Frenchmen Street Just Got Safer

Frenchmen Street, as most OffBeat readers know, developed organically as a music district. Over the past 15 years or so, Frenchmen has become the destination for locals and visitors looking to experience local music. The proximity of all the bars and music clubs has made the street popular place for locals, and now it’s attracting tourists too. In fact, maybe too many tourists, because the street is overflowing with crowds every night, especially on weekends. (Please let me not hear “Where did you get them shoes?” on Frenchmen!)

But with crowds come problems.

The street has been plagued by issues related to crowds, traffic, sanitation, drugs, panhandlers, crime and illegal vendors. Often the street is too crowded for traffic to pass through, so there’s a potential for real problems if police can’t get through in case of emergencies. Moreover, the city simply does not have enough police to provide adequate protection to Frenchmen, even when they are called.

“A lot of the street folks and people that have been chased out of the French Quarter. Now we have to deal with them, as well as a lot more serious crime that now has a better chance of happening in our neighborhood–and we’ve been seeing it,” said Jason Patterson (Snug Harbor) with the Frenchmen Marigny Triangle Business Association.

Frenchmen’s businesses have long complained that there’s simply not enough police to ameliorate and address crimes and problems on the street. Illegal vendors, who aren’t licensed by the city, set up and sell everything from beer to food to retail items right outside businesses who pay taxes, buy permits and are legitimate businesses. Despite complaints from the Frenchmen businesses, there has never been adequate police presence, nor enforcement when laws are broken. There simply are not enough NOPD.

FMTBA was formed to represent local businesses to work together to address the many needs that those businesses have in common. After much study and meeting with police representatives, it was determined that the most immediate need was a security patrol with the authority and the motivation to control Frenchmen Street through enforcement of existing laws. But with Bourbon Street and the French Quarter security patrol now in place, Frenchmen Street has seen an increase in crime, vagrants and illegal street vendors that the under-manned NOPD cannot control outside the French Quarter. They perps have migrated over to Frenchmen.

But that’s all about to change.

“Starting next week the Business Association will start paying a monthly fee for a security detail on Friday and Saturday nights covering a three-block stretch on Frenchmen Street and a half block off on the side streets,” said Jeff Bromberger, also of the FMTBA. Bromberger owns the Maison and Dragon’s Den.

The new detail, funded by FMBTA members, was set up to protect local businesses and visitors, and is expected to have a positive impact on issues on the street such as crowd control, traffic flow, brass bands on Chartres Street corner, street vendors, amyl nitrate balloon sellers and other illegal drug sellers, street musicians playing on private property, graffiti taggers and panhandlers.

Though FMTBA had initially planned on exclusively using NOPD, it was determined that a partnership of a private service created by and staffed by former policemen, Pinnacle Security, along with NOPD officers, would be more effective. Pinnacle Security has the blessing of the district’s current NOPD commander Jeffrey Walls, and can work closely with NOPD on enforcement and arrests, giving Frenchmen better NOPD coverage and establishing ongoing communication with the NOPD 8th District.

Beginning this Friday night (and in time for the craziness of Halloween a couple of weeks away), Frenchmen will be patrolled from the beginning of Frenchmen Street at Esplanade to Washington Square at Royal (or Dauphine). The patrol also will also monitor half a block off Frenchmen Street on that route.

Initially, the patrol (with an associated NOPD officer) will work weekends, Fridays and Saturdays starting at 7:00 p.m. and ending at 4:00 a.m., 18 hours total per weekend.

As they gain business membership and sponsors, the hope is to extend the patrol to additional nights, increased hours and to expand the program in the Marigny Triangle. In the future the FMTBA hopes to create an Economic Development District using sales tax collections to finance the security detail in the future until NOPD recruits and trains enough officers.

Businesses in the Frenchmen Street Cultural and Arts District hope the extra officers in the area will improve the public safety of visitors, workers and residents of our community.

