Land Use
 

Holy Cross residents say PR campaign is ginning up support for riverfront development

A battle over perception is brewing where the Industrial Canal meets the river. A developer wants to put apartment buildings on the old site of the Holy Cross school. Neighbors say the project doesn’t fit their neighborhood, and their voices are being drowned out by a public-relations campaign.

The Rev. Leonard Lucas Jr. stood up at a recent Historic District Landmarks Commission meeting to explain why he supports a new development in Holy Cross, a neighborhood of small houses and shotguns along the river.

The project — 284 residential units, retail space and 521 parking spaces — is just the change the neighborhood needs, he said.

“The Lower 9th Ward has always needed a change,” he said. “Change is not bad, change is not evil, change is good.”

On one side of the room sat about 30 supporters. A man passed out pre-printed signs reading “Fight blight,” “Development brings opportunity” and “Revive Lower 9.”

On the other side of the aisle were about 45 people. Some wore T-shirts with the name of their neighborhood association. They held up various signs, some hand-lettered: “No zone change” and “Size matters.”

The turnout would seem to indicate a neighborhood divided. But opponents of the project say much of the support has been manufactured:

  • A public-relations firm for the developer is running the “Revive Lower 9” social media campaign, which doesn’t clearly say it’s paid for by the developer.

  • The same firm, Velocity Agency, has canvassed the area asking people to sign a petition supporting the project. Some of those signatures are questionable.

  • A proposed contract — apparently never signed — between the developer and a political consulting firm outlined a strategy to garner community support and find people to speak on behalf of the project at public meetings.

  • A story touting the project was published on the student news site at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, only to be retracted because of an unspecified conflict of interest. The public-relations firm was behind that story; an employee of the firm was once an editor there.

Another supporter identified himself and said he was a businessman and entrepreneur. He said he was considering moving his business to the site of the proposed development.

The team from Velocity Agency  — Leanne Poirier, Mary Beth Crifasi and Robert Berning — sits with proponents of the Holy Cross project during a March Historic District Landmarks meeting.

Karen Gadbois / The Lens

The team from Velocity Agency — Leanne Poirier, Mary Beth Crifasi and Robert Berning — sits with proponents of the Holy Cross project during a March Historic District Landmarks meeting.

Who was he? Robert Berning, the head of Velocity, which is based just across the 17th Street Canal in Metairie.

Sarah DeBacher, one of the people leading the fight against the campaign, said the public-relations campaign started after the developer, Perez Architects, couldn’t make headway with the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association.

“When it became clear to them that they were not going to be getting that community support … they needed to create something that would allow them to manufacture the illusion of community support,” she said.

Angela O’Byrne, the head of Perez, said far more people are for the project than against it.

She believes the opposition to the project “is coming from folks who haven’t understood what we are trying to. So I think if they take time to read what is on our website, they hopefully will learn more about density.”

Plans scaled back after neighbors objected

The 13-acre site, once the home of Holy Cross School, offers a sweeping view of downtown New Orleans and the Mississippi River. There aren’t a lot of parks in the area, so people head to the levee to exercise and relax.

In February 2013, neighbors turned out in force at the Greater Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church to view the plans for the site. Frustration mounted as people asked questions and didn’t get many answers.

The plan presented that night included two 13-story towers, 135 feet tall, closest to the river. In response to complaints that the buildings were too tall and blocked views of passing ships, Perez revised the maximum height to 75 feet and moved the buildings farther apart.

That’s still well above the 40 feet allowed by current zoning, as well as the 60 feet called for in a draft of new, citywide zoning rules.

The city has to sign off on the height and density of the the project. So far, two city agencies have punted.

In February, the Planning Commission was unable to reach consensus and moved it to the City Council without recommendation.

Likewise, members of the Historic District Landmarks Commission said they couldn’t make a recommendation on the size and location of the buildings without knowing how tall they would be. They, too, forwarded the matter to the council; it’s on Thursday’s agenda.

This diagram, which faces away from the river, shows the basic shape and size of the buildings in the Holy Cross proposal.

