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Tania Dall / Eyewitness News
Email: tdall@wwltv.com | Twitter: @taniadall

NEWORLEANS - Controversy is swirling around a push by the Landrieu administration to restrict how and when the public can use Jackson Square's pedestrian mall.

A newly proposed ordinance is sparking mixed reaction in the community.

'Jackson Square is used 24 hours a day and it gets abused and it gets trashed and it needs to be cleaned,' said business owner and photographer Louis Sahuc as large crowds filled the historic destination on Friday.

Sahuc has lived on the Square for 25 years and supports restricting the hours people can set up shop on the pedestrian mall.

'Nobody needs to be here when they come through with the water pressure washing in the morning. Everything needs to be open so they can do their job,' said Sahuc.

At the Mayor's urging, Councilmember Kristen Gisleson Palmer recently introduced an ordinance that would ban anyone from stopping, standing or loitering in Jackson Square between the hours of 1 and 5 a.m. It would also prohibit street entertainers from blocking fire lanes in the square.

The proposed ordinance says that violators who ignore police warnings to keep moving could face a $500 dollar fine or up to 6 months in jail.

'I don't know why they keep bothering to do this. If there's not a problem, as far as I'm concerned there's not, why bother,' said Michael who operates Tarot by Michael. He says passing such a law would also hurt his bottom line.

'Whenever they close down a spot those people working those spots and those hours come to my hours. There's already way to many for the small amount of customers that we get in the slow months,' said Michael.

Marjorie Esman with ACLU of Louisiana says the proposed law is unconstitutional and part of a push by the City to make the French Quarter what she calls a 'Constitution Free Zone.'

'Shutting off public streets to public activity, the law just doesn't permit that,' said Esman who also voiced concerns about enforcement.

'There is concern for selective enforcement - how is a police officer going to decide who is loitering and who is not?,' asked Esman.

As the city looks to restrict public access to one of New Orleans' most popular destinations, one supporter maintains its for the public good.

'Its not about anybody really. Its about keeping the city clean and that's the end of the story,' said Sahuc.

City Councilmember Kristin Palmer was not available for an on-camera interview but did tell Eyewitness News that the ordinance is not about closing down the Square to the public. Palmer stresses it is to help clear out the space to allow for regular cleaning like sweeping and power-washing.

Palmer says a language clarification needs to be made to the proposed ordinance and she also welcomes public input.

The proposed law is on the City Council's Governmental Affairs Committee Agenda which meets December 3rd.

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