Neighbor wants increased security, clean up at Armstrong Park

Armstrong park has been a New Orleans attraction for decades, but neighbors say vagrants are turning it into a nuisance.

NEW ORLEANS- Leo Watermeier enjoys walking through Armstrong Park. The birds, the atmosphere and the scenery make it a picturesque sight, but it's after nightfall when Leo gets concerned.

"We saw in the news paper that there was a robbery in the park around midnight Tuesday. There really shouldn't have even been anybody in the park," Watermeier said.

Leo says the park is supposed to close its gates in the evening, "but the basin street gate is open 24 hours/7 days a week. So the park itself is really never shut down."

Watermeier also said he's noticed drug activity, trash in the ponds, garbage near several of the park's blighted buildings and vagrants camping out.

"There's been a growing number of homeless people in the park, but especially since the municipal auditorium was secured, that number has grown," he said.

While many people we spoke with feel Watermeier has a valid point, they are not surprised. Visitors from Chicago to New Jersey say city parks in their hometowns have the same issue, but it's not a major problem.

Molly Ryerson is visiting New Orleans from the Windy City and feels the park is no different from what she sees back home.

"It's not in a negative way. I feel safe and not at all concerned about what's going on and I've been here for a good 35 to 45 minutes and just enjoying it," Ryerson said.

The city also responded to our inquiry about Armstrong Park. A spokesperson says they've taken extensive steps to secure the municipal auditorium and other public health and security concerns. The city also says they are happy to investigate any concerns residents may have with Armstrong Park.

"The park is a good park. And it's safe," Watermeiter said. "It's around the edges we're particularly having the problem. Where the abandoned buildings are. And that's where effort needs to be made to bring better security to clean up the park."

Back in March, the city took major steps to secure the vacant municipal auditorium inside of the park.

The The Municipal Auditorium was heavily damaged during Hurricane Katrina. Initially, FEMA granted $7 million toward its restoration. That number has been increased to $41.7 million, but the city says that's not enough to fully repair the building.

The City estimates the amount needed will be more than $80 million.

© 2017 WWL-TV


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