Perez

This diagram, which faces away from the river, shows the basic shape and size of the buildings in the Holy Cross proposal.

Who speaks for the community?

To encourage developers and residents to work out differences on projects, the city requires companies to hold community meetings before they seek a zoning change. City agencies take into account public comments when they make their decisions.

Pastors, business people and local leaders, some of whom don’t live in the community, have stepped up to the podium to tell city officials why they should approve the project.

But those people haven’t been present at meetings of an ad-hoc group trying to influence what happens to the Holy Cross site, said Kim Ford, another neighborhood organizer. That’s where people talk about what kind of development they would go along with.

“You can’t just come in and try to undermine the efforts of good people trying to improve our neighborhood,” Ford said.

Lucas held his own community meeting in February at Cafe Dauphine, where he made the case for the development. Vanessa Gueringer, who attended the gathering, said O’Byrne was there.

Such meetings were called for under a proposed deal between Perez and B3 Consulting, a company run by local political consultant and bail bondsman Blair Boutte.

The unsigned $30,000 contract, obtained by The Lens, said B3 would work with the city to get the necessary approvals, build a “coalition of community, neighborhood and faith-based stakeholders,” find people to speak in favor of the project at public meetings, and help generate positive news stories.

O’Byrne said she had never seen the document, which she described as a proposal, and that — other than the Metairie-based Velocity — she hasn’t paid B3 or any community leaders to build support for the project.

That includes Lucas, she said. “Apparently, he is in favor of the project, and wants to see it happen,” she said in an email to The Lens.

Lucas and Boutte didn’t respond to repeated efforts to reach them by phone, email and Facebook. Opponents of the project said they’ve never seen Boutte speak about it at a meeting.

“Given the misinformation” presented by opponents at the Planning Commission hearing, O’Byrne said, “perhaps we should consider hiring some community outreach engagement folks.” She asked for recommendations.


Efforts to shape public perception

Vanessa Gueringer, left, and Kim Ford discuss the Holy Cross project and the public-relations campaign supporting it.

Karen Gadbois / The Lens

Vanessa Gueringer, left, and Kim Ford discuss the Holy Cross project and the public-relations campaign supporting it.

Then there’s the petition. DeBacher said her husband was told by one of the canvassers that there would be 50 units in the building, not the 280 as proposed.

Four hundred people have signed the petition, according to Revive Lower 9. A spot-check showed that some have just a first initial and last name, along with addresses that can’t be found on the Orleans Parish Assessor’s website.

The petition is being distributed by supporters and Velocity, according to O’Byrne and Berning.

Velocity also created the Revive Lower 9 website and Facebook page. The site notes the connection to Perez. The Facebook group says Revive Lower 9 is “is a group made up of New Orleanians with big plans to bring jobs, community outreach and opportunity to the Historic Lower Ninth Ward.”

The Facebook page has posts about the revitalization of New Orleans and the Lower 9th Ward, as well as calls to support the Holy Cross project. One post Monday:

In just 3 days, this city has a choice to make.

Will you stand in the way of progress, or embrace the development and growth New Orleans has been waiting for?

This is our chance. Together, we WILL ‪#‎reviveLower9‬ !

Another post Monday didn’t go over as well with a few people:

New Orleans named America’s Top New Brainpower City by Forbes. …

This city is taking off – if you can’t keep up, let go or be dragged.

The post was later changed.

Perhaps the oddest element to the public-relations campaign was an article in The Torch, the student paper of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. The story, which carried no byline, claimed that Lower 9th Ward looks pretty much like it did after the flood of 2005. The article ended with a plug for the Facebook page.

The article was retracted because of an unspecified bias after The Lens inquired about it. The student editor-in-chief wouldn’t say who wrote it. But a former editor at the paper now works at Velocity Agency; Leanne Poirier is project manager for Revive Lower 9. She declined to comment.

O’Byrne said Velocity sent the story to the paper, but she didn’t know about it.

