By Karen Gadbois, The Lens staff writer
In a city where demolitions are a fairly common sight, the early morning demolition in an eastern New Orleans neighborhood attracted a very high-profile crowd, including Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
The demolition of the Parc Brittney condominium complex came after The Lens and our partners at Fox8 News reported a story about the poorly performing nonprofit organization that owns most of it. The city issued a permit for the demolition days after the story appeared.
The building was abandoned before Hurricane Katrina and steadily worsened since.
Landrieu said the building is among the first to be demolished under his new aggressive blight-eradication program, and the city chose it based on the priorities set by community leaders, in conjunction with the administration and Councilman Jon Johnson.
Landrieu called the demolition a “commitment to honor promises made.”
Under the administration of former Mayor Ray Nagin, the property was seized by the city for nonpayment of taxes and then given to a local nonprofit, Galilee Housing Initiative. It was done through a city program that donated hundreds of such properties to various nonprofits, all with the hope of turning blighted properties into low-income housing.
The Parc Brittney building was the subject of a code enforcement hearing in July of 2009, resulting in over $220,000 in fines, which continue to be unpaid.
The city paid for the demolition using a combination of city, state and federal money and hopes to recover the costs by putting a lien on the property.
And if back taxes and liens don’t get paid, properties such as this will be sold at a sheriff’s sale, said Jeff Hebert, the administration’s go-to guy for blight.
Asked about other Galilee properties now being cared for by neighbors, Hebert offered them some hope.
“We are working on a plan on how to get these properties back into the hands of responsible property owners,” he said.
Johnson chimed in with thanks to the mayor and the administration and said the Parc Brittney demolition today says, “We are serious about blight,” adding “this is the first but not the last” property to come down.
This administration has spoken forcefully about steps that will be taken to enforce the blight laws, with jail time as a possible option.