  • kmsoap

    Putting musicians and street vendors in the same category as panhandlers and muggers is offensive. There’s not a lot of detail provided as to what the force intends to “do” about the brass band, but past enforcement efforts have focused on harassment and violations of civil and Constitutional rights.

    While manpower is an issue, the city attorney has also advised the police not to enforce laws that would make the city liable in a legal action. This sounds like an effort to take another swing at the street culture after attempts to make the NOPD complicit in enforcing bad laws have failed.

    Additionally, if patrons of Frenchmen Street are going to be involuntarily victimized, it’s not going to happen when they are on the crowded street. It’s going to happen when they are walking back to the Quarter or to their AirBnB in the Marigny.

  • HolyNOLA

    Frenchmen is the new Bourbon, and St. Claude is the new Frenchmen.

    There’s a guy on Frenchmen that tries to sell Offbeat to people, for F’s sake!

    • sam

      That guy has been on Frenchmen Street hustling for 15 years. Back when the street was a much more local scene, he mostly made money helping musicians load gear in and out of their gigs, or helping bartenders haul out trash and sweep up. Since the throngs of tourists have arrived he’s been working the Offbeat mag thing. Hell if they’re stupid enough (or maybe generous enough..?) to give him some money for one, then so be it. He isn’t hurting people or robbing people, if so he would have been arrested and thrown in jail a long time ago.

    • janramsey

      St. Claude is just not the new Frenchmen. The reason why it isn’t it because in order for you to create a scene and a critical mass, you need proximity. This is why and how Bourbon Street…and now Frenchmen Street…came to be. St. Claude is a much busier thoroughfare, it’s got a neutral ground, and the businesses are way too spread out to create proximity. Sorry. Not the same.

      • HolyNOLA

        St. Claude is bustling, we have to agree to disagree on this one.

      • Hi Jan, good article. As a frequent visitor to NOLA since the early nineties and most recently this past Dec. Frenchman has changed dramatically. The music and businesses of course are still great, but the street vibe has changed dramatically and not for the good. Kansas City, MO had this same problem during Mayor Kay Barnes administration from 1999 to 2007 trying to revitalize the old garment district where the Legendary Phoenix Jazz Club and many other live music venues were struggling. The Mayor gave tax incentives to developers who converted old factory buildings into affordable loft spaces but the developers had to pay for additional security patrols. Having met the Mayor at a music related press conference and hearing her plan to revitalize the neighborhood, I moved into one of these lofts in 2000. Being a native New Yorker from Spanish Harlem, the Garment District was an edgy/sketchy neighborhood in 2000. By 2005 this was a premier neighborhood to live in and the transformation was nothing short of miraculous and it still is! Great music, food, events, more businesses, venues, restaurants, and a real community of wonderful folks filled all those empty buildings. I say good for the FMTBA and someone should work towards receiving some incentives from the city for the work they’re doing. It worked great for KCMO and it can for Frenchman street…

  • Cleophus

    NOLA is becoming a model of how people won’t pay taxes to support public services — in this case, police — and only those who can pay for private services get a decent level of security protection. The abandonment of schools, public transportation has already been in place for a while; now, police services.

    I fear the rest of the country will be following suit.

    • Sam

      “NOLA is becoming a model of how people won’t pay taxes to support public services”

      People pay taxes. Plenty of them to take care of the city. It’s the corruption, and political structure of the city that created all that you mentioned.

  • sam

    Former police officers? Hmm.. ok. How exactly does one become a “former police officer”, and are these the kind of guys we want “patrolling” Frenchmen Street? Sounds like a recipe for disaster. Crime in New Orleans is obviously out of control, but I don’t recall hearing about a lot of people being robbed at gunpoint on Frenchmen. Street musicians playing on private property? Crowd control? Traffic flow? Come on. This is more about the unlicensed street vendors cutting into restaurant profits, which is legitimate. But I’m concerned that all of this added muscle and ‘authority’ potentially creating more problems than it solves.