A changing neighborhood

Holy Cross has recovered better than most of the Lower 9th Ward, aided partly by newcomers to the predominantly African-American neighborhood.

Ford and Gueringer understand that the demographics of the neighborhood are changing, but most newcomers have made an effort to become part of the community.

“Black folks here don’t have a problem with gentrification,” Gueringer said. “No, we don’t want you to come in and change things. We are open to conversation about anything and everything that goes on in this community, and come to a happy medium.”

Sarah DeBacher stands in front of the vacant Holy Cross school administration building. She's one of the leaders of a fight against Perez Architects' proposal to build a residential and commercial complex on the site.

Karen Gadbois / The Lens

Sarah DeBacher stands in front of the vacant Holy Cross school administration building. She's one of the leaders of a fight against Perez Architects' proposal to build a residential and commercial complex on the site.

DeBacher is one of those newcomers. She and her husband Simon Hand moved to their Deslonde Street home, which backs up to the Holy Cross site, in 2008. Now pregnant with her second child, DeBacher has spent much of the last year working with other residents and Tulane City Center to develop a plan for the former school that the community finds acceptable.

Gueringer says the neighborhood welcomes development, but not an insular community of one-bedroom apartments that blocks the riverscape.

Perez has told the residents that units will be affordable, but O’Byrne said she will not seek tax credits that guarantee a certain percentage of low-priced units.

Rents will be based on the market, O’Byrne said. “The apartments must be affordable to the market demand of people who exist in New Orleans; we hope to welcome back many of the folks who formerly lived in the Lower Ninth Ward, if they want to return, and are still alive.”

She believes the project will be a catalyst for the Lower 9, bringing people and services to the community. In public meetings, people talk about bringing in a grocery store and amenities like a karate school.

“I envision that this will be a thriving community,“ O’Byrne said, adding that the city will have to provide more services when more people live there.

Still, she’s not surprised that some are fighting it.

“This is a change and change is hard. And it’s especially hard when people are unsure. Fear of the unknown — what is this really going to look like and feel like.”

“It is pretty common when looking for a zoning change to get some opposition from folks, but they are going to love it when it’s done, I do believe that.”

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  • Ken Foster

    It seems another member of the Perez team was FDG Creative, an Orlando company that has manufactured grass roots support for controversial developments in other cities. On the FDG blog, they even boast of how they managed a project called Bristol Rising, creating an astroturf campaign to combat opposition from real-life residents. “Project opponents did not stand a chance against a tidal wave of project supporters, the Bristol Rising crowdsourcing community, who continually filled the room and afforded the developer verifiable proof of support both online and in-person.” Five days ago, FDG changed their name to Prismatic, and with that change their blog disappeared as well. Lots of name changing in the Perez circle.

  • It sounds like the article in the student paper at UMass – Dartmouth was an instance of plagiarism rather than part of a slick PR campaign by developers. I doubt boutique PR firms are leveraging student newspapers at semi-obscure commuter colleges and universities to get out their message.

  • Ken Foster

    Yet, if you actually read, you’ll see the article was written by a Velocity employee, posted while the rest of the school was on break, and then linked by Velocity to their own “Revive Lower 9” Facebook page as an example of worldwide support for the project.

  • 1NONewsladder2

    Sorry Peter, that innuendo-and-out-the-other dog won’t hunt.
    Is that you sitting behind the other Velocity Agency astroturfers in the photo above? Or are you otherwise engaged to this project? Just axin. `-)

  • Alex Sanchez

    Their “PR” company obviously does not know what they are doing because they have been screwing up from the beginning. Forcing the movement and manufacturing “support” from the start and now that the truth is out and it’s collapsing on them, they are DESPERATE to cover it up. I’m happy to know The Lens shined light on it. If I were Perez I would fire that PR company and just move on. Very happy to see the community fighting back! Keep it up!

  • Alex Sanchez

    Thank you for this article!

