By Claire Byun
Faubourg St. john neighbors are teaming up to reduce the number of drunk and unruly people who gather at a local park after dark.
Faubourg St. John Neighborhood Association members want to kickstart a new task force with the goal to reduce crime and lawn destruction in Alcee Fortier Park. The park – located on Esplanade Avenue and N. Rendon Street – is used by families, couples and people walking their dogs, but drunk and unruly people are causing neighbors to avoid the area altogether. Sarah Stogner, president of FSJNA, said sometimes people sleep in the park, though it’s unclear if everyone who spends the night there is homeless.
The association will put together a task force next month to improve the park’s security and reduce damage done by unruly patrons. The first step is to add any safety features that could deter people from staying after dark, Stogner said, and make sure local police are aware of the situation.
“I am willing to help those who want to take the lead and empower you with resources and information,” she said.
Greg Jeanfreau, FSJNA member, said the organization initially didn’t want to put lights up at the park because officials feared it would attract people. But a lack of lights is having the opposite effect, he said.
“It just seems to me, basic crime fighting 101 is just to turn on the lights, and we don’t have anything,” Jeanfreau said.
Officials should also start leaning on the New Orleans Police Department and Fairgrounds Enhanced Patrol officers to remove any drunk or rude people, Jeanfreau said. Problematic individuals also leave “a lot of trash” and ruin greenspace with cardboard pads to cut down on mud.
After alerting police to the park’s problems, the task force will present their issues to New Orleans City Councilwoman Susan Guidry’s office, Stogner said. If there’s no action from Guidry, FSJNA plans to advise the full council.
“And if they don’t do anything we’ll follow suit,” Stogner said.
Before kicking anyone out of the park, the task force has to set some ground rules so everyone who uses the park is treated fairly, said member R. Erich Caulfield. Caulfield said the force has to focus on those who are breaking the law – or destroying property – rather than if they look homeless.
Everyone has a right to sit, nap or drink at the park on their own time, Caulfield said, and the force can’t base their actions on a certain few.
“Whatever issues that we have with it, should focus on the crime and that they’re destroying the park,” he said.