Survey: More than 1/3 of lights in French Quarter damaged, not working
“We’ve known for a long time that we’ve had streetlights out in the French Quarter. What we didn’t have is the actual data of how many streetlights are out,” said Karley Frankic, Executive Director of the French Quarter Management District.
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Tourists flock to it, residents call it home and businesses operate daily, but increasingly French Quarter residents say they’re having to live their lives in darkness.
According to a recent survey by the French Quarter Management District (FQMD), one-third of all the streetlights in the Quarter are damaged, with one-fifth of all streetlights not working at all.
“We’ve known for a long time that we’ve had streetlights out in the French Quarter. What we didn’t have is the actual data of how many streetlights are out,” said Karley Frankic, Executive Director of the French Quarter Management District. “We have thousands of residents here in the French Quarter, and everybody wants to be able to walk to and from their house safely. But we also have a lot of hospitality workers who come and go at all hours of the day, and they need to be able to get to work and get home safely.”
Frankic said FQMD has shared the results of the survey, conducted on a volunteer basis between February and September, with the city.
The results showed 185 (21 percent) of the more than 800 streetlights counted were not functioning, and 307 (34 percent) of the streetlights counted were damaged.
“When we say that a light is damaged, it might be that the sensor is broken, the light bulb was broken, the glass was broken, the pole was damaged or that the cover was missing off of the base,” Frankic added.
Adding to the problem, a city contract with AT&T and Verizon to install 5G poles throughout the French Quarter has replaced more than 100 streetlight poles, leaving only small, temporary lights to brighten the city blocks where streetlights once stood.
“The contractors for Verizon and AT&T were supposed to be taking out a streetlight, putting in a 5G pole and immediately installing lighting on it,” Frankic said. “We understand that with supply chain issues, changes to the design, those streetlights didn’t go in as planned, but temporary lighting was supposed to go in each one until those issues with the light fixture were worked out.”
Some residents, like Leo Watermeier, said those temporary lights are seriously lacking.
“We’re calling at least for AT&T and Verizon to put strong temporary lights where these lanterns are going to go so that we’re not going to spend more months and months in the dark down here,” Watermeier said.
Watermeier said, after his friend got robbed on Royal Street last Sunday, he took it on himself to go out and start walking the streets, counting non-functioning lights.
“First night I found 25 just around where I live, and the next night over 50,” he said. “That was over 75 streetlights that weren’t working.”
“The French Quarter drives a lot of the economic activity in the city, and if the French Quarter loses its appeal, it will have a really negative effect on the whole city, the whole metro area.”
A city spokesperson said a $4.3 million streetlight repair contract was inked late August, with the contractor, All Star, deploying five crews on average citywide to repair outages, with priority areas being crime hotspots and areas near schools.
“Since beginning work in late August, All Star has completed more than 1,000 repairs, retrieved more than 40 knocked down poles, reset more than 120 leaning poles and have about 80 major repairs in progress,” the spokesperson said. “Our goal is to get back to 98 percent of our streetlights operational as we were in December 2020.”
The city is currently reviewing the results of FQMD’s survey.
“It is being addressed now,” Frankic said. “I think this is a wonderful example of how we can work in partnership with the city.”
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