  • Adam Clarke

    The Lens is the only publication covering this in such a negative light and the editor is also having her content published by other local news sources. How is their approach any different from the PR approach that Perez is taking aside from The Lens seeming less like astroturfing? The Lens just keeps making character attacks on Perez and their associates and inciting white guilt instead of actually explaining why this is bad for the neighborhood other than change being scary. I’m legitimately curious to know. I’m quickly getting priced out of my own neighborhood and would love to see affordable developments in other neighborhoods. How is this bad for Holy Cross and the lower 9?

  • crabioscar

    there are plenty of affordable places for you and others to buy in Holy Cross right now. it’ll be great if that site gets developed into something appropriate, but nobody can legitimately say that Perez’s plans represent the only hope for a blighted neighborhood.

    I’ve heard a number of people object to the pieces that the lens has been running, but without identifying any substantial inaccuracies (except for the initial image in an opinion piece last week). To me that seems to indicate that the facts have an anti-Perez bias, no? I wouldn’t want The Lens to feign objectivity by presenting a falsely balanced set of facts in their articles.

  • Claudia C

    All this article says to me is that the PR company did a sloppy job. The UMass article is weird, but is it really a reason to defeat the project? What kind of impact did that article actually have other than to show that the PR company messed up? It’s not a crime for a developer to hire a company to make sure that the right messages are getting out to the public. They obviously just should have picked a different firm. The bottom line is that this discussion is an unnecessary distraction that will have little to no impact on the City Council’s zoning decision.

  • Ken Foster

    You apparently didn’t read the whole article.

  • Ken Foster

    The Lens shares content with other news sources and always has. And they certainly aren’t the only publication questioning this zoning change–and that is what should be questioned, not a development, but a zoning change request made by a business that doesn’t even yet own the land, and is operating in with willful disregard for the neighborhood they claim to love.

  • Claudia C

    I absolutely did. I chose to remark about the points which seemed legitimate. A lot of this is spin.

  • Ken Foster

    The spin is from Perez. I can tell with certainty that they have no interest in being part of the Holy Cross community, they prohibit feedback on their “revive the 9” site while claiming that it is an open exchange of ideas, and also released a statement that those of us who oppose the zoning change requested “favors” from Angela O’Byrne that she refused to give in to. Even the resident testimonials on their website and brochure are from people who don’t live here. Sound like your kind of people? Sound like good business? Its not.

  • jeffreyskooks
  • Claudia C

    Agree that Perez hired the wrong PR company as I said above. They’re the ones responsible for the site and the statements according to this article. All of the direct quotes from O’Byrne in the article are reasonable. In other interviews I have heard she has also been very reasonable. I don’t think we should condemn Perez because they made a bad hiring decision. It doesn’t relate to the zoning change at all.

  • Ken Foster

    And what about their collecting fake signatures in support of the project? That’s okay with you? Or…what about the other concerns I just mentioned that you are ignoring?

  • crabioscar

    The whole PR campaign is in the service of convincing the uninitiated that Angela O’Byrne is speaking the truth when she says

    “[Opposition] is coming from folks who haven’t understood what we are trying to. So I think if they take time to read what is on our website, they hopefully will learn more about density.”

    But that’s not true at all. There’s very intense and very well informed community opposition to the project. It’s nasty and mean and not reasonable at all that she’s hired a PR firm to spread such a message, and the fact that they’re doing a crummy job of it doesn’t excuse her in the slightest.

  • Claudia C

    I addressed all of your points. According to this article, all of the things you criticize are the responsibility of the PR company. As for the supposed “fake signatures,” this article says that the PR company was responsible for circulating the petitions as well. Also there’s no real evidence of anything nefarious happening there, only “spot checking” and anecdotes. If the writer of this article is going to make a serious claim like that, I’d personally like to see more detail backing it up. I’m not saying Perez and their PR company aren’t spinning – of course they are – all I’m saying is that the opposition is doing the same. I’d like to hear more healthy debate about density instead of conjecture and other distracting attacks. (and that goes for both sides of the debate)

  • Ken Foster

    Perhaps I’ve actually seen the signatures in question. Perhaps if you are going to build and maintain two seven floor residences, you should be able to take responsibility for your employees. We too, would welcome discussion about the development of this property, but Perez, despite its claims, has made it clear they want no input from the community. And these statements, all of them, come with the signature of Angela O’Byrne. (And for the record, you haven’t addressed my specific concerns any more than any employee of Perez or Velocity might do.).

