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Landrieu looks to 2018 in State of City address

13th May 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Christopher Tidmore
Contributing Writer

Mayor Mitch Landrieu delivered his state of the city address in the newly refurbished Tremé Community Center, the neighborhood center on N. Villere destroyed by the flood waters of Hurricane Katrina. He called its reopening, along the revamped Armstrong Park beside it, as a symbol of New Orleans’ rebirth in his Tuesday, May 7, 2013 speech.

As the mayor noted to the people assembled at the Tremé Community Center, “When we came together three years ago, I talked about Mr. Jerome Smith.

Jerome is a civil rights leader whose ways and words influenced luminaries like Robert Kennedy, Harry Belafonte, Lorrain Hansberry and thousands more.”

“For years, he has offered our kids a safe haven at the Tambourine and Fan NORD Summer Camp in the Tremé Center. Here they can laugh and learn and are safe from the unforgiving streets of New Orleans in the Treme Center. In my mind, Mr. Smith is at the center of the battle for the soul of our city. And three years ago, I asked, ‘How do we send him into battle?’ The answer was, ‘With nothing.’”

“Before we took office, his request for basic supplies for his camp and his kids was botched by bureaucracy. There were no board games, no crayons, no hula hoops. The building did not have air conditioning. But, Mr. Smith didn’t walk away or close his doors or turn kids away. When the heat index was over 100 degrees, he brought in fans and kept the doors open.”

“There was a raggedy old bus that took our kids to a raggedy old pool, not worthy of their great promise. But for many of these kids, that old bus provided the only ride they ever took someplace new, and that old pool was their only escape from the hot summer streets.”

“Mr. Smith’s camp gave our kids so much, it gave them hope, but it broke my heart because I knew we could do better. Today, I’m proud and thrilled to say that the Tremé Community Center is open, and we’re sitting in it. But I want y’all to notice something. Pick up your feet and look down.”

“Mr. Smith fought like a lion to replace the standard gym floors with championship grade basketball floor. A lot of folks asked, ‘Why do young kids need a gym floor fit for a championship team?’”

“Jerome Smith knew the answer- because all of our kids are champions. And by the way this is more than a gym floor; it is a foundation, a strong foundation for our children’s future.”

“This Tremé Community Center is proof that we’re not building New Orleans back as she was, we’re building her as she should have always been. This Tremé Center is a symbol of what is possible when we work together to create the city we always dreamed of. This will be possible because of you the people of New Orleans.”

Mayor Landrieu put forward his vision of New Orleans as it approaches its tricentennial year. “What do we see as 2018 dawns? In 2018, I see a world-class city with a world-class airport. For 50 years, many said we needed a new airport, but no one did much about it. Now is the time, we can’t kick this can down the road anymore. The new facility will be paid for with the airport’s own funds that can only be used at the airport.”

“This project will have a big impact on the local economy-13,500 new jobs during construction and once complete it will be a critical economic driver for the city. Just like it was in Atlanta. We’re moving forward. This project is on go.”

“In 2018, I see Federal City on the West Bank, growing exponentially and serving as one of the premier federal assets in the country. And a great economic engine for our region. In 2018, I see an expansion of our streetcar network. In 2018, I see a realized City Park Master Plan with new museum facilities, festival areas, outdoor concert venues, and bike paths. They are well on their way and doing a great job.”

“In 2018, I see at the base of Canal Street on the river, the World Trade Center site remade into a world class civic space. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. As we speak, the City is reviewing the plans as part of a public, competitive selection process, so stay tuned. In 2018, I see a new UMC Hospital creating thousands of jobs and a new knowledge-based economy.”

“But the future of New Orleans, the heart of New Orleans, resides beyond a new airport, Federal City, new streetcars, City Park, a newly designed riverfront, a new UMC Hospital, or other infrastructure improvements.”

“I believe that the true measure for success in 2018 will be the condition of our neighborhoods and how our families are doing. After all, everything we do is merely meant to achieve the ultimate goal of a better life for our friends and neighbors, a better life for all, and a strong foundation for our children. In 2018 I hope to see a remarkable change for the better coming from all of our neighborhoods.”

“So, I want to step back and think about what winning looks like for all of New Orleans by focusing in on three place-based developments that are under way across the city as we speak. Iberville-Tremé is the site for the over $30 million Choice Neighborhood Initiative. With this money and another $1.2 billion of leveraged public and private funding everything in Iberville-Tremé is coming together, all at once.”

“So imagine in 2018 Iberville-Tremé with new, affordable, energy efficient housing in the new Lafitte and Iberville Developments; N. Claiborne and St. Bernard Streetscapes, the Circle Food Store, Craig Elementary, the Tremé Center, Armstrong Park, Galvez and N. Miro Bikeways, the Lafitte Greenway, the UMC Hospital, and the upcoming N. Rampart Streetcar Line. That is a beautiful picture and it is within our grasp. This change is not just for the people living in Iberville-Tremé, the whole city will benefit and our success will serve as an example for the entire nation of what is possible.”

“In 2018, imagine, New Orleans East will have had a new hospital which by then will be four years old; Joe W. Brown Park — a regional center for fun, games and community events with the Audubon Louisiana Nature Center right next door along with the now open 7th District Police Station and East New Orleans Regional Library, plus streetscapes at Read and Lake Forest Boulevards. Plus, the kids at Little Woods, St. Stephens, and Abramson will be getting an excellent education at their brand new schools.

“In 2018 think of Pontchartrain Park—new roads and streetscapes, SUNO is thriving; Joe Bartho­lomew Golf Course is busy from dawn until dusk, the next generation learning the rules of the game or playing tennis at the brand new courts right next door. At Wesley Barrow Stadium with our partners at Major League Baseball there are great games every night, Pont­chartrain Park and Harris Play­ground are always full of people relaxing, reading, and playing.

“The Wal-Mart is just down the street at Gentilly Woods and surrounding the park a lot of the empty homes have been fixed up. The Soft Seconds and NSP2 programs have had a big impact and once people started to move back to the neighborhood more followed. This is happening now! Success breeds more success, winning breeds more winning. This vision of thriving, sustainable neighborhoods across the whole city is already being realized thanks to the hard work of everyday New Orleanians.

“We will leave a remarkable legacy, and in 2018 our 300th anniversary promises to be a milestone in our history. We will have successfully captured this brief moment in time that was given to us to stop this city’s decline, turn her around, move her in the right direction and build a strong foundation for generations to come.

“In 2018, I envision a safe and prosperous city. I see a new generation of young people, educated in some of the nation’s finest schools, taking the reins of leadership to drive us forward.

“I see our young men especially with new opportunities and a bright new pathway to prosperity in front of them. I see New Orleans embracing healthy living and through our Fit NOLA program becoming one of the ten fittest cities in the United States.

“I see today’s crop of cutting edge New Orleans companies like Turbosquid, iSeatz, and Pierce Industries as major players changing the landscape of American business.

“I see tourism growing to 13 million visitors per year, a thriving riverfront, and the music and cultural economy thriving. This past weekend at Jazz Fest, the Neville’s passed the torch to a new generation, handing over the final act on the Acura Stage to Trombone Short who is now coming into his own and taking us into the future. The great Quint Davis said it best by describing heritage as not just being in the rearview mirror. He said, in New Orleans you can see heritage here through the windshield. It goes on, forward as well as back. How right he is.

“And finally in 2018 I see, the beating heart of New Orleans, our neighborhoods, happy and healthy, with children playing in safe streets.”

This article originally published in the May 13, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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