Archive for the Algiers Category

You will often see, in those vignettes of New Orleans that precede commercial breaks during prime time Saints football games, or the Super Bowl, or TV shows about New Orleans or perhaps even NBA All Star games, camera shots intended to capture, in a few moments, the vibrancy of the city. You’ll see a man playing a brass instrument with a tip jar. You’ll see the Cathedral and folks walking around Jackson Square. You’ll see crawfish or oysters or shrimp being eaten and Dixieland jazz playing in the background. It’s like “Hey! Here we are and this is what we do!”

What you often also see is transportation. Because often, cities are defined by their modes of public transport and these become icons of those cities. Trolleys in San Francisco, bridges in New York, in Los Angeles they have…well, forget Los Angeles.

In New Orleans, streetcars are often shown. But if you pay attention, you will notice the Algiers Ferry is shown quite often also. Usually flanked by GNO bridge with the river undulating in the background.

I don’t blame directors for framing the city up this way. It’s a great shot. Particularly so when one is actually out there on the river experiencing it. Lit up by the sun during the day or in the glow of the city at night, it’s a unique way to see the New Orleans holistically, yet from within.

With a quick shot of the ferry, a narrative can be told in one second. The premise is, “Look at New Orleans, this venerable city on America’s most vital waterway. Look at its robust culture and how it moves its citizens from one place to another across this great, historic river. Here is this vast expanse that previously would stop human migration right at its banks but here, now, daily, in the great city of New Orleans, the citizens can simply ride their bicycles onto a ship and cross the river whilst sipping cocktails from plastic cups. How glorious is humankind?!”

But of course, it is a lie. It’s just for TV. Like so much of New Orleans is becoming these days.

The reality is the ferry is a symbol not of the vibrancy of public transportation but of its abandonment.

Where we are now with it is Veolia Transportation, a private company in France who runs bus lines in the city for the Regional Transit Authority, has taken over the ferry operations. And in spite of the initial declarations of having a “goal of” a return to original hours, the current language is “would consider … based on.” So no timetable as to when and, based on how pitiful the City and State government’s dedication to the ferry has been, its easy to think probably never.

And these hours are crucial. The expectation is the ferry needs to be made viable financially in spite of the fact that the product being provided isn’t worth the price they are asking. Yet it must be paid for for it to eventually be. Huh?

For instance, a monthly pass is $65. The value for such a pass increases greatly as hours are increased and decreases as they are reduced. Am I expected to just pony up the money to city government and then hope the hours increase one day?

Also, as it relates to value, what will be the recourse when I purchase my monthly pass and the ferry breaks down, as it has many, many, many, many, many, many times? The value then goes down even more.

So if the ferry is trying to be sold as having to generate a profit to make up for the budget shortfall, ( + whatever Veolia is making) what sort of business model is it to provide a “product” that runs half as much as it ran before and often doesn’t run at all? Just how much faith in Veolia Transportation are the people of New Orleans supposed to have? I would sooner put $65 in a collection plate at the local church and hope I get to heaven before paying for the current level of service being offered.

And pardon me if I am distrustful. But after the fiasco that was the Crescent City Connection bridge tolls vote last year, I have a reason to be. The miseducation of many New Orleanians was that voting yes to the tolls would have funded and ensured the ferries operation long term. But that wasn’t the case in the first election as the ferries had been decoupled from the bridge tolls before the election. Word didn’t get out about that nearly as quickly as the notion that preserving the tolls would save the ferry and the extension actually passed (with the help of a little East Bank snobbery I think).

But the election was so close and so seemingly reeking of some sort of bambozzlefication not related to the original boondogglery of the miseducation of the voters, that a revote had to be cast and the tolls were eventually shot down for good.

I’ll also add that the habit of linking the ferries to the tolls was still not broken even in that second election as people were still saying we needed bridge tolls to run the ferries even in spite of the fact that no one had ever written anything guaranteeing such. It was all just more “hope for” and “goal is” and “dependent on.”

You can read any article on the ferries including this one from TODAY (Feb. 17, 2014) and look at the comments to see that the myth that the tolls would have funded the ferries persists still.

But hey, it’s not like there wasn’t bamboozlery of some sort happening even when the ferries were attached to the bridge.

So not only is the product we are receiving for our $65 not up to par, the “manufacturer” of the product so to speak can’t really be trusted.

So let’s just leave the whole ferry operating with a business model thing aside for right now. Because it almost seems designed to fail.

The new stance by any civic-minded person motivated by this ferry fiasco should be: The ferry needs to be a free, public service that needs to be restored to its original hours with the “goal of” 24 hour service like streetcars.

