The buried bankruptcy lede in Da Paper is the motivations of plaintiff/creditor attorneys. Featured photo is of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, courtesy Infrogmation.
Corner stone of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 3200 Canal Street. Infrogmation photo.
Buried Bankruptcy Lede
Da Paper did a page one (print) story on the real estate sales the Archdiocese of New Orleans submitted to bankruptcy court. The article (online but paywalled) lists seven properties the Archdiocese wants to sell and have been approved by the court. The article’s headline, describing these properties as “vast” is hyperbolic nonsense. While movement on the bankruptcy is indeed news, these sales aren’t the important part of the story. The buried bankruptcy lede is the issue of new plaintiffs and increasing attorney profits.
What’s for sale
St. Jude Community Center, 400 N. Rampart Street.
The big-ticket items here are the St Jude Community Center and Sacred Heart Church on Canal Street. the Community Center, located at 400 N. Rampart Street, is the “parish building” for Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. It currently functions as a social services hub and food pantry for the neighborhood. Operations there are affiliated with Second Harvest, the regional food bank owned by Catholic Charities.
The other big item here is Sacred Heart Catholic Church on Canal Street. The parish was founded in 1879. The first church stood at 3200 Canal until 1924. The parish built the current church next to the original. When it was completed, they demolished the original church. The parish built the current school building in its place.
The Archdiocese sold the school building years ago. The school, Sacred Heart High (not to be confused with Sacred Heart Academy on St. Charles Avenue) re-organized as Seton Academy in the 1980s. That school merged with Redeemer High School in Gentilly. The merged school, Redeemer-Seton High School, continued in Gentilly until Katrina. The archdiocese sold the school building. It is now the “3222 Canal Apartments.”
Impact of these sales
While these properties will boost the coffers of the Archdiocese, there are bills to be paid. The bankruptcy is in its third year now. The archdiocese retains outside counsel and an outside accounting firm to oversee the myriad of legal activities and financial reports required for reorganization. A significant amount of the proceeds from these real estate sales will go to paying the lawyers and accountants.
The attorneys for clergy sex abuse victims know this. It’s problematic for them, because they’re working on contingency. Chapter 11 proceedings rolled up all the lawsuits against the archdiocese into the overall action. So, the victims are just creditors now. They hold the same status as the water service and coffee service companies that had outstanding invoices at the time of the filing.
Expanding the victim base
That’s the buried bankruptcy lede. Riegel mentions it in passing in the article. The plaintiff attorneys, seeking new clients and new fee potential, want the court to allow new lawsuits against the archdiocese. want the court to allow new lawsuits, based on a 2021 law passed by the state legislature. That law permits claims from years, even decades ago. The law is a part of a current trend to bring sexual assaulters to justice. A related New York State law enabled E. Jean Carroll to take action against Donald Trump.
The crux of the current argument is, should the federal court recognize new claims based on the state law. Bankruptcy cases usually “ban” new lawsuits during the reorganization phase.The theory is, creditors want to see the entity re-organize, so they can recoup some of what they’re owed.
That’s not the case here. There are two groups at odds with the archdiocese who don’t want it to re-organize. The victims share the assets as of the bankruptcy. It’s not clear how much cash the court requires for this. Since the lawyers work on contingency, their share of these settlements won’t be what they desire.
More plaintiffs expand the payout pool. The lawyers receive the same percentages, but on a higher total amount.
Plaintiff lawyers nurture outrage reporting. They’re loving the coverage of Fr. Lawrence Hecker, the 90-something-year-old priest who admits to raping kids. The lawyers leverage the publicity to draw out victims who haven’t spoken up prior to now. So, more victims means more plaintiffs means higher fees. This case has no doubt been a serious financial drain on the lawyers. This became evident when a plaintiff lawyer leaked sealed documents relating to the archdiocese’s finances to the press, which earned him a half-million-dollar fine.
Or maybe not. The other group of people involved here are folks who want to burn the Catholic Church to the ground. I mean, their anger and pain is certainly understandable. The problem here is that bankruptcy law doesn’t know how to handle this grief. In most cases, creditors either want a re-organization, or they want the assets transferred to an entity that will turn things around.
Burning it down
There’s no transferring the church to another entity. It’s not like the Episcopalians or Methodists can just absorb Catholic parishes. The “burn it down” faction wants to put the archdiocese totally out of business. They desire perpetual proceedings here. The more money the archdiocese spends on lawyers and accountants, the more they have to close churches and schools to raise funds. This faction wants to see it all razed.
At some point, however, the burn-it-down group hits the lawyers head-on. While the archdiocese does have assets to sell, the lawyers need settlements. Look for more leaks from these folks as their sense of urgency grows.
Bringing it to an end
The judge wants this case closed. Being party to the destruction of the Catholic church in a city as Catholic as New Orleans is bad politics. It’s also bad business. If the bankruptcy judge allows further asset liquidation, it won’t be open-ended.
Audubon Place is a “private” street in Uptown New Orleans, but it’s so much more to the city.
