Be safe, park only in designated areas and act courteously for a successful Carnival, New Orleans officials urged residents and visitors Tuesday.
Oh, and no matter how tempting it might be, don’t chase errant throws into the construction ditch dominating the neutral ground of Napoleon Avenue.
With the major Uptown parades just days away, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and enough officials from city, state and federal departments to form their own krewe gave an update on preparations, regulations and suggestions for the festivities leading up to Fat Tuesday on Feb. 17.
“Nobody does major crowd control better than we do, and it’s primarily because the people of the city of New Orleans know about the business of having fun,” Landrieu said.
But with roadwork dotting the city and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s massive flood control project on several major Uptown streets in full swing, “this year particularly is going to be a challenge” that will take “an extra amount of effort and patience and courtesy” to succeed, he said.
Parades will continue on their usual routes, but much of the neutral ground on Napoleon will be closed to spectators because of the excavation needed to install culverts as part of the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project.
“This year you may not get to stand where you stood last year, and that’s a traumatic event for a lot of people,” Landrieu said.
The construction areas will be fenced and off-limits to spectators, though some areas of the neutral ground will remain open.
“I must stress that it is important for you and your family’s safety that you not cross this fencing even if beads go into the ditch behind it,” said Austin Appleton with the Corps.
Parking is expected to be a major concern. In addition to prohibitions on parking on the St. Charles Avenue and Tchoupitoulas Street parade routes, there will be no parking in either direction on Napoleon. Those restrictions will be in effect from two hours before a parade until two hours afterward.
The city also will be placing about 2,000 temporary no-parking signs out, and parking will remain prohibited on neutral grounds, near fire hydrants and within 20 feet of an intersection or 3 feet of a driveway.
Parking restrictions will be enforced vigorously, to ensure emergency responders and the public are not prevented from using the streets, Deputy Mayor Cedric Grant said. Last year the city issued almost 19,000 tickets, towed almost 850 cars and booted roughly 950 more during Carnival, Grant said.
The city also will be enforcing new restrictions put into effect over the past two years, including prohibitions on roping off sections of neutral ground and requirements that grills, tents and ladders be at least 6 feet back from the curb. Parade participants also have their own new requirements.
Law enforcement and other emergency services will be out in full force. The New Orleans Police Department will have all its officers on the streets, bolstered by deputies from the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office, between 150 and 200 State Police troopers and officers from St. John the Baptist Parish, the University of New Orleans, Tulane University and the state Department of Corrections.
The state troopers will stay through mid-May and potentially longer to help the city handle a busy season, State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson said. That’s in part to aid Landrieu’s efforts to “regrow the New Orleans Police Department to 1,600 officers,” he said.
“I want to make sure that happens. I want to be part of that process,” he said.
Officials estimate the economic impact of Carnival will be about $500 million. Hotels are expecting to be at 98 percent capacity from this weekend through Mardi Gras day.
City officials are looking to turn some of that economic impact into a way to fully fund and staff up the NOPD, Landrieu said.
“We have to make sure the money being generated by these events is being invested back into the things that make these events possible,” he said.
Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.