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Mayor Cantrell vows crackdown at former naval complex in Bywater

Published: Jun. 21, 2022 at 6:44 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -Mayor Cantrell says help is on the way in terms of cracking down on crime around one of the worst eyesores in the city.

The former naval support activity in Bywater has become a haven for vagrants, and the city says it’s about to crack down.

They’ve already checked out the French Quarter and several restaurants but this Virginia family decided to go off the beaten path to see for themselves something they previously saw on YouTube.

“Very strange, very bizarre scene to see something like this where I come from,” said tourist Mark Marderosia.

The former naval complex, which at one time provided housing and jobs for thousands of workers, has become a curiosity for some, a nuisance for others.

“It troubles me for a couple of reasons. There’s a crime issue in the neighborhood and there’s a humanitarian thing. You can’t be safe or healthy and there,” said neighbor Doug Marshall.

Gunfire erupted just last week once again. There have also been a number of fires, including one last April.

Artist Rob McInvale is among dozens of squatters who call the sprawling million-square-foot facility home. Inside, he paints artwork worth thousands of dollars.

“I kind of like how it is because I’m not trying to kick myself out this summer,” said McInvale.

But that may happen anyway.

“We are going to make sure we hold the developer feet to the fire and I’m expecting some change there,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell.

Cantrell says securing the facility is the responsibility of developer Joe Jaeger, who tells Fox 8 in a statement, " We have had part-time security working revolving daily shifts on the site for the last three years. And we are currently working with the city and NOPD on a plan for enhanced security.’

But the gate remains wide open.

The mayor says a big part of this project could be the availability of federal funding, something which she says the developers may be working on.

Jaeger says he hopes to get HUD funding next year.

“The first phase plan for development of the site is 295 affordable workforce housing units in the building adjacent to Poland Avenue,” Jaeger said. “This will be a catalyst for mixed-use redevelopment of the entire site.”

Something which disgruntled neighbors await.

“I think it’s a place where people have dropped out and they don’t have anywhere to go. The crime is an unfortunate symptom of the demographics,” said Marshall.

In spite of saying that the developer is responsible, Mayor Cantrell says the city has conducted a number of sweeps at the site to remove transients and she says they are planning another one this week.

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