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Letter to City Council: Please amend Article 7 of the new CZO in order to to protect our public parks.
Debra Howell

You may wonder why so many people are protesting the changes to parks that have been unexpectedly included in Article 7 of the new CZO, changes that "permit", without question or debate, commercial uses and developments in our public parks that are currently not allowed or are "conditional" uses, meaning they require both public notice and consideration by the City Planning Commission and the City Council for approval. You may think that the people who are in charge of our public parks are "park professionals" and can be trusted with the responsibility of maintaining these precious assets for the pleasure, rest, recreation, and enjoyment of the citizens of New Orleans, as they were intended. You may think that the citizens who have risen up in protest over commercial development in our public parks over the past 15 years are misguided in some way because they question the motives and actions of these "park professionals".

However, the people in charge of New Orleans' public parks act more like property developers than people charged with maintaining parks, and like property developers everywhere, they approach these natural green spaces as if they were no more than undeveloped and underutilized land ripe for construction of whatever their latest money-making project may be. And they have shown themselves capable of telling the concerned public whatever story they think is necessary to further their plans, whether true or not.



Plea to City Council: Don’t pave our parks! Let the public have a say in what goes where
Keith Hardie
The Lens, NOLA

“Pave Our Lake.” That was a bumper sticker you saw in the 1990s — a joke, of course, popular with proto-hipsters feigning weariness with the environmentalist campaign to “Save Our Lake.”

“Pave Our Parks.” That could be the message of an ironic bumper sticker campaign among today’s (land use) hipsters. Only this time, it wouldn’t be a joke.

Unless the City Council takes action — perhaps as early as this Thursday’s meeting — you’ll likely be seeing a lot more pavement in local parks, along with restaurants, “amusement facilities,” and other intensive uses. And the public, the Planning Commission and the Council will only be able to stand by and watch as a bunch of fat cats and political appointees decide what goes where.

It’s time to send a message to the Council: Don’t let Ron Forman and his understudies write the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance now verging on final approval. Instead, as the slogan goes: “Fix the CZO.” Don’t pave our parks.

Dennis Persica: City Park golf course stirs controversy
Dennis Persica
The New Orleans Advocate

It’s not as bad as paving paradise to put up a parking lot, as in that old Joni Mitchell song, but New Orleans’ City Park is taking down 110 trees to make way for a new golf course. The course has been in the works for a decade but only recently attracted attention and controversy now that land clearing has begun.

The park once was home to four golf courses. Now it has one. The second one — the controversial one — will be a “championship level” course, which puts it in a different class from what City Park has had in the past.

BAD SPORT: A golf course vs. nature's course in City Park
Andru Okun

At a groundbreaking ceremony this past February in City Park, shovels dug into earth that the wildlife of Southeast Louisiana had been steadily reclaiming for nearly a decade. Public officials swinging golf clubs provided photo ops, marking the start of construction on a $24.5 million golf course on 250 acres of public land. Following the flood of 2005, the area had served as a beloved nature preserve for the city of New Orleans. The erection of a construction fence around the vast swath of land has led to outcry from city residents and last-ditch efforts to save something that will not be easily retrieved once it’s lost.

In spite of continued protests, construction hasn’t halted. At a City Park Board of Commissioners meeting this past March, Bob Becker, City Park’s CEO, opened the session by stating that the contractors working on construction of the park’s new golf course were on schedule. He also mentioned that Lloyd Boover—a New Orleans activist who had been protesting the project by sitting for twelve straight days in a tree positioned in the course’s construction zone—had fallen from his perch and was at University Hospital. As the meeting was taking place and concerned citizens waited to voice their objections to the destruction happening in their public park, the large cypress tree Boover had occupied was razed.

