Last week, a little noticed item appeared on the March 13, 2012 City Planning Commission agenda. Despite program and staff cutbacks at LSU, as well as severe budget cuts handed down to LSU by the Governor, it would appear that the new UMC Academic Medical Center's thirst for land has not been quenched.
After already demolishing an entire historic neighborhood to build a skeleton of a hospital, the State now want to the City to give up Pershing Place: A park also known colloquially as Nanny Goat Park, Billy Goat Park and Dough Boy Park, that sits at the edge of the hospital's North Western boundary. The State's reasons for the acquisition are to create an access point to the new hospital and erect a sign.
The original hospital design never included this triangular park at Tulane Ave and S. Galvez that is home to a Statue commemorating WWI soldiers. Those who were involved in the exhaustive *section 106* process at the very beginning of design discussions state that sign locations were agreed upon - as well as design features for the new hospital - and the bounding streets were determined.
At no time were the parties involved in that process ever made aware of any intention by LSU to acquire Pershing Place. Indeed, at the monthly UMC Board meeting March 1, the first meeting not canceled in four months, the board were given an update by the State of Louisiana Division of Administration Facility Planning and Control. The diagram on page 4 of the power point presentation depicting the design for the new hospital does not reflect the design given to City Planning Commissioners on March 13th, 2012 regarding acquisition of the park. The design presented to CPC commissioners include buildings - (for future patient towers) - never before seen by anyone that has been closely following the "Taj-Ma-Hospital' project.
Regarding the Monument, it appears that either the City or the State agreed to give the Statue to the VA hospital who, at a community meeting last month indicated that they would gladly take it. Who made the decision to give away public property to a private hospital before engaging the public in that decision? The VA hospital will be a secured site and would prevent the general public access to the Statue. At the City Planning Commission hearing March 13th, the State wisely decided to back off of that decision given vehement opposition from the MidCity Neighborhood Organization and the general public.
If things weren't strange enough, Commissioners voted 4 to 3 in favor of the State. However, a 4 to 3 vote meant "no legal majority" - preventing the item from moving forward to City Council for approval of sale.
In one of the most bizarre episodes administrators of this website have ever witnessed, after somehow realizing - (or being told) - that a "no legal majority" would be a defeat for the state, commissioners interrupted the meeting to go back to the item for a reconsideration of the vote.
Commissioner Volz pointed out that a reconsideration is not allowed. That began a series of complex machinations that would finally end with Commissioner Brown taking over the gavel from commission Chairman Craig Mitchell in order to re-vote on the item. The second vote favored sale of the park to the state with a 5 to 2 vote. Commission Chairman Mitchell changed his vote from no to yes saying that he did not want to stand in the way of progress.
CPC March 13 meeting and vote on Nanny Goat Park.
State presentation and comments at :1:05:00
Vote at: 1:57:28 and parlimentary wrangling and re-vote at: 2:10:33
The item now moves to City Council for approval. The public should be outraged that they are obviously being shut out of any decision regarding our city property!
*The Federal government mandates that when there are changes to our landscape that effect Historic Properties, there must be meetings with preservation groups to preserve the historic integrity of those properties.