Defenders: Councilman works to toughen law on New Orleans’ blighted pools
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A Gentilly resident said he has begged the City of New Orleans for 17 years to help with a dangerous, blighted pool in his neighborhood. Now, a city councilman is stepping in to try to get some answers and, possibly, change city code.
In the back of a lot on Mandeville Street in Gentilly sits a pool that at least one New Orleans leader deems an imminent danger.
“It either needs to be filled in or covered, and that’s not happening,” city councilman Joe Giarrusso said.
“Particularly since the fence came down in Hurricane Ida, it’s pretty easy to get into that yard now,” said neighbor Kia Groom.
Neighbor James Miles says he’s fought for nearly two decades to have this cleaned up. Last week, Giarrusso showed up to the property to see the problem for himself.
“Code enforcement should not only cite them, but they have the ability, any city office, to come and fill the pool right now. Why not do that?” Giarrusso wondered.
The same property has been the subject of previous Fox 8 Defenders reports, dating back years.
In 2018, when we first reported on the issue, property owner Columbus Price had the pool fenced and secured. But the pool was filled with green, stagnant water. Miles says it created a hotbed of activity for wildlife and insects.
“We’ve been complaining about the mosquitoes. Mosquitoes, raccoons, possums -- all these animals have access to our property because of this,” Miles said.
Two weeks after a 2018 code enforcement hearing, in which Price was found guilty of a pool violation, he did drain the pool. But Miles and other neighbors said it’s not kept drained on a consistent basis. And, since Hurricane Ida, the pool is easily accessible.
“I don’t want some kid to come back here,” Miles said. “I don’t. I’d feel responsible if something were to happen to someone, even though I’m trying, yelling for help. And it’s not going nowhere.”
City records show code enforcement has inspected the property time and again. The city even levied fines against Price.
We spoke to him by phone. He asked us not to do a story on his property, suggesting there might be a lawsuit. Price said he has workers putting up a brick wall that will shield the pool. He also tells us it is being drained daily.
In a statement, the city said it is aware of the condition of the pool and will continue to take appropriate enforcement action against the property until the owner complies with the municipal code.
Giarrusso said he wants to strengthen the law that targets blighted pools. That law was passed by the City Council in 2018, after our Fox 8 Defenders reports highlighted how many dangerous pools existed in the city. Giarrusso said the current ordinance only goes so far.
“That’s one of the things we’re looking at, because right now the law only covers unfiltered and unfenced pools,” Giarrusso said. “But, obviously, it doesn’t take into account you’ve done the bare minimum. You’ve got a fence that’s erected, you have a pool that has nothing in it, but maybe you need to cover that pool or fill it until you can take care of everything that needs to happen.”
Giarrusso plans to propose a change to the ordinance next month. For the people who live around this property, the help can’t come soon enough.
“I hope it stops at 17 (years of complaints),” Miles said. “Lucky No. 17. I’m gonna have to play that Powerball.”
Giarrusso said, “It’s one thing if something has gone through the system a few times. But when something has been like this and you’ve been reporting on it for so long, and James has to live like this and the other neighbors, this has to be a priority.”
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