City, property owners pledge investigation into teen’s death at blighted Market Street power plant

Published: Aug. 2, 2022 at 5:36 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The City of New Orleans is promising to take appropriate action after Friday’s fatal fall of an 18-year-old man at the blighted Market Street power station, which was supposed to be a securely closed site. It is one of many abandoned sites around the city gaining attention on social media, and drawing safety concerns.

A movie production crew on Tuesday (Aug. 2) had taken over the Market Street power station, four days after 18-year-old Anthony Clawson, a 2022 honors graduate of Benjamin Franklin High School, fell to his death while exploring the facility with friends.

Market Street power plant’s owners put out a statement saying that, since taking ownership in February, they have worked to secure and maintain the property with the intention of discouraging people from illegally accessing the building.

“The ground floor is sealed with metal panels designed to prevent illegal access,” the statement said. “There is security fencing along the perimeter and ‘No Trespassing’ signs.”

It remains unclear how the group that was there Friday night was able to gain access.

While the owners and city investigate, illegal access does not seem to be difficult at other blighted sites, including the old Lindy Boggs hospital in Mid-City, where there are big gaps in fencing and a recently cut hole.

“I try to leave them alone,” said Mid-City resident Benjamin Broitman, who lives nearby. “Sometimes, you see people shouting and they’re trying to connect with their buddies. Sometimes, it’s good just to give them space. They do graffiti and sometimes they do drugs.”

Many trespassers are drawn to vacant properties like the old Six Flags site in New Orleans East and the former Naval Support Activity base in Bywater, according to reports and videos posted to social media. The former naval facility had another fire over the weekend and a report of shots fired Monday night, after the NOPD and city said it swept and secured the base three weeks ago.

“They say, ‘Idle hands are the devil’s workshop,’” Broitman said. “These are areas where bad things can happen. And people are coming into town and targeting them, because they know they could come in and they won’t be stopped.”

Asked to provide someone from code enforcement for an interview, the city responded only with a written statement. A former city attorney said that, for the most part, securing abandoned sites are up to the property’s owner or developer.

A representative for the Market Street site’s owners said, “We will cooperate fully with all involved and determine what occurred, and we offer our condolences to the families involved.”

But residents want more, before others are injured or worse.

“Mostly, my concerns were it just looks not great. I’m sure we can come up with something for to be used in a good way,” said Marina Harper, another Mid-City resident living near the Boggs Hospital.

The city said a variety of departments, including Code Enforcement and Safety and Permits, continue to investigate the power plant death and “will take any and all appropriate action upon conclusion of these investigations.” The city also says it continues to work to get these abandoned properties back into commerce.

Market Street power plant owners took control of that property in February. As they investigate Friday’s security breach, they say they are working on an overall master development plan to tie in with the proposed River District Neighborhood retail project near the convention center.

Ben Franklin High put out a statement saying its community was shocked and saddened by Clawson’s death. The school said Clawson graduated magna cum laude two months ago, and was planning to attend LSU this fall. The school is making counselors available for students and faculty to help cope with the loss.

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