  • Claudia C

    Personally, I’m not worried about whether the developer is “nasty and mean”. I’m only worried about what this development means for the future of the neighborhood and the city. And I’m glad there is informed community opposition. Everyone is entitled to their opinion.

  • crabioscar

    ” I’m only worried about what this development means for the future of the neighborhood and the city. “

    How pure and noble of you. I’m going to head back to the real world now, where the character of the developer actually matters.

  • Ken Foster

    Angela contradicts herself. In the mailer that was sent out last week, she says that the opposition is made up entirely of people who she refused to grant favors. Now she says we just don’t understand. Tomorrow…who knows.

  • crabioscar

    ugg. I haven’t read it. it’s under a pile of tax returns or water bills or something else I’m trying to avoid.

  • Adam Clarke

    I agree with you! I’d love to see The Lens discuss the actual impact of the zoning change, and not going after the character of the developer. It just seems to me that The Lens’ staff is more interested in attacking Perez because they hired a (crappy) PR firm to help improve public perception, and not informing people of the impact of the development on the community.

  • Adam Clarke

    I’d ask the same question of The Lens. Why have they failed to communicate the detriment to the community and instead chosen to attack the character of the land developer? If there is such a convincing argument to the former, why aren’t they making it? The PR firm clearly sucks, and I think its ok to question what the hire means about Perez, but it has little or no bearing on the development or what it means for the community.

  • Adam Clarke

    The facts definitely make Perez look like assholes, but that’s effectively ad hominem. It has little or no bearing on whether or not the development should be legally allowed to happen. The Lens needs to present an account of what’s wrong with the development, and not the developer if they want to validate their opinion in my eyes.

  • Ken Foster

    Well, there was that thorough editorial they ran last week.

  • Adam Clarke

    Well, can we talk about how this article is “nasty and mean” to Perez? I mean The Lens is all but accusing Perez of paying off supporters. Is Perez supposed to just turn the other cheek and watch their investment fly out the window because they don’t want to be perceived as being not nice?

  • Adam Clarke

    I guess it was so thorough and convincing that they felt they needed to further slander Perez to drive all of their reasonable points home?

  • Ken Foster

    What was the slander? Can you be specific? How do you know that is is slander? Did you confirm details independently with Perez? Or…are you slandering the Lens with your accusation of slander?

  • Ken Foster

    You work with someone who until recently worked with Velocity. I wonder what their opinion is on this mess?

  • Adam Clarke

    Accusing Perez of paying off supporters without any concrete evidence is pretty much the textbook definition of slander.

  • Adam Clarke

    He’s no longer a co-worker unfortunately, but he didn’t speak well of Velocity. You’d have to ask him what his opinion on the Holy Cross development is.

  • Ken Foster

    Where is that accusation made? I don’t see that here. Although I do know of at least one person who tore up their check.

  • Adam Clarke

    It’s possible i did too much reading between the lines and the accusation is not expressly made. This is the passage I’m referencing:

    “O’Byrne said she had never seen the document, which she described as a proposal, and that — other than the Metairie-based Velocity — she hasn’t paid B3 or any community leaders to build support for the project.”

    There doesn’t appear to be an outright accusation in the article, so i’ll retract my use of the word slander, but implication is certainly that Perez has pad off supporters.

  • 1NONewsladder2

    Perez has not made an investment on the property as yet. Their option on it expires in April. Their request to raise the height variance goes before City Council Thursday.

    ReviveLower9 is Not a community/neighborhood org as they portray themselves, but paid employees of Perez. It is a lie, thus wrong and should be illegal.

