Today (Wednesday, June 23), District C Councilwoman Kristin Palmer and Treme community leaders announced that they are seeking to file a motion that would temporarily stop Mayor LaToya Cantrell and her administration from moving City Hall into the Municipal Auditorium, without a community process and a vote by the City Council.
The “Protect Treme Interim Zoning District” (IZD) would prohibit the Department of Safety and Permits from allowing developers to construct government offices, parking lots, or parking garages within Louis Armstrong Park for one year or until the Council votes to remove the measure. If the Council passes the IZD, the City Planning Commission would also be required to have a public hearing before any new developments move forward at the site.
“The residents of Treme have been left out of the decision to move City Hall to Armstrong Park,” Councilwoman Parlmer said in a statement. “A project of this size will have a huge impact on the future of Treme. The people who live here have to be at the table.”
While speaking on WBOK 1230 AM radio with show host Gerod Stevens on Wednesday afternoon, Palmer described the proposal to relocate City Hall to the current site of the Municipal Auditorium, Louis Armstrong Park and Congo Square as a land use issue over which the City Council would have some control.
“We have been begging, emailing, calling, and marching to be heard by the Administration, and they have ignored us,” Jarrett Cohen, president of the Historic Faubourg Treme Association, said in the statement released by Palmer’s office. “We’re happy that at least one of our council members is listening and supporting us. Now, we need others to stand up and support us too. This isn’t just a Treme issue. It’s a City issue. Our City’s culture is Treme.”
On June 17, community members from across the City gathered at a peaceful protest against the relocation of City Hall to protect Congo Square and the historic Black neighborhood.
Then, on June 18, Mayor Cantrell released a statement, inviting more community engagement and input on the proposal as well as seeking alternatives to the plan, while affirming her commitment to using federal money earmarked for the renovation of the Municipal Auditorium before the funding.
“Moving City Hall nearly on top of Congo Square is just fundamentally wrong,” said Alonso Knox, a resident of Treme resident and a member of the Historic District Landmark Commission. “Congo Square is a sacred place to our community. Enslaved people and Free People of Color could freely practice their cultural traditions at Congo Square during slavery when they had no other place to go. The people of Treme have been working for years on envisioning how to revitalize the Municipal Auditorium in a culturally appropriate way. These ideas from residents deserve to be taken seriously. Treme has already suffered enough. For decades, our community has been a place of Black economic displacement. In the 1920s, the construction of the Municipal Auditorium displaced hundreds of Black Treme residents. Then, we dealt with it again with the construction of the 1-10 overpass — built in the middle of our neighborhood — that killed Black businesses along Claiborne Avenue. We’ve told the Administration that moving City Hall to our neighborhood will hurt Treme, and they’re not listening. We hope that Councilmember Palmer’s legislation will finally get them to stop and listen to us.