  • 5oh4

    Are they gonna go after Frenchman Street businesses that illegally block off parking spots, so that they have a smoking patio?

    • kmsoap

      There’s a lot of laws being broken by venues, and none of them have Constitutional protection. The wise choice would be to look closely at their own homes before casting stones.

    • Sam

      Would you want to park your car there after physically moving their obstacles to free up the space? I imagine your vehicle would sustain some damage one way or another.

  • Tremoloking

    I’m incredibly disappointed that Offbeat as an advocate of local culture and music for so many years, would agree to put brass bands under one category with illegal activities. It’s been said a thousand times before, and I suppose it needs to be said again: many local musicians who went on to become world famous, from Satchmo to Trombone Shorty, got their start in the city’s brass bands. I like to think everybody’s well aware of the vital importance of brass bands for the survival and well-being of the local culture.

    • janramsey

      FIrst of all, spell it right. It’s OffBeat. Thank you.
      No one on Frenchmen Street wants to stop the brass band, unless the band blocks the sidewalk or the street. Then it’s a public safety hazard. Music is what Frenchmen Street has always been about.

      • Tremoloking

        Fair enough and I’m sorry for misspelling Offbeat, but brass bands are mentioned explicitly. I just see a lot of potential for abuse . Also, as narrow as the sidewalks are, it’s almost inevitable that brass bands are going to block them. I just fear this will end up making it impossible for them to play on Frenchmen at all.

      • Tremoloking

        Fair enough and I’m sorry for misspelling OffBeat, but brass bands are
        mentioned explicitly. I just see a lot of potential for abuse . Also, as
        narrow as the sidewalks are, it’s almost inevitable that brass bands
        are going to block them. I just fear this will end up making it
        impossible for them to play on Frenchmen at all.

        • janramsey

          It might be a good idea for the brass band to have “sets” where the stop for a bit to let the crowds disburse. I have to reiterate: the patrol is more about criminal activity and illegal vendors. Not stopping the brass band.

          • kmsoap

            The brass band does play sets. Have any of the FMTBA members been outside at all at night lately?

          • Tremoloking

            I’m pretty sure they already take breaks, which would amount to having sets.

  • Keep It REAL

    Honestly, The focus is on safety and illegal vendors the Businesses are not too concerned about the Brass Band that cause many noise complaints and blocks the street. The only thing that could be addressed concerning the band will be people blocking the street and right of way if becomes a safety issue.

    We are trying to make the neighborhood safer and more enjoyable for all. It would be great if the city could provide all of us the protection and services we deserve, but the facts are it is not happening.

    • kmsoap

      The street vendors are not hurting anyone. Everyone loves Frenchmen Art Market, but many of the artists in the market started out on the street. It’s no different than the brass bands. They start on the street, move to the clubs and eventually take over the world.

      There is plenty of money on Frenchmen Street to go around for everyone, and this effort just makes the club owners look greedy and petty.

      • janramsey

        You’re dead wrong about that. On an annual basis, a vendor would have to pay at least $3000 to be able to operate on Frenchmen Street. The businesses pay much, much more to be able to operate…like rent, utilities, big bills for insurance, property taxes, etc. Street vendors are already prohibited from Frenchmen Street by city law. Why should a street food vendor, for example, be able to set up in front of a legitimate business (which has to pay all the dough you need to pay to be a real business). Isn’t that a little unfair? Moreover, they dump garbage in the street (which the legit businesses have to pick and dispose of); they clog sewer drains with grease; and their food may not even be palatable. One vendor set one the club buildings on fire with a barbecue grill outside the bar. Not a good thing.
        The Art Market is doing a great job of putting local artists out there. Are the guys who sell the crack pipes on Frenchmen going into the Art Market eventually? Please…

        • michaelpatrickwelch

          Bunch of opinions by people who don’t play music, don’t understand what it’s like to play music or make art (or to live off music and art), and barely go out to clubs at night anyway. Very Republican to have opinions about people who are very different than you.