City Park already has a 5,740 yard, 18 hole golf course. There are a number of reasons for New Orleanians to be upset about the development of a second course. Environmental damage in a region already extraordinarily susceptible to harm is unsettling; that this damage is intentional makes matters that much worse. New Orleans City Park Improvement Association (NOCPIA) is the organization responsible for approving the park’s master plan. Requests to NOCPIA’s Board of Commissioners to reconsider their decision have been met with indifference. In spite of the Board’s claims of transparency in their operations, many feel ignored. Some question the prudence of moving forward on a project marked with evident intimations of failure; others assert that the operation is illegal. All told, what those in opposition to the golf course are rallying against isn’t the sport of golf but rather a defective case of systematic post-disaster restructuring.


Guest commentary: Golf course a poor use for City Park land
Christopher Lane
The New Orleans Advocate

Who is the “City Park for Everyone Coalition”? What are we protesting and why?

We are homeowners, business owners, artists, fiscal conservatives, golfers, bird watchers, students, parents and fishermen. This coalition is working together to halt the development of a new golf course while preserving the park’s continued open access to green spaces. We have protested peacefully and will continue to do so.

This coalition has nothing against golf; we just see that there are plenty of other places to tee off. There are 11 golf courses in the metro area, including one in City Park. But there’s only one unique space in City Park that has been used by thousands of citizens for hundreds of uses in the last 9½ years, and it is about to be closed down for just one use.

MailBag: Golfer Tees Off On New Course
Ben Kappel offers the opinion of a golfer against the course in an Open Letter to Bob Becker, CEO of New Orleans City Park.

Ben Kappel

Dear Mr. Becker,

While I applaud so much of the work that you have done to get City Park up and running post-Katrina and your efforts to transform it, making it more vibrant than at any other point in my lifetime, it is with great disappointment that I watch you proceed in the redevelopment of City Park’s Golf Courses on the site that now occupies portions of the former East and West Courses between Harrison Ave and Filmore Ave. As a lifelong resident of New Orleans and a regular golfer who grew up playing these courses and as someone who still plays North Course and spends time at the driving range, I can assure you that I am not opposed to golf. I also understand that the park needs to generate revenue through many different avenues since it does not receive any outside funding. However, I believe that the current strategy is misguided and overlooks the true value of what this land and nature in general represents as a cultural asset for all of us. It is based on an old way of thinking and an outmoded master plan that is in dire need of revision so that it better meshes with the changing needs of the community here in New Orleans. In case you have not noticed, a lot has changed in the last 10 years since this plan was approved.

Keep City Park unspoiled by a golf course: A letter to the editor
Maureen E. Shea

I've been walking with my dogs for years in the old golf course area of City Park that was damaged by flooding during Hurricane Katrina. I was so surprised almost 10 years ago to find such a spectacular natural area with beautiful old trees and all kinds of birds and other wildlife that had been inaccessible to the public right here in New Orleans.

Since then hundreds of people have been enjoying it during the week for walking, running, cycling, exercising dogs, bird watching, mountain biking, painting and fishing. Local high school and fund-raising races have been held frequently on weekends. So in the last several weeks it has been heartbreaking to watch a fence go up to keep out the public while old trees are torn down to make room for the new golf course.

City Park officials say they are getting rid of an "eyesore" since it was damaged by levee breaches in Katrina. Those of us who go there frequently know it is absolutely beautiful. I was one of the volunteers who planted the young saplings, which are no replacement for the old trees. Most vibrant cities in this country would tout and protect their natural areas so that the public would have green space to enjoy. We should, too.

Maureen E. Shea, New Orleans

A New Orleans City Park tree-sitting protestor speaks out
Jules Bentley

As a longtime, dues-paying Friend of City Park, it took me a while to get on board with the effort to save the wild public land that City Park CEO Bob Becker and the Bayou District Foundation nonprofit want to turn into a high-end golf course. The campaign seemed too little too late, or worse, an example of people who didn't live through the trauma of the flood but romanticized a wrecked version of the city.

