NEW ORLEANS - All that remains of the former Higgins Gate Apartment Complex is Algiers is a huge pile of debris. The remains of the 16-building complex fill the site, despite a two-year effort to get it cleaned up.
"I'm just incredibly frustrated," said City Council District C member Kristin Palmer. "We're talking about 7.4 acres of blight in one location, of buildings being torn down and sitting there. As you know, it's adjacent to a church, people walk there. I've seen people get picked up from school there. We had a gentleman who was shot on his way to work, in the back, getting off the bus in front of this site."
There's a big fear of fires and vermin at the church next door, but nobody expected the burglary.
"We've had people use that as an egress point to actually rob one of our buildings here at church," Pastor Richard Christian of Berean Bible Church said in January.
Last November, it looked like the problem was solved, when Mayor Landrieu found the funding needed for the clean-up project, and the work began.
But it stopped a couple of weeks later when contractor Charlie Hampton objected to the state Department of Environmental Quality's demand that all the debris be taken to a more expensive landfill, in case there was asbestos contamination. In January, Hampton told me that was a needless expense.
"I started the work, and DEQ came out and said all this had to be classified as Rackum... asbestos," Hampton said at the time.
I contacted the mayor's office and was told the city attorney sent a letter to Hampton giving a week to get the project going again. A spokeswoman said the mayor remains committed to getting the site cleaned up, and the work started again as quickly as possible. Those who live in the area can't wait.
"It needs to be cleaned up - two years ago," concluded Palmer.