New Orleans Culture Preservation Committee rally in New Orleans against city hall's relocation to Armstrong Park. Photo credit: Avery Leigh White

New Orleans mayor shifts gears after residents reject city’s idea to move City Hall to Louis Armstrong park

New Orleanians’ growing disagreement with City Hall plans were heard by the city’s leadership.

New Orleans’ Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s recent announcement to move New Orleans City Hall to the abandoned Municipal Auditorium near Congo Square in Louis Armstrong Park has been met with resistance.

Moving for the third time since the first city hall was situated in Lafayette Square in the 1700s, the issue at large is where to move the municipal operations rather than whether it needs to be moved. Mayor Cantrell’s push for the move to Armstrong Park was her efforts to take advantage of a $38 million FEMA grant to renovate the historic city-owned venue that is set to expire soon.

Residents against the move to Armstrong Park said the traffic would be an issue in an area already congested by tourism. Others expressed the idea of not wanting government operations next to the city’s treasured Congo Square, a historical African American site. In a city where many Blacks lost their homes during the 2005 Katrina hurricane flooding, those who are left, fight vigorously to remain in rapid gentrification developments. Their work also ensures that the history of African Americans stays too.

“Congo Square and the surrounding communities have represented ground zero in the African/Indigenous battles for freedom, humanity, dignity, rights, and equity,” said Ashé Cultural Arts Center director, Asali DeVan Ecclesiastes who is spearheading the center’s “Soul-cial Justice Summer.”

In a Tweet, Mayor Cantrell assured that Congo Square would not be impacted

Congo Square will NOT be touched. We understand that Congo Square is a sacred space. The city will continue to work with the Cultural Community to elevate and highlight the significance of Congo Square. We’ll keep this as a place for our musicians, visual artists and cultural workers to display their talents. Treme will be protected in ways that we have yet to see or experience

Yet and still, New Orleans city goers did not falter in their disdain for the plans. Last week, Tremé residents demonstrated in Duncan Plaza.

After petitioning and protests, Mayor Cantrell released in a statement “We are open to other options for the relocation of City Hall and for the renovation of the Municipal Auditorium. This is what I mean by this being a process.”

New Orleans, and Louisiana in general, situate a foundation in complicated French colonial law. In particular, the New Orleans government, over the centuries. At one point, New Orleans housed three separate municipalities to allay the growing tensions between newly arrived European immigrants, Haitians escaping the Haitian Revolution and the French-speaking Black Creoles. Since, there never really has been a space for a centralized headquarters to accommodate New Orleans in all of its growth spurts; hence the need for a move. But, it will not be Armstrong Park under Mayor Cantrell’s watch.

With Mayor Cantrell in a re-election campaign for an October election, upsetting her African American voting base would be detrimental. Sabrina Mays, one of the organizers of the Treme protest, agreed to the mayor’s decision to consider other venues. “A true leader will admit when they’ve made a mistake, and change course and correct it. So I’m hoping this is a sign that her leadership is back on the right path,” said Mays to local news.

The city still has the FEMA funds, but now must consider other locations.

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