          • michaelpatrickwelch

            We will always have our fates decided by non-artists with nothing to lose for themselves.

          • michaelpatrickwelch

            A public safety hazard? Give me a break. Are being regularly being hurt by the brass bands? Not at all, ever. It’s about business interests. Jan, I love ya but you’re just repping whatever random businesses you side with on Frenchmen, and you are def putting OffBeat on the wrong side of this issue, and the wrong side of history.

          • janramsey

            Wow, using that nasty “R” word. I don’t know one person who operates a business on Frenchmen who could be categorized that way, me included. The emphasis of this patrol is on preventing crime. fRenchmen Street is currently totally unregulated, vis a vis illegal vendors, drug dealers, etc. Many small businesses started as street vendors, this is true. But at some point you need to play by the rules. Selling illegal food and beer right outside a restaurant isn’t cool. Look at it this way, MPW: it would be like another writer plagiarizing your work. You wouldn’t be pissed about that and try to stop it? You do work for money, don’t you? Street musicians are usually there because they need payment for their work. You think the brass band is only on Frenchmen Street to hone their chops? Please. It’s because there’s money to be made. Bars and clubs on Frenchmen are not evil (well maybe one or two of them could be). But they have worked hard to set up their business, just like a writer or a musician works hard to make money making art. Established businesses have also invested money, time and talent to create their business. They sell drinks, but they also give musicians the opportunity to make money too. The difference is that the clubs have to pay through the nose to stay in business. Illegal street vendors are basically unfair competition. No one on Frenchmen wants to take the brass band off the street. But they do want the street to be safe for everyone to enjoy, and the businesses are trying to work together to protect their interests…which also includes musicians who work there.

          • Tremoloking

            It just seems to me there’s enough for everybody. Many brass bands and street performers have made the jump from the street corner to the club. You could probably say some have managed to get lucrative FM Street gigs precisely by busking on the street first. And why pick a security firm that specializes in gang activity, of all things? I’ve been going to FM for years and have been playing the street for a few months and I have to say I’ve never seen drugs or heaven forbid, crack pipes being sold. And I wasn’t exactly born yesterday. Tourists love the brass bands. I don’t think anyone’s in favor of crime and everybody wants to feel safe, but I see a lot of potential for abuse of power, racial profiling, and all kinds of nastiness. I guess we’ll have to see how this plays out.

        • kmsoap

          Jan, you are dropping the ball if you put somebody selling something to a voluntary customer in the same category as someone sticking a gun in their face and taking their wallet. Period.

          • janramsey

            I’d say the same thing to you…let’s say that you set up a booth you pay for at the French Market to sell soap. Then watch someone set up a booth next to you selling the exact same thing you sell, except that they don’t pay for the booth and they actively go after your customers right in front of your face. Wouldn’t that be upsetting to you? Tell me you wouldn’t try to stop it.

          • kmsoap

            I set up at the Frenchmen Art Market and pay to do it. In addition to having an assured space, I have access to bathrooms and electricity and a host of other advantages. However, here I am, defending the street vendors and brass bands. Why? Because an active, healthy street economy is a sign that we are all doing well.

            By the way, we have several soap vendors in both the French Market and on Frenchmen Street. But because we are all hand making our products or sourcing them in different places, nobody is selling the “same thing”. I don’t see them as competition. Some of them are people aspiring to take the art to its highest form, some are trying to make a quick buck. No two gumbos are alike in this town, and the solution to a wider playing field is to be the best.

