Rosemary James 
Member since May 21, 2016


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Re: “NORD is considering what should be done with Cabrini Park in the French Quarter. What do you think?

Before the park was a dog park, I lived on St. Philip St. and avoided the Cabrini space like the plague as it was inhabited largely by drug dealers who liked to play basketball there while waiting for their customers to drop by. The City had not done a thing to keep the park up in many years; it was weed and rat infested and a total disgrace. A group of responsible dog owners got together and approached the City, got permission to clean it up and use it as a canine playground. That worked for many years. The dog owners kept the park up and cleaned up after their pets. And it became a great gathering place for Quarter residents.

I joined the dog park group because my mother was living at Maison Hospitaliere and I visited with her every morning and late afternoon. At the time, my husband and I first had a standard poodle named Lulu, and after she died, a standard poodle named Zuli, who especially adored going there. There was a huge trough like tub and dogs like to jump in it and cool off after running and jumping. Zuli liked to dive for balls in it. The dog owners kept the tub clean and disinfected and emptied after each use, so it would not become a mosquito haven. Owners who did not control aggressive dogs were asked to leave and not come back. Owners who did not pick pay attention to their dogs, ensuring they played nice and picking up their poop, were first politely reprimanded and if they continued they were asked to leave and not come back. We even had a birthday party for Zuli there and invited all the dogs and dog parents. We served birthday cake made especially for dogs by that fun dog bakery on Royal Street which sadly no longer exists. We had treats from the same place for canine guests, cookies and milk for children and we served mimosas and savory pastries to the human guests. And we had monthly clean-up Saturdays to clip plants, pick up any trash, and any poop not taken care of by unthinking owners. Those wonderful days are among my fondest memories of the French Quarter.

And the dog park was a safety factor for the community. In the days before the dog park committee formed and cleaned up the space, customers of the basketball-playing drug dealers preyed on pedestrians in the neighborhood. My husband was mugged getting out of his car after parking, he was banged on the head, and the car was stolen and similar incidents occurred with friends of ours. After we bought Faulkner House on Pirate's Alley and my mother passed away, we began walking Zuli on the riverfront. There was never a time, however, when Zuli did not try to pull me in the direction of Cabrini instead of the riverfront.

A dog park without a place for dogs to run is no dog park at all. It's a proven fact, too, that dogs are far more aggressive with other dogs when on a leash as the leash is an attachment to their owner and the strong protective instincts of dogs come into play then. This a fact.

We spend a lot of time in my hometown, Charleston. Admittedly, Charleston may be the most dog friendly town in America, a place where dogs are welcomed by shop owners, even owners of the fanciest clothing and shoe shops, and where many outdoor cafes, even some indoor cafes, allow dogs to sit with their owners. Charlestonians, both public officials and private individuals, have solved the need for their dogs to run and play in a sensible manner. In the fanciest part of town on East Battery looking out to the Atlantic, there is a divided park, with two completely separate sections, one for small dogs and one for larger athletic dogs needing a lot more running space. There is a third completely separate section where people play ball, etc., where dogs are not allowed. The park is well lighted. And the City provides poop bag dispensers and cans for deposits. The City Sanitation Department empties the cans on their garbage runs. Residents in the neighborhood bring their coffee with them and gather there with other dog owners in the morning and their cocktails with them early evening.

Dogs are allowed to run free in White Point Gardens, again in the fanciest part of
town, again overlooking the Atlantic. Residents there are careful to police their dogs
and it's a beautiful place to begin and end the day. And the City provides poop bags
and disposal cans. It's a place where tourists come to look at the ocean and beautiful
antebellum residences overlooking the park. There are benches all around the perimeter
of the park and within the park and there is a beautiful old bandstand folly where wedding parties come to be photographed daily. There is a delightful coexistence.

In the historic district of Ansonborough, where we had a second home for 11 years, there is a huge green space called Anson Field, where soccer is played, where there is a playground area with equipment for children. Dog owners are asked not to allow their dogs off leash during soccer games as it was discovered that the dogs wanted to take part in the games. Other times dogs are free to run there. And one of the most historic churches in Charleston, St. Johannes Lutheran Church, has a poop bag station and collection point in its small parking lot and dogs are free to enter. Similar parks exist on the West side of the City at either end of the Peninsula and uptown in two places, one near and one at Hampton Park. Everywhere there are signs reminding people to pick up after their dogs and people pay attention. It works. People in Charleston love dogs but people who do not take care of cleaning up are ostracized.

People have suggested a dog park at Armstrong Park, which practically no one uses, and that is an excellent suggestion. The City would have to do it's part to make this a reality, of course, and I will be shocked if the City does anything to make life safer and more pleasant for its long time residents. Everything today is for the developer or to encourage larger and larger crowds of drunks to visit New Orleans. There is plenty of space for dogs to run free at Woldenburg Park on the Riverfront, too. Doubtless, however, the City will not do its part to make that space a multi-use park. They'd rather have it destroyed annually by hordes of tourists for French Quarter Fest, which is a nightmare for taxpaying property owners in the Quarter. The City's answer to everything is to get more and more tourists for every event to the point the events
themselves are being destroyed.

The whole Cabrini campaign is a total farce. It is purely to satisfy the demands of one very rich young man, who has recently developed what used to be Maison Hospitaliere into a group of over-priced and tastelessly finished condos.

There is absolutely no reason why Cabrini cannot again be a happy gathering place for residents with dogs and residents with children. It requires responsible action on the part of all, including the City, which should not be in the pocket of developers.

As for Jon Kemp. Jon is not a man. She is a very attractive woman, who writes a column for the Times-Picayune. Her husband is John Read, an attorney who has long been active in the Civil Rights arena. They took a delapidated but very historic Creole cottage and preserved it at great cost. Like the park, the cottage was owned by the City, which had allowed it to become a case of demolition by neglect. They are to be applauded for preserving this important piece of our architectural heritage.

However, I agree, the park is not their private playground, nor is it a private playground for Jamie Coleman's children, regardless of his political contributions. The park should be a multi-use space for French Quarter residents, not just one or two special interest neighbors.

Rosemary James, French Quarter Property Owner

52 likes, 3 dislikes
Posted by Rosemary James on 05/21/2016 at 10:01 AM

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