N.O. planning new disaster management center on decommissioned Navy base



Posted on February 3, 2011 at 7:25 PM

Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News

NEW ORLEANS -- The Navy base on Poland Avenue in New Orleans is one step closer to having a new mission.

The 30-acre site next to the Mississippi River in the Bywater neighborhood has served the military since the Army Quartermaster Corps settled there in 1919.

In recent times, it's been the East Bank home of the Naval Support Activity Center.

The military is now closing the facility as part of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. The federal government just signed off on a plan to turn the base into a special center to handle future disasters.

"It's a great facility," said Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Lt. Col. Jerry Sneed. "I'm glad we were able to get it. Now we have to put some thought to it. Maybe an emergency operation center. Maybe a disaster management center. There are all kind of possibilities."

Sneed knows the facility well. He served there as a Marine Corps commander.

There is warehouse and office space available on the base. Sneed said it's big enough to shelter emergency responders during a hurricane and for other regional possibilities.

"We'd love to see FEMA come there," said Sneed. "Where is there a better place to manage the hurricanes for the season than right there with us."

The Port of New Orleans plans to use the adjacent property for a new cruise ship terminal. The port has an agreement with the city to use a portion of the base for parking.

"The parking lot on it now is 1100 cars," said port President and CEO Gary LaGrange. "The agreement with the city didn't specify that parking garage, but it specifies that it would provide up to 1000 cars for the port's cruise ship facility."

The city also plans to set aside 2.5 acres of the site to develop permanent housing for the homeless.

"It's going to provide some permanent apartments for disabled people," said Unity of Greater New Orleans Executive Director Martha Kegel. "It's going to provide some apartments for the working poor and it's going to provide 10 units for people who are leaving the hospital and have no place to go and have medical needs."

She said there will also be facilities set up for homeless young people.

The Navy is expected to conduct a complete environmental assessment of the property. The military plans to close complex in September.