Latoya Cantrell has issued the following statement in response to a protest outside the Municipal Auditorium. Cantrell's administration is planning to convert the auditorium—which Tremé residents describe as sacred ground—into a new City Hall.
Over the past several weeks we have increased the engagement process about what should be done with Armstrong Park, City Hall, and the Municipal Auditorium in a holistic, productive way. As part of that process, last night we heard from many of the neighbors and other residents who demand and deserve to have their voices heard. This ongoing dialogue is healthy as we continue our progress on such a vital issue. We know that we must obligate the money for the Municipal Auditorium, and that has to be done before the end of this year to stay on schedule. Obligating the money and getting FEMA to pay for the project management and architectural engineering work is part one. We must move that process forward.
That first step does not necessarily mean City Hall will relocate to the Auditorium.
I am committed to continue engaging the community around what should happen with the Auditorium and the surrounding area. That engagement will be done honestly and in the open. My guiding objectives are as follows:
- Secure FEMA funding for whatever will happen at the Auditorium;
- Develop a plan for getting our City employees out of a non-functional City Hall on Perdido Street;
- Engaging the cultural community and the residents of Treme to see if there is a path forward for a City Hall move and enhancement of Congo Square and the surrounding area;
- I am open to feasible alternative proposals, but I will not allow the Auditorium to be demolished by neglect. (Feasible funded proposals are welcome.)
I want to be clear about one thing: I have remained resolutely committed to all of our communities, just as I have during the COVID-19 pandemic. I have always promoted our beloved city as the most Afro-centric city in the United States, and the role that our culture bearers and our Black communities have played in our growth. I have not and will not abandon them, now or ever.
We as a community must come together and have honest dialogue about these issues. I’m ready for respectful discussions and I hope everyone will help us as leaders to move in that direction.
Finally, we are open to other options for the relocation of City Hall and for the renovation of Municipal Auditorium. This is what I mean by this being a process. But they have to be viable options – just saying ‘No’ or opposing what has been proposed simply isn’t good enough. A shoddy, unhealthy City Hall building has been a problematic issue for far too long, and so has the blighted property that is the Municipal Auditorium. We must be proactive, but we also must be collaborative. That is why I am open to creating a commission to publicly review all of the options – starting at the beginning of the year and which would make a recommendation to the administration. As we consider this and other options, I plan to meet with organizational leadership to further this dialogue.”