Presented Before the
New Orleans City Planning Commission
Opposing the Short Street Condo Project
Sheldon Hersh, MD
Uptown Triangle Neighborhood Association
January 27, 2004
Thank you Chairman Truehill and members of the Commission.
My name is Dr. Sheldon Hersh and I have lived on Short Street for 24
years. My home is only 36 feet away from this project. I am a physician
specializing in geriatric medicine, which is treatment of the elderly.
I am President and National Coordinator of NACDEP, a non-profit organization
dedicated to improving medical care for elderly and disabled poor people
in our community. This is the first time in 27 years of medical practice
that I have had to stop fighting for the lives of my 100-year-old patients
in order to fight for the life of my 100-year-old neighborhood.
I am a member of the Board of Directors of the Uptown Triangle Neighborhood
Association and I am spokesperson for this Short Street project. We are
unalterably opposed to any zoning change, any PRC overlay, or any conditional
use permit for this block, which is in the very heart of our neighborhood.
This 14-story, Miami Beach-style condo building is totally inappropriate
for our historic one- and two-story residential neighborhood. It is too
tall, too dense, has too much traffic, and has too many unanswered questions.
This building will tower more than 100 feet above any other house and
be more than eight times as massive as any other home in our RD2 residentially-zoned
neighborhood. You have seen our neighborhood photo album. Twenty-one of
our neighbors' homes are only 21 feet to 162 feet away from the building
site. This behemoth is not in scale, has no buffering, and has no relationship
to the surrounding neighborhood.
Such a building will not be safe in our neighborhood. Our 100-year-old
streets are too narrow for emergency and fire vehicles to get into, and
the acute angle turns from Leake Avenue onto Short and Huso are difficult
and dangerous. Even the garbage trucks are sometimes forced to back out
of our streets. A hook-and-ladder truck would be hard-pressed to reach
a fire, god forbid, on the 12th floor of the Huso side of this building.
The additional parking for visitors and service vehicles will strain
our resources. Adding more vehicles to Leake Avenue will worsen the traffic
problems outlined in the "Audubon Park Master Plan," and the
"Magazine Street Traffic Operations Analysis," which I will
give to your staff.
Our century-old sewer pipes can barely carry our waste at the present
time. Adding another 134 toilets to our street would severely stress our
infrastructure. Getting water up to the 14th story would strain our water
system. With thunderstorms and hurricanes causing blackouts and local
flooding, the strain of adding a 14-story building to our electrical grid
and drainage system would be felt many blocks away.
This monstrosity would block out the air and the cool breeze coming off
the levee. The loss of light and the ensuing gloom will kill our gardens
and our spirits. The loss of our traditional backyard privacy with 67
new families peering down on our now smaller lives would be distressing.
Because of the enormity of the project and the lengthy construction process
we are concerned over the decreased quality of our lives, along with the
danger to the health, safety, and welfare of our community during the
two years it would take to build it.
Today, I am providing your staff with a copy of our railroad engineer
consultant's report. Stationing hundreds of people on Leake Avenue, 50
feet away from an active railroad line, which carries toxic materials
and military supplies, represents an unacceptable risk to the lives of
the residents who live in these high-rise buildings as well as to the
financial stability of our railway system. These risks include chemical
spills, explosions, fire, environmental contamination, and derailments.
The developer has talked about blight, safety, and the need for revitalization
in our area. Our neighborhood is stable, has rising property values, and
is one of the hottest real estate markets. The last house to sell on Short
Street was involved in a bidding war.
Ten years ago our Blighted Properties List was long. Today, I will give
your staff the addresses of 34 properties, which have been removed from
the Blighted Properties List, along with pictures of 18 previously blighted
homes, which are now renovated, back on the tax rolls and occupied by
neighbors. All of this development was made possible because people knew
their properties would be secure under the current RD2 zoning laws.
Our neighborhood is safe. I will provide your staff with our Uptown Triangle
Police Patrol statistics, which demonstrates that of all the crime reported
in the Uptown Triangle in 2003, only 5% was from our local neighborhood.
Building this 14-story brute will undo all of our progress. The ripple
effect would be felt widely. Property values next to this building will
plummet, and the area's tax base and millage will fall. You will turn
owner-occupied properties into rental property. I am a small businessman.
If you kick me off Short Street and I take my family to the North Shore,
then my office staff, who have worked for me for 20 years in the mid-city
area will be become unemployed and become a burden on our city.
This abomination is directly contrary to the City's Master Plan and the
Land Use Plan. If you allow "spot zoning" for this project,
then no neighborhood will ever again feel safe. Our trust will have been
betrayed and no one will want to work on the Master Plan in the future.
We are sorry that our neighborhood did not have time to fully prepare
for this meeting. We only received notice of this obnoxious project by
accident, on New Year's Eve. We want to thank Lesley Alley and Ed Horan
of the City Planning Commission staff for the help they have given our
neighborhood in this time of need.
Even though we had inadequate notice from the developer, I wish to call
your attention to the materials we have submitted for your review. In
your packet of information there are 88 pages of petitions.
The number of signatures opposing this project - 779. The number of signatures
in favor of this project - zero.
The number of letters, faxes, and emails addressed to the City Planning
Commission, the City Council, and the Mayor's office in opposition to
this project - 85. The number of letters, faxes, and emails in favor of
this project - zero.
The number of letters from Presidents of surrounding neighborhood associations
who oppose this project - 4. The number of presidential letters and neighborhood
associations in favor of this project - zero.
In addition to those 779 signatures I am today submitting another 423
for your review. That is 1,202 signatures opposing this project in only
These petitions and letters are historic votes of no confidence for this
development and must be given serious consideration. Now I ask our urban
planning and zoning expert, Steve Villavaso, to speak to you. (At this
time Steve Villavaso discusses the legal arguments against this project,
and then the speech continues.)
Franklin Adams, noted architect, has designed just one example of what
an appropriate RD2 development on this block could look like. Here the
height, mass, and architecture complement the surrounding neighborhood.
We want neighbors who will greet us at street level. We do not want a
vertical gated community cut off from the neighborhood.
According to the Constitution of the United States all power begins with
"We the people
" We are the shareholders of this neighborhood
and we are the shareholders of the City of New Orleans. There can be no
compromise with such an outrageous proposal. My home on Short Street is
already promised to my children and no one will take it away from me or
my family. You cannot change my neighborhood's zoning solely to benefit
We ask that you listen to your conscience and your community's voice.
The developer is talking only about money, but our neighborhood is talking
about people. You must vote to deny this outrageous abomination. There
is certainly a place for high-rise development in New Orleans, but Short
Street is not the right place. This project will be a tombstone on our
neighborhood. With our remaining time please listen to the voices of our
neighbors who live only steps away from this project. (The neighbors begin