Squatters generating power in Municipal Auditorium, city offers security plan

Squatters generating power in Municipal Auditorium, city offers security plan

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Squatters are living inside New Orleans' Municipal Auditorium with generators to create makeshift apartments.

"It enables us to charge our phones and also works the refrigerators to keep our food cold and a microwave to cook our food," squatter Tyler Koppie said.

Dozens are living inside the building where drugs are openly used, according to Koppie.

Friday, Jessica Brown went inside to pick up her brother who was living there. She said she was surprised by what she saw inside.

"Very disgusting. There's feces and urine everywhere. It smells like urine. There's mold and bacteria. But they've made a home out of it. There's some rooms where they've hooked up some type of electricity," she said.

The iconic building was partially damaged during Hurricane Katrina. Shortly after the storm, the building was used to store pallets of MRE's and bottled water.

French Quarter resident Leo Watermeirer said as soon as crews board up the building, squatters rip down barriers and help themselves to the thousands of expired MRE's and bottled water still inside the building a decade later.

"Squatters are coming and going day and night at will," Watermeirer said. "The whole thing is shocking, and the city has made token efforts to try and secure the building."

Crews will sweep out squatters living inside of the New Orleans Municipal Auditorium and replace wood panels currently being used to secure the building with steel panels starting next week, according to Mayor Mitch Landrieu's office.

Also starting next week, a 24-hour security detail will be stationed at the auditorium to prevent anyone from illegally trespassing onto the property.

The city is struggling with FEMA over how much repairing the auditorium will cost.

FEMA agreed to give the city $42 million to refurbish the auditorium, but the mayor believes it will take $80 million.

Last month, FEMA denied the city's request for funding, and on Tuesday, the city filed an official request for arbitration to resolve the dispute.

Watermeirer feels more than a decade after Katrina repairs to the iconic building are long overdue.

"Neglect has done the most damage," he said. "That's what we are deathly afraid of is that it's going to catch on fire. That's what happens to buildings where squatters are living."

Much of the arbitration could come down to the exact cause of damage at the auditorium. Hurricane Katrina flooded the basement of the building and partially damaged the roof.

Since that time, squatters have damaged windows, doors, chairs, walls and left syringes and trash scattered throughout the building.

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