June 22, 2020
Recently, there has been a lot of conversation about blocking French Quarter streets for pedestrian traffic. Naturally, this has prompted concern from many people in the Marigny that there would be plans to do this for Frenchmen Street. This has been much talked about for years, and our concerns still remain:
- Retaining Frenchmen’s unique character- When the Frenchmen Overlay was originally developed, it was designed to be Restaurants, with a few exceptions,(as explained in the Overlay Zoning). Due to a lack of enforcement, we have seen the feared “Bourbonization”. Now, the two streets are becoming more of the same, and locals are going elsewhere. It is our belief that it is best return Frenchmen to its original intent, and resist a street blocking plan that would “Bourbonize” it even further.
- Security- We are well aware that we are not the only people that desire more police officers in their neighborhood, but the Marigny is constantly competing with the larger and more influential French Quarter for our fair share of police protection. We have felt that we were lucky to get one patrol car in the Marigny at night. We do feel that has improved since Chief Ferguson has taken over, but bringing order to Frenchmen is still a work in progress. It is our fear that blocking the street will cause more chaos on the street, including barbecue grills and beverage sales (competing with the restaurants), and street performers jockeying for space. Without the security presence that Bourbon Street has, we believe that chaos would ensue. Any street blockage plan for Frenchmen Street must include a minimum number of officers stated in the plan, much like occurred with the rollout of the French Quarter Task Force, and its requirements for Bourbon Street.
- Parklets- We were happy to support your plan for a “parklets” trial program along Frenchmen Street. We believe it is crucial, as the city reopens from the COVID-19 crisis, to find ways to help these businesses as they are limited to 25% of their occupancy. Hopefully, allowing a pilot program of parklets (which would allow businesses to set up tables in the parking spots) would provide some extra space for these businesses to make money and stay viable. We would like to see this program happen first, before we roll out something larger and more dramatic. In other words, “let’s crawl before we walk, and walk before we run.”
- Trial Basis- As we stated with parklets, we think it is important to have a trial program with a designated date to assess this program and decide whether or not to continue it, or which changes need to be made. Too many times, we debate issues based on what we think will happen. A designated trial period, and then regrouping to assess is the smart thing to do, and an opportunity we shouldn’t pass up.
- Input- We believe that it is important to get citizen input for any new program. We think that the FMIA, Frenchmen Street businesses and nearby residents should be included in this process. As people who began as grassroots leaders, you and the Mayor know that residents and business owners in the affected area can bring knowledge and perspectives to the table that others don’t have.
We appreciate the opportunity to share our thoughts with you, and look forward to hearing any questions or concerns you might have.