Audubon Place gate at St. Charles Avenue, 1900s (Detroit Publishing photo)
Audubon Place and its residents
The area of New Orleans now referred to as the University District stands in between Faubourg Bouligny and the old City of Carrollton. The city reserved a large amount of land for a public park. The Cotton Centennial Exposition of 1884 drew attention to this part of town. Additonally, Tulane University moved uptown in 1884. New Orleanians looked past Napoleon Avenue. With Tulane’s property lines now defined, developers built streets and sold lots just off campus.
In the 1890s, George Blackwelder created a single-street development on the western side of Tulane. He allocated 28 large lots along Audubon Place. The development required builders construct large single-family homes with high values. With city approval, the neighborhood association took Audubon Place private in the early 1900s.
The notion of a gated street with one way in, one way out appealed to wealthy New Orleanians. The late Tom Benson, owner of the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans (both Pelicans, BTW, the NBA team, and his abortive attempt to buy a minor-league baseball club), lived on Audubon Place. His widow still owns the house. John Georges, owner of Imperial Trading, the Times-Picayune, and Galatoire’s Restaurant, also lives on Audubon Place.
Zemurray home at 2 Audubon Place. (Infrogmation photo)
The most notable home on the street is 2 Audubon Place. Samuel Zemurray, founder and first president of United Fruit Company, built a magnificent home on the left side of the main gate, facing St. Charles Avenue. Zemurray later donated the mansion to Tulane. The university uses the home as the official residence of their president.
More than 28 lots
Mrs. Gayle Benson’s home on Audubon Place was built in 1902 for a coffee merchant.
So, Audubon Place isn’t the only street where rich people live. After the Cotton Exposition at Audubon Park, other wealthy residents bought into the neighborhood just to the east of the park. Streets such as Henry Clay, Webster, State, and Nashville sport large houses owned by wealthy families. This continues up to Faubourg Bouligny and into the Garden District. Drive through these neighborhoods during Carnival season, and you’ll see the flags of the School of Design and the Mystick Krewe of Comus from a number of these homes. Those flags indicated that a member of the family was/is a past king of either parade.
These rich New Orleanians are the city’s business elite. They also donate large sums to the campaign funds of Orleans Parish politicians. While they don’t all live in Audubon Place, that 1900s gate and those 28 lots represent the class and their way of thinking.
Support restaurants by ordering takeout or delivery
Revel Cafe and Bar, N. Carrollton and Canal
“Flattening the curve” is a legitimate thing. Stay away from people. Don’t gather in groups. Switch to remote. It all makes sense, and hopefully will keep a lot of people from dying. Of course, the businesses that rely on crowds, such as restaurants and bars, take a big hit when they can’t open. Revenue dries up, workers don’t work, and we all hope a couple of weeks is all that’s necessary.
There’s not much we can do about bars and clubs. We go to them to socialize, and, well, that’s what we’re distancing right now. Musicians are going to live-casting on various platforms. That’s a start. For many of us, it’s not just the crafty cocktail we crave, but time with our friends. Hopefully this all will improve.
Dining out is an important social event for New Orleanians. We go out to eat for the experience of going out to eat, not because we’re on the way to a show or something else. this makes it all a struggle.
While it’s difficult to support bars right now, we can support restaurants. Many places changed their model to delivery and/or takeout. Order your meal, run in, get it, and get out again. Less than ten people, not breathing on anyone, and you’re in your car most of the time. Socialize from a distance, maybe Skype or Facetime your meal with a friend.
Is Takeout a problem?
Revel does takeout
Yesterday, I shared the above post from Chef CDB at Revel Cafe and Bar to several groups on the Book of Zucker. The post is not all that different from the ones I shared from other restaurants. In one of the larger NOLA-focused groups, a woman commented, coming for the concept of takeout dining. While her comments were at a high level, she directed her venom at a single restaurant.
Well, that didn’t sit well with me. Chris is a good man, a talented chef, and an old soul. He and his place don’t deserve that sort of attack. I reported the comment to the group’s admin team, and it was quickly removed.
Stop this shit
If you see others coming for restaurants, please consider nipping it in the bud. Our friends, family, and neighbors work in the service industry. We want them to have jobs to return to when this passes.
YatPundit’s Pub 21-May-2019
YatPundit’s Pub 21-May-2019
Ranting about Short Term Rentals and the French Market this week.
Programming note: Yesterday’s Red Beans and Rice Monday moves to YatCuisine next week! We’re tweaking the present pod lineup. I created a “YatCuisine” group on Facebook. The pod fits better that way.
Short Term Rentals
With respect to the “strict” short-term rental ordinance passed yesterday by the New Orleans City Council:
1. This was not a final-passage. The ordinance will come back before the Council in a couple of months.
2. in the interim, the forces supporting unlicensed hotels in the city will open their wallets and dilute the ordinance.
3. It’s likely that, by the time of final passage, the ordinance will no longer contain the “domicile” requirement, where you can only short-term-rent the house you claim a homestead exemption on (i.e., you can only AirBnB the house you live in).
How the City Council screws New Orleans
4. By the time the ordinance comes back for final passage, the Councilmembers figure you think they did the right thing back in May. The unlicensed hotels continue on as if the vote yesterday never happened.