          • janramsey

            Competition is a good thing, but only when the playing field is equitable for all parties. Do you know that illegal food vendors clog the drains on the street? They create garbage that legitimate business owners have to pick up and dispose of, at their cost. Did you know that the illegal vendors have threatened to kill business owners who have asked them to move (which they have the right to do)? Do you know that one of them almost set the Spotted Cat on fire due to negligence? The Art Market was set up to legitimize the nighttime street culture. There’s a cost associated with being there. That’s leveling the playing field. And you ignored the analogy of another vendor setting up immediately in front of your booth and taking your customers away before they had the chance to visit your booth. You gotta have rules, or else you have chaos.

          • kmsoap

            Jan, I didn’t ignore your scenario. It has happened over the more than two decades that we have been doing what we do. The solution is to be better than they are. People will specifically seek you out. Is the guy making burgers on the street playing on the same level as Adolpho’s? Is the brass band taking customers from Snug Harbor? Of course not. Nobody on the street is taking anything away from me, and the only way they could do that would be to do what I do better than I do it. That’s why people (myself included) plunk down $45 to see Allen Toussaint at Snug Harbor instead of standing on the corner all night.

            Did you know people actually feel safer on the street when the band is on the corner and there is activity on the street? I have had cab and pedicab drivers tell me that when the street is quiet, people tell them to just keep going right back to Bourbon.

            The practical issues such as drainage and trash should certainly be addressed. It would be a lot cheaper to hire a drain cleaner and picker upper than a security force. But as much as anything, it is the attitude of all of this that is ugly. People who have had the good fortune not to flood when the levees broke have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, in part because the competition drowned. Now they are worried about a few street vendors? Please.

          • janramsey

            Once again: the patrol IS NOT ABOUT REMOVING THE BRASS BAND. Period. End of story.

          • Well, dear, the implication is there. Just saying it’s not means you intend to selectively enforce behavior on Frenchmen Street, which is unconstitutional (that’s why the City Attorney won’t touch this issue with a 10-foot clarinet (:

  • TimGNO

    The con man’s phrase is not and never has been “Where did you get them shoes?” #smh

    • Glenn Johnson

      Yes, the story kind of lost credibility from that point on

  • peterstanley

    if you want a nitrate balloon go to dat dog. if you want a nitrous balloon, you gave to wait for the street to erupt with balloons

  • hahaha, hilarious, to think these hired goons will kill music’s spontaneous combustion on Frenchmen or anywhere in New Orleans, where the tradition is actually way above and beyond your little silly “ordinances”. One lawsuit by one injured musician or artist will end this charade. Louder Gents!

    • janramsey

      Can you read? The purpose is not to remove the brass band. The purpose is to try to make Frenchmen Street safer for everyone, including the audience, the brass band, and the businesses on Frenchmen. Get a grip.

      • Then bill them as traffic control helpers, don’t put some pseudo-authoritarian label on them as if that will keep the pickpockets & loose women away.

        • janramsey

          Have you been to Frenchmen lately? It’s crazy. They need some law enforcement there. I don’t want to have my pocket picked. I don’t want to be harassed by some idiot trying to sell me some nitrous (or someone who’s totally blasted and having a seizure because they bought drugs) or someone pulling out a gun, or a fistfight. Or some drunk who’s out of control. Or even somebody trying to sell me a copy of OffBeat. If Frenchmen was the way it “used to be,” well, they wouldn’t need cops to keep the peace But it isn’t. It’s gone way beyond being the local street for music. Once tourists and frat kids moved in, the scene changed.

          • Gosh, “crazy” is why most people go to Frenchmen, to get away from the ordinary and snap their fingers to the jazz kings & vipers. Just keep your valuables at home, Ms. Ramsey, hold your breath past the nitrous bootleggers, and go help at a rehab center if you’re so concerned about druggies. I rather suffer inconveniences like walk around obstacles. than do mean stuff like kick starving artists off the banquettes. I’m sure you love my friend Conan here(:

          • janramsey

            Why do you keep harping on the brass band? This is the least of the problems on Frenchmen Street. The patrol is not targeting the brass band. Jeez.