Each day, people of New Orleans have to endure the hassle and the appropriation of our streets for movie companies because they help the local economy and the money goes…somewhere.

Year after year we endure the closing of streets and the traffic nightmares brought on by events like the Sugar Bowl and the Super Bowl and the NBA All Star Game and political conventions and music festivals that disrupt our lives constantly and the money goes…somewhere.

We endure the increasing encroachment of a tourist-based economy driving out businesses and replacing them with T-shirt shops and huge double decker buses driving through our neighborhoods and see our true culture replaced with a “version” of our culture and the money goes … somewhere.

We are force fed projects like “Reinventing the Crescent” which promises it will “reconnect us to the river” and is hailed as an “essential public investment.” Yet, no where in the plan was it thought that perhaps being on a ship that crosses the river may be a unique way to truly reconnect to the river from both banks. And $300 million in public money (that could have funded the ferry for decades) for that project goes … somewhere (or maybe into the hands of Bywater / Marigny developers).

We have to listen to testimonies in the trials of our former Mayor (and many more before him) who funneled money into the pockets of themselves and cronies millions of dollars of public money that goes … well we know where it went.

No one should accept doing “more with less” in New Orleans right now. We have heard story after story of how vibrant our recovery has been and entrepreneur this and cultural economy that. Yet, something as vital as a historical method public transportation is being reduced?

Businesses in Algiers have suffered. Real estate in Algiers has suffered. Workers in Algiers have suffered.

The Algiers Ferry needs to be free and it needs to run all the time. Find a way. Ferries all over the world are paid for by governments. It is a public service.

That’s what Algiers needs for its low wage workers to get to and from their jobs in the CBD /French Quarter. That’s what the employers of these people need to see their employees make it to work each day regardless if they are working days, nights or graveyards. That’s what tourists need to have a pedestrian thoroughfare across the river and back and experience New Orleans as a whole. That’s what people in Algiers who want to leave their cars at home and bike or walk across the river need to experience East Bank food, music, parks, museums, nightlife, administration. It’s what New Orleans needs to continue to provide for its entire populace.

Ordinary people are becoming activists over this.

Even though I am late commenting on this story in The Nation, I am not late hearing about it. I first caught wind of “the militia” the week after the Flood. This was the time of depictions of the city in chaos and mass looting. I admit I was glad someone was watching over the neighborhood after the virtual collapse of city, state and federal governments. Come to find out though, the militia never made it to my side of Opelousas, the “muddy” side talked about in the article.

When I arrived back in town there were lots of stories going around about what occurred but no one mentioned specifics about the shootings. People were mostly bragging. They were proud of themselves. I never doubted that some shootings occurred, but most of us were concerned with getting the city (and our lives) together. In the weeks following the Flood, there were so many horrendous stories going around and so much fabrication and sensational hyperbole that I resigned myself to the fact that it would almost be impossible to piece it all together. And I don’t think A.C. Thompson does a very good job with the small slice he was tasked with.

First things first, I believe Donnell Herrington’s story. Reason being: the shooters have not stepped up and stated their side. Therefore the only information available is Herrington’s and he has a scar and hospital reports to back it up. He was shot and the person who shot him hasn’t stated clearly the reasons why he or she did so. Until this person does, Herrington’s story must be accepted as truth. Also, it doesn’t sound far-fetched considering the fact that several Algiers Point residents stated similar events did indeed occur, some with fatal results. In fact, Herrington himself could have easily died and if he had this event wouldn’t have seen the light of day. It takes a brave person to be shot and then to speak out against his would-be killers. If the people who did the shooting are as brave, they need to state their side of the story. I fully encourage them to do so. If they were indeed guilty of a crime, they should be prosecuted. If it was some sort of self defense, they need to be cleared. As it stands, Herrington and his friends are the victims in this story and thanks to Thompson for bringing their story to light.

As a resident of Algiers Point, I only want the truth. Unfortunately, truth is not something that will ever emerge from those days after the Flood. As time goes by folks are going to meld the entire incident to their own prejudices. Racists on both side of the spectrum are going to cite the Flood as proof of their own twisted, segregated ideas. The critical thinkers in the middle will be left to sort it all out and of course it will never be totally.

As it relates to my neighborhood, we took a beating in the article and it certainly looks like no attempt was made to portray us as a place that struggles with issues of race like any other spot in the country, like Detroit, Chicago, Cincinnati and Los Angeles have in the last few years. It seems at no point was a person whose aim was racial harmony given a quote in the article and I think just about everyone I know who lives here indeed wants it. The problem is, these people were hundreds of miles away when the events of the article took place.

