Iberville residents 'in the dark' about upcoming implosion

New Orleans, La. - Michael Smith is a resident of the Iberville Housing Development.  He lives near the corner of Iberville and North Robertson, just about a block and a half away from the old Pallas Hotel.  The implosion of the hotel is set for Sunday, and Smith says he hasn't gotten a single notice.

Morris Smith also lives in the area.  He says what little he knows, he saw on the news.

Meanwhile, people living just a few blocks down the street received a packet of information last week.  They live inside the implosion mandatory evacuation zone established by Louisiana State Police.

The way the evacuation zone is drawn is also raising some questions.  Tracie Washington is with the Louisiana Justice Institute, a non-profit civil rights advocacy organization.  She says it appears the Iberville was intentionally excluded.

"It looked as though old school gerrymandering... we're going to cut out communities here in this instance," said Washington.  "That will cost more to move and evacuate."

Officials with the state say state police set up the evacuation zone using a 600-foot radius around the implosion site.  They say the Iberville Housing Development stands 725 feet from the hotel and that's why it was excluded.   According to the state, residential areas beyond 600 feet that were included are part of the zone because a portion of those blocks landed within the 600-foot radius.

Washington says that still doesn't explain why Iberville residents, who are inside the 800-foot radius for dust cloud warnings, haven't gotten a single official notice.

"They don't have this information," said Washington.  "I'm just scared.  I'm scared for what's going to happen to them."

Officials with the Housing Authority of New Orleans tell FOX 8 they will hand-deliver notices and precautionary tips from the state on Wednesday.

Officials with Bright Moments, the firm handling public relations for the state, said they were not allowed to distribute information to Iberville residents.

In an email, company president Bill Rouselle writes, "We were told that HANO does not allow anyone other than the Housing Authority to distribute material in the development."

As for dust worries, Rouselle says the state will be monitoring air quality throughout the process.  Residents within 800 feet of the implosion are encouraged to stay inside and shut off air conditioning units 15 minutes before and after the implosion.

The implosion of the former Pallas Hotel, also known as the Grand Palace, is set for 8:00 Sunday morning.