Several ramshackle houses featured on advertisements for the HBO series “Treme” were demolished Thursday, despite efforts by preservationists and show producers who wanted the row homes renovated.
The houses had roofs that were barely there and chunks of siding missing. They needed to be torn down because they were dangerous and an eyesore, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and several neighbors said. The buildings, which sit across from a playground and park, have long been havens for criminals and drug users, they said.
“We live here and we don’t want our kids passing this stuff,” said the Rev. Kenneth Thompson.
The producers of the television show, set in New Orleans in the months after Hurricane Katrina, asked the mayor in a letter to hold off on razing the homes.
“What a powerful message it would send about the resiliency and recovery of the city for this block to be restored and transformed into desirable homes for returning residents,” the producers said in the letter.
Landrieu said he was making good on his promise to rid the city of an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 blighted properties. Two homes had been flattened by the time Landrieu held an afternoon news conference at the site, having sometimes testy exchanges with local preservationists.
Bradley Vogel of the National Trust for Historic Preservation said efforts to improve blight have gotten better since Landrieu took office last year. But he said more needs to be done to get houses into the hands of potential developers and preservationists, and the vacant lots left behind will be little improvement.
Landrieu said he was committed to preserving the city’s historic architecture wherever possible. He noted the city’s work to move, rather than demolish, a number of historic homes on land now planned for a new medical center.
Later Thursday, one of the show’s producers, David Simon, issued a statement lamenting news coverage he said implied the “Treme” producers initiated the anti-demolition campaign. After being approached by preservationists, the producers wrote to Landrieu on April 7 to express the hope that a way could be found to finance the rehabilitation of the houses, which are not used in the filming of the show, he said.
If the city felt that could be done, Simon said, “the producers fully expected that we would be approached to contribute in both time and money to such a project.”
But, he said, “We heard back from no one.”
He said the coverage led many in New Orleans to characterize the effort as “an attempt by some dilettante Hollywood-types to preserve some urban blight for purposes of filming and/or profit, and to do so without offering resources for the effort.”
Source: The Associated Press.