FOX 8 DEFENDERS: N.O.'s famous avenue lacks basic city service

On a sunny spring day, locals and tourists take in St. Charles Avenue, lined with its beautiful oak trees and historic homes.

"I love our city. I love our avenue. I love the opportunity to see the streetcar pass during the day," said longtime avenue homeowner Jean Davidson.

But when the sun goes down, there's a dramatic change. "It's a scary feeling actually," explained Davidson. In some stretches she said they're in complete darkness. "We feel almost as though we need a flashlight to get to our car when we park right out here," she said.

Street lights - or a lack of working ones - are the biggest concern for the St. Charles Avenue Association. Board member Laura Claverie said they've taken an inventory of lights on St. Charles from Jackson Avenue to Carrollton. "We found that some of the areas had 80 percent of the lights missing or not working. Other areas, 73 percent," said Claverie.

On one stretch, the streetcar headlight provides the most light until vehicles approach with their headlights on. It's tough to see people crossing the street on foot, and Claverie said that you don't see bikers until you're almost on top of them.

Past the point of frustration, the St. Charles Avenue Association turned to the FOX 8 Defenders for help and ramped up its campaign with "Real Lights, Real Fast" bumper stickers. They say yard signs are next.

Near Davidson's home, only one street light shines. Across the street, an entire street light pole is missing. "They have been all rewired. The rewiring is complete," said Davidson. When asked how she knew that, she answered, "Well, we watched it going on and we talked to the supervisor."

Residents say they've reported their concerns to the city's 311 line. "I made probably over 30 calls myself, to no avail," said Davidson.

"What we're hearing from City Hall is there is a plan and they are working on it, but what we don't know is, what does the plan involve? Will it include St. Charles Avenue?" asked Claverie.

"We're happy to pay our share, but when you pay almost $20,000 a year in property tax, and we can't even get lightbulbs. It's just very sad," said Davidson.

The city says the short answer is, there's no money left in the budget for street lights in general for the rest of this year. However, the city's press secretary Tyler Gamble said:

"We are chomping at the bit to fix the lights on St. Charles and others across the city. We have crews on stand-by ready to go. We simply need the funding to get to work. We are encouraged that in partnership with the City Council and Entergy, the Council has approved $14 million in Energy Smart funding to be allocated to the city to convert existing street lights to energy efficient, LED lights. We are hopeful that these dollars will be appropriated at the next council meeting. Once funding is authorized, street light conversions will immediately begin."

If you have a consumer complaint, call the FOX 8 Defenders staffed with Volunteers from the National Council of Jewish Women.

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