The arguments against rebuilding the golf course accreted gradually— learning just how much that wild stretch meant to so many New Orleanians from all walks of life, learning how dire the economics of golf are in 2015, and learning about the sinister neoliberal elements of the "East Lake model" that the Bayou District Foundation, chaired by George H.W. Bush, seeks to emulate. When it was shown to me that, despite originally promising to only restore land that had previously been golf course, several far older cypress and live oaks and a fat slice of the Couturie Forest were being consigned to the ax, I was swayed

City Park officials are ignoring the public as they proceed with golf course plans
Justin Kray
The Lens, NOLA

There is something insidious about fences. These man-made enclosures are a declaration of control; they create a hierarchical structure through limiting access, where there was once freedom. Jean-Jacques Rousseau explored the relationships of men in “Social Contract.” He found that fences engendered the notion of private property and led to the corruption of man’s essentially good nature,

Recently, a miles-long chain-link fence was erected around the wild northern portion of City Park, earmarked for development as a golf course by a closed decision-making process. There are many reasons why this golf course is a bad choice for the region: ecology, hydrology, financial sustainability, countervailing recreational trends — but I would like to highlight one particular aspect of the choice that is underappreciated: public access. Parks in contemporary urban life are the closest things we have to a shared resource. Like ‘commons’ of yore, they provide an undefined space for collective activity that has no equal, held in trust by the public, for the public. And by ‘public’ I do not mean strictly homo sapiens, but all flora and fauna.

City Park's Potential
Tony Hart
"City Park Potential" facebook group

Hi there, my name is Tony Hart, I’ll be your organizer for this event. For the past three years I have visited City Park nearly every day, often hiking upwards of 5 miles a day as shown on the Cover Photo above. I was aware of the Golf Course attempts over a year ago when it appeared in the Picayune, but my nerves were quickly settled by a New Orleans native that said there had been attempts for the past 7 years with no success. Unfortunately the time has come, and quickly at that. No signage, no public notification of a timeline has been presented.

Rather, on February 13th a fence had suddenly been erected. This installation caused a ruptured water main that drained into the Couturie Forest Arboretum for at least five days without repair and has been fixed as of February 23rd.

Reinventing Public Housing: Is the Atlanta Model Right for Your City?
By Howard Husock

Editor's Note: This article is being reprinted partly because it makes clear that golf and golf courses are simply NOT a necessary or even typical component of reproducing the 'Atlanta Model' of public housing redevelopment anywhere in the United States, despite all the rhetoric from the Bayou District Foundation and the state and local politicians that support them. There is absolutely no reason that control of public golf courses should be tied into the successful redevelopment of public housing projects in general and the St Bernard housing project in particular.
Although public housing is commonly associated with big cities, local authorities own and manage almost 1,200,000 housing units in more than 3,000 municipalities throughout the United States. An imaginative management approach to public housing holds the potential to improve not just housing conditions but also the finances and real-estate-development climates in cities across America.

Audubon Golf Course: Lessons for City Park?
Reprinted from and courtesy of SaveAudubonPark.org


In honor of Bob Becker's current foray into the world of constructing expensive new golf courses, this time in his role as CEO of City Park rather than VP of Planning for the Audubon Institute, a job he held until July 2001, we thought it was time to remind people ONCE AGAIN of how this one turned out. Who knows: some day, reality may prevail over hype and misinformation.

The Audubon Commission Financial Statements of 2003 proudly note that "the newly renovated Audubon Park Golf Course and new Audubon Park Clubhouse generated additional revenues of approximately $1,540,000." They chose not to mention that expenses of over $2 million were also generated, resulting in a hefty loss for the new course in its first year of 2003, a pattern that has continued every year since... as predicted by many who opposed the course in 2001. We've charted the numbers for 1995-2008 below, and attached the financial records for the skeptics.

While we've certainly never claimed to understand Audubon Institute economics, it seems that earning $60,000-$80,000 a year from an "old" golf course is far preferable to consistently losing $500,000-$600,000 a year from a new one instead. While revenues for year 5 of operation (2008) are certainly higher than the $1,318,449 projected by their economic study, the corresponding expenses for year 5 are projected at a mere $948,308 rather than the grim reality of $2,345,956.

