Okay, so I’m out of town at SXSW, and I get this email from Leo Watermeier, who’s lived on North Rampart for some years and who maintains the antique rose gardens in Armstrong Park. Leo is a self-appointed guardian of the park and calls himself “Friends of Armstrong Park.” He’s a good guy, but remember, he lives on North Rampart and says he loves music—but only if it’s at a level that doesn’t disturb him personally:
New Armstrong Park Concert Series Raises Noise Concerns
Yesterday’s announcement by People United for Armstrong Park (PUfAP) of 9 Thursday evening concerts between April 18th and June 13th has some in the neighborhood concerned. This same group organized a spring and fall concert series last year. The concerts started off relatively small and the music was generally amplified at a reasonable level. But as the concerts grew the amplification became louder and louder, impacting both neighbors and other park visitors. By the last 2 concerts of the fall series, 2 of the featured artists requested from the stage that amplification levels be lowered. (I myself heard Jazz singer John Boutte admonish the sound crew to lower the volume for his set saying, “I like good music, not loud music”. I’ve heard from residents as far away as the 1300 block of Ursuline St. in Treme that the loud amplification from last fall’s concerts disturbed them. At yesterday’s press conference, I expressed this concern privately to Emmanuel Lain, PUfAP president, and Benjamin Harwood, vice-president. (Full disclosure: I’m a dues paying PUfAP member and have generally supported their efforts as bringing fresh energy to help solve longstanding problems.) They were receptive to the concern and said they had plans to adjust the speakers to lessen the noise impact of their concerts. Hopefully, they can develop a plan that allows concert goers to enjoy the music while not disturbing other park visitors or neighbors. I’ll report on the results and welcome your feedback. Leo Watermeier
So I shot him an email back:
This is the same old problem that has prevented the development of North Rampart as a commercial corridor over the past 20 years-which it rightfully should be. The people who live in this area need to live in a quiet suburb, not in the center of an urban area. Armstrong Park contains the epicenter of music in this city. Armstrong Park and North Rampart should be a vibrant thriving area with lots of foot traffic that is safe and is a city destination. It’s certainly not that right now. How can you attract businesses to North Rampart if you prevent activity and music? MUSIC IS THE KEY to this.I would venture to guess that the thousands of citizens who live in Treme and in the Quarter near North Rampart welcome the fact that we have activity and music in Armstrong Park again. I don’t care that three or four people voiced complaints–or even 10 or 20–these are probably the same people who complain whenever their hear music which disturbs their suburban mentality.Here we go again. I can just see the VCPORA and the “Stewart Smithers” marshalling their considerable and money-fortified forces to put a stop to music in the park with a PR campaign designed to blast local music as noise. Shame on them. They do not speak for all the citizens who live in the area. They speak for an extremely small group of people who want to strictly control their environment, NOT the majority of citizens.There have been many events in the park. The Jazz & Heritage Foundation uses it regularly for concerts and festivals. Armstrong Park and North Rampart should have provisions for music events, music venues and entertainment.To prevent music and these activities denies our heritage, and frankly, smacks of elitism.
Okay, so maybe I overreacted. But I’m so tired of the residents on that side of the Quarter griping about music in Armstrong Park and on North Rampart. Armstrong Park is our park. It contains Congo Square, the most sacred music landmark in New Orleans. We deserve to make it a place where we can gather together, listen to music, commune with our neighbors and enjoy ourselves. We need people in the park, and on that side of the French Quarter. Music is a perfect way to do that, especially knowing that there’s a new streetcar line being constructed there. The more people, the less crime, and the more our musical heritage will be preserved. The park itself is still sort of uncharted territory, music-wise, but North Rampart has absolutely no provisions for music. You can’t get a music permit, period.
Could Armstrong Park be next?