Frankenstorm and the Noise Police

I passed the last few days listening cynically to the warning stories of the coming “Frankenstorm” in the northeast.  Joseph tends to be a little more cynical than me; he thought it was a bunch of media hype guaranteed to spur watching of the bazillion news channels.

It sounded as though it could develop into something pretty bad as time went on, so I started paying more attention. Joseph is from Brooklyn, and worked in lower Manhattan for years. We have family on Staten Island and in Jersey, and many friends in metropolitan New York City.

When the waves started crashing over the promenade in Battery Park City, I started to freak out. Then the photos of water rushing into the subways, and the ConEd station on FDR Drive and E. 14th Street blowing up.


As I write this, I’m watching over Frenchmen Street, seeing the preparations for one of the most raucous holidays in New Orleans. There’s a bearded guy in a black fright wig and a green satin colonial dress who’s smoking a cigar and drinking a beer whilst walking across Frenchmen Street. The gutter punk kids, who clear out of New Orleans when it gets too hot in the summer, are back in full force for Halloween (they don’t need costumes).

In a city that lives for parties, Halloween is a really big deal. I just hope that our friends and families in the northeast and the New York city area without power, transportation, who have lost their homes and property—to say nothing of lost loved ones—can have a little peace this evening.

The news media says it will be four to five days until New Yorkers can expect to have power restored, but who knows how long it will take before the city’s transportation system is restored.

John Swenson and his wife are “stranded” in New Orleans. They were going to return to their home in Brooklyn today, but reportedly, until the subways can be repaired, the airport can’t open either. I truly feel for you guys in the northeast: been there, done that. Our prayers are with you.


The self-appointed “noise police,”  (the few, vocal and well-heeled residents of the French Quarter—and now the Faubourg Marigny—who don’t want music in their neighborhoods), are still pursuing legal action against their neighbors who present live music. Stuart H. Smith, the wealthy plaintiff attorney who has filed many a lawsuit on behalf of the noise police, is continuing to attempt to shut down music in the Market Café (it’s had live music for about 30 years; the lawsuit issues started after Smith moved into 516 St. Philip in 1997 and was disturbed by the music). Smith, who has made boatloads of money in class action lawsuits against giant corporations like BP, has filed suits on the behalf of client Peter Yokum against Pat O’Brien’s and other bars.

Smith is now involved with representing a potential client in pursuing Mimi’s in the Marigny, which ironically has sound abatement in their windows and conducts noise checks to make sure decibel levels don’t exceed city ordinances.

Could shutting down music in the Market Café also have a negative impact on music in the Quarter in the French Market? Could Frenchmen Street be next? (Smith has already worked with a resident on Esplanade who complained about the music from BMC on the corner of Esplanade and Decatur). Is St. Claude Avenue net? Oak Street? Freret Street? Please tell me, is this video shot at the Market Cafe noise?

Will the 1% be able to essentially shut down what 99% of the population overwhelmingly desire—music on the streets of New Orleans? I don’t understand how this fight against music continues in the city; it’s quite obvious that the majority of residents who live in these areas are pro-music. So why do the very few—who have the services of a well-connected,  well-financed lawyer who has engaged a high-powered public relations practitioner—manage to prevail in capturing the attention of the mainstream media and City Councilman Palmer to stop music?

This, to me, is a perfect example of wealth’s power influencing political and community issues contrary to what the majority of the population desire; it’s the epitome of an anti-democratic process. It seems to me that democracy means that the people deserve to be heard—whether they can afford to pay an attorney or not.


  • Feeling it for the East Coast

    Jan, you had a fine editorial with the first part of it. You are referring to the same Stuart Smith that was literally fire-bombed by someone from the Market Cafe back years ago…traced to an owner if I remember correctly. I am against the VCPORA and friends on many issues, but the music has gotten to be too loud, too late. Even going back to how it was pre-Katrina would be a big improvement. Remember, when also tourists weren’t allowed to walk around with glass bottles? Now, it’s anything goes for tourism, and interesting that you’re on board with the same ilk.

    • Jan Ramsey

      I’m sorry, but I just have to come down on the side of music. The recent brouhaha at Mimi’s in the Marigny was the result of a couple of residents who were upset about the jukebox and party buses in the area (Mimi cannot control party buses). These people are actively working with Stuart Smith to squelch music in the Marigny. Two residents, out of how many who live there? Don’t you see something wrong with this picture? Why should Peterson Yokum be able to shut down Pat O’Brien’s? Because he has a rich lawyer friend (who he probably pays in portraits) who’ll file all his lawsuits for him? Yokum’s family has owned the house for a long time. Are you telling me that there was never noise coming from Pat O’Brien’s in the whole time his family lived there? Or when Yokum was younger?
      The noise lawsuits emanate from a very few people who have enough money to live in historic districts, who don’t like the “noise” of music, or the noise of tourists (even though tourism keeps the French Quarter alive). Maybe they could put up with it when they were younger, and out partying, but now that they’re older, they want it to stop. Lawyer Smith does not need money to keep up this battle for the VCPORA, Friends of the Vieux Carre, the FMIA, and whoever else wants to use his clout and legal expertise. My perception is that it’s more about power and control on his part than money. That’s what I mean by the “one percent.”

      The people who want music need to make their voices heard, in a big way in order to keep the musical culture alive. Or else, Smith and “his ilk” will destroy it.

      • Feeling it for the East Coast

        Jan, in your opinion, how late should loud music be allowed in neighborhoods? What about working people who need to sleep? Generally, I find that the non-club music that is too loud (party at someone’s house, basically) and runs all night comes from those trust funders who don’t have to work for a living. Do you think they should be coddled? I love Mimi’s, by the way.

  • cacksacker

    If music has gotten too loud and too late for you, you need to move. It’s not about tourists. It’s about the music loving majority here who wants and loves live music. There are plenty of places both in New Orleans and in the United States where you can good quality of life without music. I suggest you investigate where these places are and call a moving company, or be the quiet you want around you.

    • No, I live here.

      Dunno how long you’ve lived here, but yes, even Bourbon St. wasn’t so loud, and yes, post-Katrina there was an anything goes for tourism mindset that still exists to this day. Quality of life can easily co-exist with music, but those who think “anything goes” as far as music are no better than those who say “nothing goes.” Both extremist sides that need to be moderated.