NEW ORLEANS -- The neutral grounds in the 700 and 800 blocks of Napoleon Avenue are noticeably different. The trees and shrubs that were once fixtures are gone.
For many residents in the neighborhood, the tree removal came as a shock.
"This morning we woke up to the sound of chainsaws and the tree clipper," said Ann de Montluzin Farmer.
The cacophony of cutting is part of a $38 million drainage improvement project that will construct roughly 3,000 feet of a concrete covered box culvert under the neutral ground along Napoleon Avenue from Carondelet Street to Constance Street.
Some residents say they had no notice the project would extend to their block.
"We're angry that we weren't notified, because then we could have made arrangements, maybe move the trees," said Ann de Montluzin Farmer.
Lori Wingate is the project manager of the Southeast Louisiana (SELA) Project in Orleans Parish. She admits notification to residents may have not have been as effective as it could have been due to changes to the project's plan.
Those changes recently were made and included an extension of the work zone to include intersections near and Napoleon and Constance.
"We do need this area to test the soils, and in order to do that we need a pretty significant size area, which would take up the whole neutral ground," Wingate said. "So unfortunately, we couldn't save the trees."
The removal of the trees may be the least of the worries. Starting in January, the project will progress to a different phase of construction that will require more space, which means street parking in the affected areas of Napoleon will be discontinued.
"It will be a little cramped. We make sure at least one of traffic in each direction on Napoleon Avenue will be moving," said Wingate.
This particular section of the Napoleon Avenue SELA project is expected to finish in 2016.