    As for the “affordable housing” in this project, ain’t happening and prospective rental statements are nowhere in their proposal. The entire property will be fenced and Not open to public access. A quick look at the city’s assessor website will show you appx the property’s value. If Perez succeeds in circumventing the height restrictions Thursday, they will acquire this huge parcel for a song compared to what they’ll make on it. In other words, they’re carpetbagging the Holy Cross because they have the connections to City Hall that the citizens of Holy Cross DO NOT, as she told me with glee, Angela O’Byrne helped write the Master Plan/CZO.

    I don’t get your “White Guilt” angle at all, seems knee-jerk racist to me.

  • Tim

    What, do you actually think he didn’t approve of their (the PR company’s) plan?

  • Please – no I don’t work for Velocity – and I don’t have a dog in this fight, so no need to come out sharpening your knives. All I was noting is that of all the places you would pick to gain credibility for your 9th Ward development project, UMass – Dartmouth would probably be near the bottom of one’s list.

  • There’s no need to be an ass—- and to attack anyone that you perceive as not sufficiently aligned to your worldview. I don’t support this project and I’m not defending Perez or Velocity. I’m just noting – like the article says – putting the piece in UMass-Darthmouth’s student newspaper is bizarre and probably attributable to a former UMD student-now-Velocity intern rather than part of the firm’s devious PR strategy. Jesus.

  • Ken Foster

    Oh, then that’s what you should have said. Instead you dismissed it as plagiarism, which makes no sense. As you say, there’s no need to be an ass.

  • 1NONewsladder2

    Hahaha ya got me there Peter. If you don’t live in New Orleans you prolly should. But if you do live in the city, everyone has a stake in governing the development of riverside condos –not just Angela O’Burne’s Perez APC and certainly not in the form she is advocating as if it is the only path to heaven, God’s gift to da po’folks of Holy Cross. Maybe not the larger stake the neighborhood citizenry has already invested in Holy Cross (unlike Ms OByrne), but we all own the skyline and that’s a fact. We own the sunrises and sunsets in New Orleans, not Angela OByrne and not the minions from Boulder CO, the Californicators, Portlandiers and Brookloniles who’ve pooted up their own beds and need a time share of pristine trend-mongering.

    The point of the article was Astroturf 101: publish someplace that doesn’t have a dog in the game, an article of seemingly fair and balanced distance, then plaster it on your website in the For column –as noted in commentary below. In a real news outlet they’d be called out by an editor. Not so with a small college –which is on Spring Break hahahahaha whew. That was picture perfect of Angela OByrne to try to slide that one under the rug.

  • ErinJaneFoster1

    http://goo.gl/5XVqEX
    Anyone looking for an intelligent opinion on this project can watch this video. So much commotion out there clouding the real issues. Gray is an educated, well informed man with a backed up opinion. If you want to see the 9th Ward grow, I think this is a great project to give it the start it needs.

  • ErinJaneFoster1

    Ronnie Seaton wants to put a cooking school in the Holy Cross dev. That could be an amazing opportunity! We could have another white house chef come out of new orleans again!!! The possibilities are endless.

    His interview is on youtube.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l609ZxQ4uow

  • Janet Hays

    Great letter to the editor in The Advocate this morning by the 2nd VP, Chair of Advocacy for the Louisiana Landmarks Society!

    Is it really a new day in New Orleans for those seeking equity and justice? Or is it the same old same old okie doke for residents that have run up against the brick walls of politics in the past?? I guess we’ll have to wait for the next City Council meeting to find out…. seeing as the item was deferred today.

    Here’s the letter:
    http://www.theneworleansadvocate.com/opinion/8863751-171/letter-residents-opposition-to-holy

    Letter: Residents’ opposition to Holy Cross plans falls on deaf ears

    No one who recognizes the historic character of New Orleans can truly believe that the proposal for development of the Holy Cross school site in any way blends with the surrounding neighborhood of historic single and double homes.

    The Perez proposal calls for retention of the former school’s administration building, but adds two massive 75-foot buildings along the Mississippi River levee, along with several other large-scale buildings that would house a total of 284 apartments, commercial and office areas, with 521 off-street parking spots. With the mass and scale of a compound, it shows no respect to the fact that this is a locally and nationally designated Historic District.