5. Advocates for limiting short-term rentals to the renter’s domicile, banning unlicensed hotels must remain vigilant. Demand any changes and amendments proposed to yesterday’s ordinance in advance. Watch the Council’s calendar. Don’t be sandbagged on the day of final passage.
6. Do not trust the Councilmembers who you believe are on “your side” – they know how this works, voted how you wanted them to yesterday, with confidence you won’t be looking when they vote the other way in a couple of months.
7. Follow the money.
Think I’m overreacting? This is why you fail at fixing things in New Orleans. Enjoy your protests, podcasts, and blogs.
New Orleans French Market
Mayor Cantrell considered some research on Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Her staff looked into re-purposing public facilities in other cities. Da Paper published a good article on the status of the city’s research. Unfortunately, the headline was click-baity.
Podcast (yatpunditpub): Play in new window | Download
Mid-City New Orleans – housing is a challenge
Rendering of NORF’s 3100 Banks development (NORF via NOLA.com)
Mid-City Condos New Orleans real estate
Are $200K Mid-City condos “affordable” for young professionals? Ilse Falk Stough, project manager for New Orleans Redevelopment Fund, think so. I agree. The company (a private equity real estate firm) plans a 21-unit building at 3100 Banks Street, in Mid-City. That’s the part of Banks between Jefferson Davis Parkway and S. Broad Street.
The developer thinks they can market this development to, as reported by NOLA dot com. Banks Street below S. Carrollton Avenue offers more opportunities such as this lot. Above S. Carrollton, the neighborhood is more gentrified. Property owners fix up multi-family dwellings, converting them into unlicensed hotels.
From movie theater to condos
Escorial Theater, 3100 Banks Street, 1910s
The 3100 Banks Street location offered the neighborhood the Escorial Theater, from the 1910s to the 1950s. The building operated as mixed retail/commercial space until the 1990s. It burned down at that time. The property has been an empty lot since.
$200K per unit?
I’m not an expert on real estate, but my instinct says this price range is reasonable. The developer targets the right demographic. If the old calculations still hold up, the theory was, don’t take on a house note that’s more than one-third of your take-home pay. A 15-year mortgage (with a 20% down payment) on one of these condos means a monthly note around $1350. That puts the income needed to fit the one-third plan at between $55K-$60K.
Is this realistic? A quick google of “NOFD Starting Salary” comes back with $45,955. Let’s assume a brand-new firefighter needs a few years to get to the point of home ownership. A young professional in the private sector earns a higher salary than a firefighter, so yes, this is in line.
Another aspect of this discussion is single vs. couple. Certainly a two-income couple can afford the note on a $200K condo.
Condo vs. House
This is an ages-old consideration. Condo closer in the city? Die and go to the suburbs? It’s possible to get a $200K house in the burbs. Living in the city means paying more for fewer square feet. While there are fewer neighborhoods where a “young professional” finds a fixer-upper, it’s not out of the question. Therefore, the condo/city vs. suburban/front-lawn debate continues.
Check out the latest pod from YatPundit’s Pub.
Trusted Talents by Edward J. Branley (cover art by Elizabeth Person)
Mid-City New Orleans is the main neighborhood setting for Edward J. Branley’s Urban Fantasy novel, Trusted Talents. Check it out!
Jerome Smith was a young civil rights activist and Freedom Rider in 1963. Arthur Schlesinger, in his book on RFK, recalls that CORE described Smith as a young man beaten more than any other CORE worker at the time.
Jerome Smith stood up to RFK
It was no surprise to anyone that Smith had no kind words for Bobby or his brother:
“Mr. Attorney General, you make me want to puke. I don’t care what you think, and I don’t care what your brother thinks either.”
Smith was a man of the streets, not academia, or the entertainment world. He’d been in the streets, on the buses, working to register voters and advocate the cause. In the 1963 meeting Jarvis DeBerry mentions in his article about the film, “I Am Not Your Negro”, he was arguably the wokest person in the room.
I haven’t seen the movie yet, but having seen “Hidden Lines” last weekend, it’s time I did. The movie is about Baldwin, so it’s not surprising that some things get left on the cutting room floor. Unfortunately, that’s what happened to Jerome Smith (assuming they shot his remarks at all. Jarvis explains it:
Because that section of the documentary focuses on Baldwin’s friendship with the playwright Lorraine Hansberry and her premature death at 34, it is Hansberry’s disgusted response to Kennedy’s hemming and hawing that is given attention. But Hansberry’s decision to snub Kennedy by standing up, bidding him goodbye and exiting the room wasn’t the most demonstrable display of disgust. The most disgusted response, which isn’t in the documentary, came from New Orleans’ own Jerome Smith.
So, it’s no deep conspiracy that the woke young man got left out of the documentary. He just got overshadowed. I learned something new today, that Smith was from New Orleans. I’d not read Schlesinger’s book (it came out in 1978) when I was teaching American History in the early 1980s. I certainly would have highlighted this encounter, if for no other reason, because Smith was a local guy.
Now I want to go back to the classroom. Gotta win dat powerball.
(cross-posted to NOLA History Guy)