But when American government collapses (and the Flood and the L.A. Riots are the only two times I have seen it do so in my lifetime with Katrina being a much wider and far-reaching collapse) then folks take matters into their own hands. The looters looking for goods, the desperate looking for food and the fearful looking for protection all have to rely on their own decisions. Never in Thompson’s article is it stated (as a well-rounded article might) how residents of Algiers Point were supposed to react in light of the crimes happening around them with no law enforcement available. It is suggested that they help people getting off the ferries and offer food and water but the sheer logistics and realities of this aren’t explored. What position was the community in to provide relief? What were they supposed to do if someone they were trying to help tried to harm them? The article incompetently avoids the very real fact that these people’s lives were threatened and some of them made very bad choices when put under this pressure. The threats these men were facing is downplayed and the insane reactions of a handful of them are accentuated.

Algiers Point is a neighborhood that only three years ago had a string of four murders in a few weeks time, including a young Vietnamese girl working in her family’s store killed for a thrill. Then a NOPD officer was shot and paralyzed in front of the same store the next year. Folks are fed up with crime here. Perhaps other cities don’t struggle with the problem so openly and under as much scrutiny because other cities are segregated by class and race. New Orleans (and Algiers Point) largely isn’t. So we fight our battles in the open rather than behind closed doors. But never think for a moment that these incidents don’t exist elsewhere. New Orleans is a special case indeed. It’s special because it is exposed.

Still, people in other cities need someone to point at and say, “Those are the bad guys.” Whether it is the racist perpetrators of the acts depicted in this article or the out-of-control crime or the corrupt politicians, folks of all sorts need New Orleans to exist so they can feel better about themselves. They need to come down here and do reports that stir things up. They need to post hateful messages on the Internet. They need to convince themselves that the place they live is so much better.

Perhaps A.C. Thompson is thinking he is helping out and he has certainly enlightened many to the events. However, calling the events in Algiers Point a “race war” is damned irresponsible. It seems as likely to incite violence as it does to bring justice to our neighborhood. And why should A.C. Thompson or the editors at The Nation care? They only need to observe it and comment from afar and maybe even be astonished at the mess they have created. Then after the fact, they can do more stories and interviews and put themselves in positions where they can be considered experts and sit in on interviews. Essentially, creating the supply and the demand for talk show appearances.

But it is the story’s bias and more so, its vagueness, that damages its important message. Consider the following direct quotes from the article that use utterly ambiguous terms to describe events: “says one local,” “a loose band of about fifteen to thirty residents,” “while the shooters, it appears, were all white” and “some of whom may have died.”

Thompson also relies on anonymous quotes generously, something that always raises questions and unequivocally affects the potential veracity of the statements. Late in the article, he quotes a woman whose cousins and uncle were involved in shootings. She doesn’t give her name because she fears her family members may be prosecuted for their crimes. At this point, why use the direct quotes? Perhaps because they are particularly incendiary? Maybe they are true, maybe they aren’t. We don’t know because we are forced to take Thompson’s word for it. That is, “I know somebody who knows somebody who said they read an e-mail that…” He also uses the anonymous account of an EMT with video of the incidents but either didn’t or wasn’t able to obtain permission to use their name. It’s questionable whether these people, who were so quick to talk to a reporter, will be so cooperative in an investigation by law enforcement or even under oath? If they spoke to a reporter, will they speak to police? Why not?

Thompson’s use of anonymous sources also makes me question his motives. Does he seek justice for the men shot in the storm? If so, wouldn’t his anonymous sources be witnesses? Or does he simply want the glory of the story? This is a question Thompson, who isn’t simply a crime reporter any longer, needs to ask himself.

In this smarmy interview Thompson and Alternet Writer Liliana Segura discuss why individuals place so much value on property over human life even though Vinnie Pervel clearly states in Thompson’s own article that he feared for his and his elderly mother’s lives. Why wasn’t this stated? Probably because this was a friendly interview, where both sides have the same bias.

But who needs real witnesses to speak up when you’ve got a drunken witness spouting off with a beer in his hand right? If Donnel Herrington is the victim in this story, its clear Wayne Janek is its impotent monster. Though he states he never shot anyone in the story, he certainly doesn’t mind indicting his neighbors with his exuberant, intoxicated boasting on video. This is a man who doesn’t have a very swell reputation in our neighborhood and has more enemies than friends. He is the one who is truly “tolerated” around our neighborhood. To many, he is the drunken village idiot. So it hurts that he is being held up as an avatar for Algiers Point when he is clearly the opposite. Those men who were involved in the very serious, very painful events in Algiers Point following the Flood should be furious at Wayne Janek or anyone else treating it like it was something frivolous. Anytime I have talked to police officers or soldiers who have killed someone, they treat the act with respect and they generally regret that it happened. That Janek or others don’t have this respect shows that, regardless of their motives, they are indeed monsters.