    But the process is at stake here as well. The 2010 Master Plan calls for “mixed-use medium density” in the area. But none of the residents could possibly have imagined the wide range of 18 choices for zoning that MUM could represent when the Draft Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance was released.

    As soon as the draft zoning appeared with a zoning of MU-1, the neighborhood voiced opposition. Speaking with one voice, they argued that the zoning should be consistent with the current zoning, and blend with the surroundings — HU-MU for an area that would house a clinic, and HU-RD2 for the rest of the site. They hit all the deadlines of the comment periods for the draft CZO — even the controversial Thanksgiving weekend. Nothing happened.

    When the developers asked for the drastic change in zoning from the current RD-3 (Two-Family Residential) to C1-A (General Commercial District), the residents again engaged, voicing their outrage. At the oddly conducted but required Neighborhood Participation meeting, held on a Friday evening, residents were lined up out the door. Their comments reflected their disdain for the Perez proposal as inappropriate and out of scale for their neighborhood. They even offered alternative plans, developed in conjunction with Tulane City Center. And yet the Perez proposal moves on.

    There are dozens and dozens of recorded letters of opposition at every step of the way. In fact, seven out of the eight attachments on the website for the City Planning Commission meeting document overwhelming opposition from longtime residents and organizations — not new groups whose formation happens to coincide with the promotion of this current proposal.

    The Master Plan, as adopted August 2010, seeks to “ensure opportunities for meaningful community input into all public decisions that affect resident’s quality of life.” Well, these residents did everything right. They educated themselves — they participated in every step of the process — they made public comments by the deadlines. They did everything they were told to do to have a voice in what happens in their community.

    When will their voice actually be heard?

    Sandra Stokes

    2nd VP, Chair of Advocacy

    Louisiana Landmarks Society

    New Orleans

  • The facts definitely make Perez look like assholes, but that’s effectively ad hominem.

    incorrect — the facts are the facts. if they make Perez look like assholes, then thats on them, no the Lens.

  • adam – what slander? be specific. otherwise, youre a plant.

  • adam – the facts are the facts. why are you trying to muddy the waters?

  • attacking? where are the attacks? be specific.

  • As for the supposed “fake signatures,” this article says that the PR company was responsible for circulating the petitions as well.

    claudia – ah, so if you mask yourself w/ an ethically-challenged PR firm, then all is forgiven? anything goes and youre in the clear? interesting…

  • the facts are the facts. it’s not the Lens’ job to worry about how Perez feels about that.

  • why cant it be the great start while staying at the zoning’s height limit? what changes at 40′ feet that would make it not be a great start? specifically?

  • why on earth couldnt we have a white house chef now? new orleans is already one of the culinary capitols of the US.

  • This may seem minor but it’s an important point: The Lens doesn’t publish editorials. The column we published reflected Roberta Gratz’ views.

  • Adam,
    As the editor on this story, I disagree that this story attacked the character of the developer. This article focused on the battle over public perception — between neighbors who believe people are generally against the project and the developer, which has hired a public-relations firm to help make its case. This isn’t the only story we’ll write about the development.

  • Ken Foster

    Gray is an educated man who is about to be disbarred and forbidden from practicing law. In fact, most of the “community leaders” lined up on the Perez side have a history of corruption. You approve?

  • Ken Foster

    I’m sure his opinion is not influenced at all by the promise of a cooking school with his name on it. I wonder why Perez isn’t offering business space to anyone in the neighborhood, if they are so inspired to help?

  • Pc

    These will not be affordable. No tax credits!!!!

  • Pc

    It’s not slander if it’s true…

  • Pc

    I certainly agree that Perez is dishonest. What else are they going to do or not do if they are allowed to change the zoning law? They have total disregard for the community.

  • Pc

    Claudia- You couldn’t have read the article…

  • Pc

    I don’t think you have a clear understanding.