NEW ORLEANS — It was a year ago this month when a group of residents gathered in the auditorium of a St. Claude Avenue community center to give feedback and get answers about a riverfront park under construction in the Faubourg Marigny and Bywater that they hoped would be completed last fall.
Neighbors met again Tuesday night in the same space to hear the latest about the project — in particular the Mandeville Street wharf portion — which remains under construction and without an operator. But there were few specifics about the project known as Crescent Park.
“It really is a good thing we have no answers tonight because that means no decisions have been made,” said Ann Duplessis, interim director of the French Market Corp., which could operate the park once work wraps.
Duplessis’ statement was meant to reflect the fact that the community can still have a say in how the park will operate once it does open.
In 2008, the city awarded $30 million in Community Development Block Grant funding to the New Orleans Building Corp. for the project. Work on the park, originally known as Reinventing the Crescent, began in 2010.
While there was little definite to share on Tuesday, representatives of the Riverfront Alliance task force developed a set of policies and procedures they are recommending for implementation.
Hours of operation for the Mandeville wharf would be 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday and Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Any events would be limited to no more than two days a month. What exactly an “event” is, however, was a point of debate among those in attendance, and something District C Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer, in whose district the park exists, said needs to be defined.
“Would a puppet show for fourth-graders at lunchtime be an event?” Palmer asked somewhat rhetorically.
While the definition of an event remains to be determined, the proposed policies note that any event should be appropriate to the size of the wharf area to avoid spillover into the surrounding neighborhood.
Safety and security concerns included in the proposed policies for the Mandeville Street wharf would see a limit put on the number of people who can attend certain events at certain areas in the park. Cameras would be installed there as well.
On-site security and additional police coverage are also aspects the task force would like to see put in place for events at the wharf site.
Any speakers used during events at the wharf would be required to match existing decibel levels for either French Quarter residential areas or entertainment areas, depending on where the sound would “protrude into the public space” under the task force policies.
Additionally, the task force would like to see a prohibition on aiming lights outside of the park toward the surrounding neighborhoods.
The task force also said that more details about maintenance and operation costs are needed. There could be revenue from French Market Corp.-run parking lots on Elysian Fields Avenue if the FMC operates the park, but Duplessis could not say what it would cost to operate the park since those numbers are still “fluid.”
“I don’t think we have an answer for that,” she said, adding that there is a “potential laundry list of revenue sources.”
Palmer said it would be “unreasonable” to think that there would not be paid parking once the park comes online.
“We have to do this in a smart, sustainable way,” Palmer said. “That’s just the reality we face.”
There are four parts to the park: the Mandeville Street shed, a promenade, the Piety Street wharf and the downriver section.
In a prepared statement, Deputy Mayor Cedric Grant said the Mandeville Street shed, Piety Street wharf and downriver park improvements are 85 percent complete, with landscaping and seasonal plants to be put in this spring.
Remaining work on the project is related to the construction of the Mandeville crossing bridge that has been redesigned to simplify it and better accommodate underground utilities. It will be built later this year, Grant said.
As for when neighbors can begin to use the park, Lucas Diaz, director of the city’s Office of Neighborhood Engagement, said the park should be open “sometime in the next 12 months.”
“The city is working to open the park to the public as soon as possible,” Grant said.