Amid grumblings that the newly renovated St. Roch Market was designed more for upscale shoppers than long-time neighborhood residents, vandals on Friday splattered the building with pink paint, smashed more than a dozen of its windows and smeared it with anti-gentrification slogans.
“Yuppy = bad” was among the messages plastered on the old city-owned market, which had been closed since it was damaged by Hurricane Katrina’s winds and floodwaters in 2005. It reopened two weeks ago after the city spent $3.7 million to renovate it.
The Police Department was notified of the damage at about 2 a.m., a spokesman for Mayor Mitch Landrieu said. Officers were on the scene at least through the late afternoon on Friday. The department is in possession of surveillance video that may identify the perpetrators and is in the process of investigating the incident, the spokesman said.
A partner in the company that manages the market told nola.com that surveillance video recorded three men vandalizing the building, which dates back to 1875.
The city does not yet have an estimate of the cost to repair the damages, the city spokesman said.
The proprietors of the management company, Bayou Secret LLC, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Bayou Secret. whose owners include the founding members of the downtown collaborative workspace Launch Pad, has a 10-year agreement with the city to manage and operate the market.
The city said last year that Bayou Secret offered the best chance for meeting the city’s goal of finding an operator who “could both operate the property in a manner sensitive to the community’s needs and who had the expertise and financial wherewithal to make the market an economically viable venture.”
“The only message these vandals sent is that they have no respect for the property of others and no consideration for the jobs of folks who live in this community,” Landrieu said in a statement.” We will find these individuals, and we will hold them fully accountable to their actions.”
Some residents said the actions reflect the dissatisfaction and disappointment many in the community feel at the market’s finished product.
Inside the gleaming white space, about a dozen vendors sell items including raw oysters, specialty cocktails, cold-pressed juices and whipped cream-covered cupcakes. There’s a restaurant serving Nigerian food, another advertised as “Korean meets Creole.” A produce stand occupies one wall along the building’s main entrance.
Some residents said they expected, and were promised, more of a place where locals could shop for basic things like fresh seafood at affordable prices. What they received instead was more of a high-end food court that doesn’t meet the needs of people who live nearby, said Fatma Aydin, who owns the restaurant Fatoush across the street from the market.
“We were all thinking that it’s going to be a market,” Aydin said. “We all thought it was going to be a great market where we could buy some things.”
Aydin said she was invited to make suggestions to the management team about what should fill the space, but none of those ideas were reflected in the outcome.
“We thought the city was doing something good,” Aydin said. “We never thought the city would screw us like this.”
Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association President Lisa Suarez agreed.
“It’s not what was promised,” Suarez said. “It was promised to have reasonably priced groceries for residents. … And if people feel disenfranchised, I think what you get is graffiti.”
City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell condemned Friday’s vandalism but said the community needs more balanced development.
“The market is great, but when I went there it was bittersweet, because I could feel that the community could see it as: This is great but it wasn’t created for me,” she said. “People need to see themselves in the transformation of their neighborhood.”
Despite the vandalism, the market opened on time Friday. Just before 2 p.m., as workers power-washed away the paint, the market was filled with people dining both inside and on the front and back patios.