          • kmsoap

            The scene changed when two Bourbon type clubs were added to the street. Thing is, that could have been prevented if the existing clubs ever had any interest in getting their licensing act together. But they don’t, even recently when offered the opportunity in a meeting with the FMIA and MaCCNO. Jan, you were there. It took place in your office. You know exactly what I am talking about.

            And I did not see a single one of these club owners speaking up when the Trash Palace proposal was active, although that would have increased the activity on the street even further, and certainly presented competition. We’ll see what happens if it comes forth again.

            Blaming the street culture is the lazy fix, and it won’t ever bring Frenchmen back to what it was. That ship has sailed, and the club owners themselves sent it off with flourish. It’s adapt or perish time.

          • janramsey

            What you tend to find in New Orleans is that anyplace in New Orleans that ends up having music does it almost accidentally. This city is not music-friendly, despite what anyone says. Why anre’t there music clubs on North Rampart Street? That is super-ridiculous. The older music venues you are referring to on Frenchmen should not probably exist; they wouldn’t have if the city had enforced the restrictions that would have closed them down. Thus, they stayed open, the scene was enhanced, and then the other places opened. Both of these “Bourbon Street”-style clubs you refer to have actually done a pretty good job of booking local music, once they figured out that Frenchmen wasn’t Bourbon Street. So in some ways they’ve adapted pretty well to continue Frenchmen as a music street, after a rocky start.
            Do you think that the music clubs that were open without being 100% according to code were going to be able to stop the newcomers from coming in, and call attention to their issues vis a vis the city? Not gonna happen. That also applies to the Trash Palace.
            The bigger issue is quite simple: when you have a lot of people, many of them now tourists, who are drinking and partying–whether it be on Bourbon or Frenchmen–you are going to have issues. Alcohol and crowds, with the all-night mentality that we have in New Orleans are trouble waiting to happen. Do you really think Bourbon Street could operate without a plethora of cops on the street? The crowds on Frenchmen have probably quadrupled over the past 10 years, and you have to expect more potential trouble (which there definitely is) with more people. Nothing stays the same.

            Interestingly, when I got to the office on Saturday a drunk woman had pushed a man through one of the plate glass windows in the lobby of our building on Friday night, and completely knocked it out. I’m wondering where the patrol was when this happened (I hear about 1am), but I understand that the patrol did recover the phone of the perp and are finding the two idiots who did it.
            This is what happens with drunk idiots roam Frenchmen. But you can’t keep them out or away. Like you say, that ship has sailed.

          • kmsoap

            Good points, Jan. This is finally getting somewhere productive.

            You see, the rest of the “illegal” street culture also would not exist if the city was serious about enforcement, just like the music venues. But if someone was hiring private security to close down the music venues, or trying to strong arm some type of enforcement, I’d be defending them all the way, and I believe you know that. To be clear, street culture is not just the band on the corner, but the street vendors as well, and street culture is just the next layer that is attracted to a healthy economy.

            Sorry to hear about your window. If this patrol can prevent things like that from happening or make a dent in violent or property crime in the area, it will serve a purpose. The wording of the initial announcement, however, lead us to believe something very different. Time will tell.

  • Tremoloking

    Somebody PLEASE explain to me WTF harrassing poets has to do with safety or crime. This just confirms my worst fears, and it is total and complete BS

  • michaelpatrickwelch

    Perhaps Jan can explain why, if she is now so concerned about the “danger” of crowded Frenchmen sidewalks, she did not fight vehemently against the smoking ban that has crowded sidewalks EVERYwhere.

  • J

    Can someone explain please how Paid Private Security is the same thing as Police.

    By what legal authority does a paid private patrol have to tell people to move. And then what happens when people don’t – because these are not actually law enforcement offices. what will this private vigilante security detail devoted out of their goodness/careers do then? Will they carry guns? Will they carry cuffs? Will they make citizen’s arrest?

    to me this sounds like a dangerous gambit to say it is getting ‘safer.’