviction of 300 Pelicans, Seas Turtles, and an Eagle from West End Lakeshore Park.

West End Lakeshore Park was created in 1906 and connects the Bird Sanctuaries of Jefferson Parish and New Orleans. Its 20-acres and numerous oak trees provide nesting and a flight path. With 500-feet along Lake Pontchartrain, it offers great views of sunsets, especially during winter months.

(This article is part of a series of Hayride articles on the conversion of West End Lakeshore Park to Bars, Retail, and Gaming).  Link to previous articles.

Money from the recent raising of boat slip rental rates and other funds will be combined with other reserves to pay the Stone Pigman law firm to oversee a third feasibility study, market analysis, and drafting of RFPs and RFQs to be done by HR&A Consulting.  Estimated cost is over $500,000.00 for all services.

The 2017 Feasibility Study by the Regional Planning Commission and the April 2022 Study by The Hackett Group to MYHMC reported the area to be saturated with bars and restaurants. Several local restaurants are now closed for lunch due to staffing shortages and lack of customers.

In a recent on-line survey of residents 143 responded with 92% agreeing with the recent survey by New Orleans Parks and Parkways that the value of protecting green space and wildlife habitat is important to the City of New Orleans. The survey is still open.

Link to Survey:

Survey for West End Lakeshore Park (surveymonkey.com)

When asked about protecting the 29 Heritage Oak Trees in that the park of the West End Lakeshore Park designated for the bars and gaming, 96% supported protecting the trees.

West End Lakeshore Park is a rectangle of twenty-acres with 500-feet along Lake Pontchartrain. Along the Lake Retention wall is Breakwater Drive, 83% favored retaining Breakwater Drive as a bike path connecting with the Jefferson Parish and Orleans Parish bike path’s along the lake and going out to The Point.

Using the area for recreation, was also an interest of those surveyed with 75% wanting Pickleball or other recreational activity in that part of the park to replace the lost the Coconut Beach Volleyball court that were in adjoining Retif Park and Playspot until 2005.

Under Mitch Landrieu’s administration West End Lakeshore Park was removed from the City of New Orleans Parks and Parkways budget, 85% want it returned to Parks and Parkways.

In April 2022, US Senator Cassidy held a press conference to advise that $10 million per year was available for 3 to 1 matching funds for environmental projects such as the wildlife marsh in nearby Bucktown Harbor on Lake Pontchartrian for five years. The MYHMC has declined to pursue that option.   The $500,000.00 it is spending with HR&A and Stone Pigman could have become $2 Million under the 2021 Infrastructure Act Grant for Lake Pontchartrain.

HR&A is a consulting firm that specializes in big retail projects, it was asked if they are aware this is simply a 2-acre project if the oak trees and bike bath are saved.

In 2015 under Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Council Member Susan Guidry 3 acres of West End Lake Shore Park were rezoned from Park to Mixed-use. During Council Member Joseph Giarrusso term the allowable buildable height in the Marina was increased to 65’ to allow for an additional floor to the proposed structure, which will likely include a parking garage. The 2021-CEA signed by the City of New Orleans, Jefferson Parish, and the State of Louisiana allows for bars, retail, commercial, and housing in the structure.

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Residents have asked the New Orleans Planning Commission to place on their agenda returning the zoning of the area back to park and been denied. In January 2023, the New Orleans S&WB fixed a 17-year-old leak of 500,000 galloons per day in the Park. In March 2023, Jefferson Parish trimmed the 13 Heritage Oak Trees on its side of the part and requested MYHMC remove left over concrete piling debris.

The Governor’s Office of the State of Louisiana has been asked to repair the Retention Wall, and replied that the City of New Orleans has to first request it be repaired.

It was noted during the May 9th 2023 meeting that by having Stone Pigman law firm as the intermediatory between the MYHMC and HR&A that all communication with HR&A would become Attorney-Client Privilege and not be available to the public under Public Records Requests laws.

It was reported during the meeting that a $50,000.00 boat and trailer parked on a street along West End Lakeshore Park were stolen on Easter Sunday between 1-5pm. The burned boat hull was later discovered near Almonaster Blvd.  Increased crime as a result of the development is a concern.

Joseph Giarrusso is hosting a meeting at the Municipal Yacht Harbor on Tuesday May 16th at 6pm. The main topic is housing. However other items need to be resolved are: which way the music from the bands will play: out to Bucktown or out to the New Orleans Marina and what will the proposed 4-story structure and 2-story parking garage become if it fails.  One option is a casino or could his proposed ordinance be changed to allow for housing.

Residents are comparing the development of West End Lakeshore Park to the lyrics of Joni Mitchell’s 1970 song “Big Yellow Taxi.”

“They paved paradise and put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique, and a swinging hot spot.

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone?
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

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