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At the Meeting

So I went to that meeting last Monday night, the scoping meeting where the Veteran’s Administration sought public input on the possibility of locating their regional medical center at the old Lindy Boggs site. I won’t rehash the background details, since I already wrote about that last week. Instead I just wanted to record a few notes about what went on at the meeting before it’s completely faded from my mind.

Before the public comment, a number of officials spoke, but the person who made the biggest impression on me was Ed Blakely, the Recovery Czar. I was really taken aback by his comments. He basically said if the Lindy Boggs site was chosen, the VA would get no help from the City of New Orleans. His office will provide assistance for one site only: the “preferred site” in lower Mid-City. In other words, the City will help take land through eminent domain and raze acres of historic neighborhood — but won’t provide any assistance if the VA decides to build on the site of an old hospital. I found that strange, to say the least. Why would the City be so adamant about this? Should the Recovery Czar be bending over backward to help the VA Medical Center get built at the best possible site in Orleans Parish, regardless of any preconceived notions about where that site might be?

When the public comment section began, I saw essentially two camps: suits and citizens. All the suits spoke about the value of “synergy,” justifying the need to build in lower Mid-City next to the planned LSU Medical Center. All the citizens said, build it at Lindy Boggs. It was really quite dramatic.

I also heard a couple veterans speak. (Imagine that.) They just want the damn thing built as quickly as possible so they can get some decent medical care. Building at Lindy Boggs would seem to be the quickest route, since they’d be dealing with a single property owner, no need to mess with eminent domain, etc.

I really didn’t want to go to that meeting in the first place, but I attended out of a sense of civic duty. I kind of suspected the fix was already in, and this was all a charade. Much of what I saw there bore that out. Yet since then, I’ve heard that the VA really is considering all the possibilities. So I will be following this issue with great interest.

Published inNeighborsNew Orleans


  1. It sounds like the typical public meeting – we are already going forward with our plan, but we are supposed to listen to public comments before making a decision. I call that “Ready, Fire, Aim.” It seems as though the good idea is being ignored because someone else has already had an idea. I don’t understand people who are inflexible when someone has a better plan. I run into lots of folks like that in education.

  2. Garvey Garvey

    The fix was in? In New Orleans? Naahhh. Never.

  3. Schroeder Schroeder

    There’s gotta be a back story on the money involved — CDBG grants, tax credits — some way to boost the profit margins for the investors. And Blakely must want a piece of the action.

  4. mominem mominem

    One possibility, some connected people bought the site of the old Pan Am building and it is not in the VA site, although it adjoins it on two sides.

  5. amy amy

    Thanks Bart for your follow-up thoughts. i’m very glad you brought up Dr. Blakey’s comments which really disturbed me too for a very similar reason.

    i would like to know, by what authority does dr. blakely unilaterally decide how the city will spend federal funds? has city council /mayor specifically designated him the sole arbitor of these matters? by what act? when? i’m going to write Shelley and i’ll let you know what she responds.

  6. Carmen Carmen

    I guess Dr. Blakely’s city is lacking imagination.

    I understand the arguments that to pitch the teaching hospital concept direct access is a top concern. They want to be able to walk across the street or take an elevator in the same complex (so they say). Well, I just got back from Disney, the BNOBc’s original inspiration for federal city’s backyard playground. I remember all the first year light rail discussions. Why not build a free monorail to adjoin complexes? Tomorrowland and a historical jazz park, whoohoo. Our recovery is so excellent, it’s Ray and Ed’s Bogus Journey. They should get an award.

    All sarcasm in this post is offered gratis. (Yes, I am still waiting for Godot, who is now contractor #2. But we were promised a call this week!)

  7. That “historic” neighborhood you reference is not really doing much for anybody these days.

    The last thing I want is for New Orleans to become Houston or Atlanta.

    But cheesh. The Tulane Avenue corridor has been a freaking nightmare for years, when it should be a dream.

    I honestly believe a world class hospital there would be a step in the right direction.

    I personally am glad Blakely is drawing a line in the sand.

    I was born in Mercy Hospital, but I don’t think it deserves to live. How long does it take to get from Mid City to Tulane Hospital downtown?

  8. Mr. Clio, please keep in mind that a VA Med Ctr at the Lindy Boggs/Mercy site would not be a hospital for the general public. It would be for veterans wounded in combat only. In other words, neighbors like myself would not be getting health care there. Nor should it be construed as Mercy “deserving to live.” If the VA built there they would tear that building down, I imagine, and building something new. I doubt there would be any historic continuity.

    I know, I know, you were arguing against the whole idea anyway, but I just thought those points should be clarified.

  9. Bill Bill

    The Boggs site is available. Why does every one assume that it’s a workable deal? Why couldn’t it be a case of a developer, whose big ambitions were squelched, trying to unload a drain on their balance sheet using public opinion as leverage to make a killer deal on the VA/city.
    Shouldn’t we be looking at the comparative costs on the sites?

  10. Bill: Absolutely agree. I don’t think everyone assumes the Victory offer would in fact work. The first goal of Mid-City Neighborhood Organization’s executive leadership has been to keep the VA in Orleans Parish. They’ve been very clear about that; I’m sorry if I have not been. We’d just like to know the VA is giving the Victory offer a fair hearing.

  11. amy amy

    three words: fiberoptics, greenway, shuttle.

  12. joejoejoe joejoejoe

    Veterans groups have the same attitude everywhere — just build the thing. The ‘synergy’ guys always roll the Vet groups because they know the process backwards and forwards. The Orlando VA site (Lake Nona) got put next to a business park / golf course and off of transit routes in the interests of ‘synergy’, even though the site reviews said it would cost Vets all kinds of travel time and expense.

    I don’t know the geography of the two NOLA sites but if Lindy Boggs is preferable to the Mid-City site because of transportation infrastructure then the best way to fight the Mid-City site is to make Vets groups aware of the additional costs to veterans for in time and money transit.

    The ‘synergy’ guys always make an implicit threat to the Veterans groups that if they do go along then the VA hospital won’t get built but the fact is that the Federal government budgets for VA hospital construction years in advance and it’s mostly grandstanding by local pols about getting them.

    I followed all the hearings for the Orlando VA site selection and it played out just like this — citizens wanted one site, developers wanted another. The developers won but I think if the Veterans groups had a position on the convenience it is given strong consideration by the site selection committee. In Orlando it was basically just frustrated resignation by the Veterans group — they didn’t really understand that the hospital was in no danger of NOT getting built, just that the federal process moves slowly.

  13. Frank Schiavo Frank Schiavo

    As bad as this city needs Mental Health facilities, why not convert the Lindy Boogs site into a state of the art clinic/hospital for the treatment of mental health problems/conditions? It would seem to be a good idea, might bring much needed jobs and professionals into the Parish and would provide a much needed service in the region?

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