But of course, Janek says he never really did anything. In fact, he says he even had a chance to and didn’t. His decision with a little booze in him to brag about it in front of a camera speaks to his character and integrity.

Simply based on the facts stated in the article, the most concrete and obvious case of which there is substantial evidence of unprovoked activity is the shooting of Herrington and Marcel Alexander and Chris Collins. I think this case should be investigated and the people who did so prosecuted if the events described by them are true. I may have neighbors who disagree with me and think those who shot these men did what they had to do. To them I say when you put yourself into the position of a law enforcement officer you should be held to the same scrutiny that peace keepers are. If the police shot these men for walking down the street then they should be prosecuted. I wouldn’t want the local cops making an example out of me. These men shouldn’t have been shot.

In the end, we all suffer for prejudice. The African American men in the neighborhood suffered because racist whites lumped them together with looters. Myself and my neighbors are now suffering because folks will lump us together with these men. Does Malik Rahim believe I “tolerate” my African American next door neighbors? Do these folks in the Point look at my neighbors like they are going to rob them? It’s a damned mess.

Hopefully, this article will help sooth the anger of Donnell Herrington and bring light to the crime perpetrated against him. It’s unfortunate that it was written in such a way that didn’t paint the incident against the much broader landscape of what occurred in the days after the storm. In which events as horrific as these were taking place all over the city.

It is also unfortunate that ten times as many young African Americans are killed in the city and their deaths rarely see the attention this story has seen simply due to the fact that their killers weren’t white. The double standard is blatant.

Also, instead of focusing on the very real, very tangible account of Herrington and pursuing that, A.C. Thompson muddies the water by writing about the very troubling and often-struggled with issue of racism and drops it into the middle of a very confusing and unaccounted-for moment in American history with a seeming disregard for truth and a possible desire for chaos. Doing this and not keeping to the facts will turn Herrington’s case into a symbol of something larger and more complicated and hurt his chance at justice.

* If you don’t get a name, don’t use the quote.

Reactions to The Nation story abound:

Eli
Liprap
Dambala
Big Red Cotton
Nola Slate

Dear city officials, how can you tell us to stay away from this?

Algiers Point residents grilling, drinking away

Coming home tomorrow. If you need to turn us away, do it to our face. If you had only asked us to stay another day, perhaps we would have. We’re reasonable.

Algiers Point shuttle service begins

- Don’t want it.
- Don’t want to pay $1.50.
- Want to bring my bike.
- Want to be on the river.
- Want consistency.
- Want cooperation.
- Want reimbursement.
- Tired of Gretna ferries running and Algiers not.
Still bitter over the “Deja Vu” incidnet when the ferry was shut down for six weeks so a movie could be filmed on it in the months after Katrina when I was working in a damn hotel hosting mostly recovery workers.l

Don’t want it.

Edit: Nevermind.

But yall can read the article and see the general state of not-having-the-shit together everyone involved is in.

I was waiting by the ferry to pick up Romy the other night and, after listening to Nina Simone scold some members of the audience for talking too loud, when I saw one of these traipse through the parking lot.

I am guessing it moved into the neighborhood while the river is high. But it still gave me that funny feeling one gets when they observes something seemingly secret.

Fresh of his appearance at Rising Tide, Joshua Clark will be in Algiers on Tuesday…

From the Hubbell…

This Tuesday evening, August 28th, is a very special Author Night at the Hubbell Library in Algiers Point. To mark the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, we are having Joshua Clark and his memoir, Heart Like Water: Surviving Katrina and Life in Its Disaster Zone. Josh stayed in town during the storm, never leaving the city until months afterward. The book is amazing!!

Books will be available on Tuesday starting at 6pm, or you can call Amy Hubbell at 504-473-3635 to buy yours in advance.

Please join us to talk with Josh, hear his stories, and enjoy wine, snacks and other refreshments. It’s this Tuesday, August 28th at 6:30pm. At The Hubbell Library, 725 Pelican Avenue, 504-596-2640. The event is free and open to everyone.

This month’s Author Night at the Library will feature

THE JOY OF Y’AT CATHOLICISM

Join us for stories from Earl Higgins, plus snacks, wine and other refreshments sponsored by -->