Is this really what the AC-ANI had in mind? And more importantly, does this sound like good management to you? For an organization that receives almost one-third of its revenues each year from our tax dollars and spent $6 million of mostly public dollars to build this golf course, perhaps a bit of public accountability should be expected.

Visit Save Audubon Park for more information and the revenue/loss chart.

Who is really in charge of rebuilding our city?
Outside groups devise plans first and avoid consulting neighborhoods on what their needs are. This in the end will not grow New Orleans.

Henri André Fourroux III

Living very near to City Park and the proposed new golf course concerns me for these reasons. The 36 member board all voted yes on phase I of this new PGA style course. There has been no solicitation from any of the board members at our Oak Park meetings to discuss how we would want this course to affect development in our neighborhood of Oak Park, yet the course is touted to increase property values. What if there is more we want besides increased property values? I know we want more residents. We want to encourage single people who attend UNO nearby to find a place to live in our neighborhood so we want to be creative in the types of housing available, (Mother-in-law type attached apartments to single family dwellings is one idea I promote). We want as many people to reside in Oak Park to increase density to encourage better transit for the neighborhood and to attract an array of businesses to our area. We want the majority to be able to consider to live here and not just one segment of the population. In all of that no one from City Park Board of Commissioners has listened to that at one of our meetings.

My account of yesterday's golf vote for City Park
Re the May 26, 2009 CPIA board meeting

Elizabeth Cook

It won't be the first time that an activist is portrayed as a hand-waving, yelling, non-cordial opponent of a seemingly up front process that spends tax payer money on sports...and it won't be the last. (Nakia Hogan,Times Picayune, May 27th, 2009). It so happens that I stood up at the City Park Hearing yesterday not merely to yell, but to ask that the public be allowed to speak. After all, it is a public meeting, I said. Bob Becker, City Park CEO and the autocratic ruler of public land and public money for golf in this city, would have none of it though. "We've heard the public," I think he said, "in two hearings, and the public will not be allowed to speak".

Can you blame me then, for responding, "You know, you dictated your way through the Audubon Golf Course, but you are not going to dictate your way through this one. We'll continue to fight you." Them's fighting words.

Bob Becker is a smooth talking, autocratic boss who's seemingly public persona of reasonableness masks a steely, behind the scenes determination to convert the last of city green spaces to golf courses. He did it over at Audubon Park, to the detriment of the green space, and finances over there, and now he's got City Park in his clutches.

Times Picayune reporter Billy Turner apparently sees the golf course as though Jesus Christ rode in on a caddy wagon for the second coming. "On a humid afternoon, with kids and parents pouring into City Park as they often do, the City Park Board of Commissioners took their assigned seats around a rectangular table in a cool, simple room. Those of us in attendance without place cards, felt, or should have felt, another sweet breath of recovery air blow. It was just a whisper, a gentle solitary whisper of the winds of progress." (Billy, Turner, Times Picayune, May 27, 2009)

Confidential terms of City Park's arrangement with the Bayou District Foundation
As bad as it is for those of us currently concerned with City Park, this deal will also deprive citizens of future generations any say in what happens to half the park.


We have obtained a copy of the "confidential" Business Term Sheet from 2007 outlining the terms and conditions of the proposed agreement between the Bayou District Foundation/Fore!Kids Foundation (the "tenant") and City Park. Most of these proposed terms have never been made public.

The highlights:

- The location is referred to as "approximately 550 acres", despite the repeated claims of "only 400 acres" cited in public.

- It is to be a lease arrangement, with the initial lease term of fifty (50) years, with four ten (10) year renewal options, for a total of a ninety (90) year lease. [Important note: a 90 year lease is considered to be almost equivalent to a sale. When a public body wants to "sell" something, but is legally prohibited from doing so, sometimes they enter into a 90 or 100 year lease.]

Attachment:   Business Term Sheet between City Park and BDF/Fore!Kids

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