Thursday, February 15, 2007

Street Massacre

Street Massacre

by Sean Fitzmorris

Who is responsible for renaming many well know and often culturally significant streets? Of recent note is the change of several blocks of Whitney Avenue to "L.B. Landry Avenue."

Upon researching the individual for whom these blocks were renamed, I found out that Lord Beaconfield Landry (who was not a lord but a physician) spent his time aiding the sick kids of Algiers (Algiers on the Westbank, not in Africa). Certainly this is a noble thing, his being a philanthropic black pediatrician. But my concern is why is he so prominent that several block of Whitney avenue must be renamed for him? Whitney has retained the name since 1894, when it was changed from Canal Avenue. Why, all of a sudden in 2003, was it so imperative to name a half mile of this road after Dr. Landry?

It certainly wasn't because it's a particularly noble stretch of pavement. The part in question goes through the middle of the Fisher projects, one of the worst areas in New Orleans. Is an area rife with dilapidated buildings, rampant crime and drugs, and countless truancy cases the type of neighborhood that the venerable Landry would have wanted as his namesake? Surely not. But perhaps the poignant irony of renaming Whitney to Jo Ellen Smith Avenue, who was a nurse that went and assisted the sick in the Fisher projects only to be raped and murdered there, would be too much.

I also hear rumors that it is being considered to rename Tchoupitoulas after Avery C. Alexander (whom I personally met and found to be a complete asshole). Please, please tell me why. Not only is Tchoupitoulas unique to our historic city, but what on God's green earth would be the point? If you must name a street after Alexander, can't it be a newly built thoroughfare that needs a name, or one for which renaming would be an improvement, like Colapissa Street? Isn't it enough that Alexander already has Charity Hospital named after him?

I cannot help but notice, though, that whenever roads are renamed after civil rights leaders, the streets nearly always become awful places. Dryades Street, once a thriving shopping district, now consists of row after row of derelict and abandoned businesses after being renamed Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard (formerly Melpomene Street) is the site of a mile or so of filthy housing developments and nightly drug deals. I'm sure it's just a coincidence, but these "coincidences" certainly do seem to follow a predictable formula. I can only imagine what such a coincidence would do to the business along Tchoupitoulas, where the bulk of our shipping and port industry is located!

Of additional interest was the sign in the photograph denoting the intersection of "Madi Gras Blvd." and L.B. Landry Avenue. (Incidentally, Mardi Gras Boulevard, with an ''r,'' used to be named Bringier.) This is not the first time that local street signs have been misspelled. Another instance that leaps to mind is the sign on the interstate pointing out the "Bonnable" exit in Metairie. I would like to apply for the position of "Official Sign Proofreader" since the position is clearly vacant. It seems high time for a moratorium on street name changes until we can correctly spell the streets we already have.

L.B. would be so proud.


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