Last month, Andru Okun continued his coverage of the newly opened St. Roch Market (“Another Round: The Remiss Management of the St. Roch Market”). Gentrification, cronyism, and food appear to be a tempting mirepoix for Antigravity readers stewing in opinions. Here’s some of what was dished.
“A New Orleans business doing something seemingly shady and not having the right permits? Clutch my pearls! That has never happened in this city before! An investigative approach that is heavily laced with confirmation bias paired with hard opinions and one- sided framing devices still comes off as a grudgeful NIMBY diatribe. Calling out a business with a take down piece like this that has no named sources whatsoever (regardless of the lease owners/vendors refusing) is just kind of cowardly and mean spirited in my opinion. The whole alcohol license and tax issue could and probably are way less insidious than the article makes it out to be. And someone on Reddit made a very good point that the varying percentage of gross sales that they are taking from vendors via the POS system could very well go to pay overhead outside of rent. Vendors appear to only control the stand and not clean up, bussing, and misc. stuff. In the end, there are still more jobs for my neighbors, I feel less like I am going to be beaten by a group of teens with baseball bats (happened 3 times last year) when walking down Urquhart or Marais streets, and I have a lot more/healthier/closer options for breakfast, lunch and dinner in my neighborhood. Again, not perfect by any means, but I live in the real world and realize that this dream of a place that looks like Dean and Deluca but sells $1 organic produce and staples cheaper than Walmart is just that, a dream.” —Jof
[in response to Jof ] “But the ‘dream’ as you say was viable because the city is charging these guys very low rent. The renovations were done with federal dollars and community money. What I think you don’t understand is that we are shortchanging the people in this neighborhood and we are shortchanging ourselves. We deserve more rent for this particular place because this opportunity was given at a low cost to these people because it was supposed to aid our people… We all deserve better, we all are worth more than this. I can appreciate your sarcasm, but it really just sounds like complacency. These reporters are giving us the tools to ask questions. Let’s ask.” —Blitzen1
“Lunch at the market will run you $10-20, and aren’t particularly healthy. It’s not friendly to the neighborhood of working class residents. Very friendly to AirBnB tourists who need a place to eat, tho.” —kyron
“The bottom line is that this building, just like the government dollars used to restore it, just like the neutral grounds, just like our schools, libraries, parks, natural resources and so on… is owned by the public for the public and we have a responsibility to make sure its development benefits all of us, especially when we spend so much of our public money. Private enterprises have everywhere else along St. Claude and the rest of the world to serve the most elite clientele their hearts desire. The idea of a publicly-owned market is a gem that was once a much greater part of this and many American cities. Giving this up reeks of the same kind of attitude that continues to defend the return of golf—a toxic, flagging, and elitist industry—to the precious public land of City Park. That use too and its patrons can afford to go anywhere with their business, but they feast on the rest of the world then take our scraps. I would have preferred the market torn down or stripped to its bones and used as minimal, open-air stalls or just a continuation of the St. Roch park rather than being given over to this use. Would our government have netted less money from either of these options?
We couldn’t use the St. Roch Market when it was abandoned, we can’t use it now, and the change it’s bringing to the neighborhood probably isn’t going to leave us with a place we can afford or want to be. When we fail to protect our public spaces those of us who can’t afford to move so freely are left with nowhere to go.” —publicspace
“I commend your deep excavation of all matters shady in the city (I know you’ll get around to all of them eventually), of which this is an egregious example. Turn this whole mess over to the Inspector General and expose it to the light of day! Any individual can send a request to the IG hotline.” —DanishPastry
“Welcome to New Orleans! You have two choices: accept the alleged dealings of the current proprietors with the city administration or return to the carcass of a building that they restored. The only winners are the city government and the proprietors. This was never about the neighborhood or those living in a food desert.” —Neutral Ground
“Ah but one bit is missing in this fine article, which is that many of the vacant lots in the still inexpensive upper ninth have been impressed into Kale growing service. All these Urban Farms popping up are a force multiplier in every one of these yuppie aggressions such as the new St. Roch Market. The silly 1200 square foot farms produce a pitiable amount of food—just enough to service the burgeoning trendy restaurants everywhere. And they take up land that people could be living on. Gentrification’s Babysitters.” —Comrade Wingtardd 5467p
“Slimy for sure, but the rents and lease stuff are typical. Percentages of gross sales have been included in retail rents for a long time. Lee Zurick should be all over the rest of this nonsense though.” —HolyNOLA
“We moved out of the Marigny about a year ago and wondered what was gonna happen with the lease on that building. To say that I am disappointed is an understatement. It’s heartening, at least, to see this piece so expertly skewer these crooks. Great work.” —Ally Gobi
“My name is Donna Maloney and I am an actual vendor at the market. I have been reading this material for 2 months now and I feel that it is my turn to speak out. Please keep in mind that an outsider wrote the Antigravity editorial. The author is a recent transplant and almost all of the information he has posted is inaccurate. I spoke with the author directly and he chose not publish any of the positive information that I gave him. Remember that all of the negative posts affect 12 small businesses. TWELVE! You say it’s not personal? It’s personal!!!! We are all family owned, talented, and working around the clock to produce quality food as affordably as possible. We are working towards finding out how we can do that better every day: holding community events, canvassing the neighborhood and attending neighborhood meetings. Most people who boycott the market don’t come here. They don’t see the fresh fish, meat, cheese, veggies and fruit. They don’t look at the vendors shelves to be able to notice our beans, rice, noodles, flour and sugar. You want a market? Then come and support our market and give us a reason to supply more. The facts that are being quoted about “mismanagement” are false. There was no grant money given to the owners. The renovation of the building was completed by the city with 3.7 million dollars partially from FEMA, as many buildings were. The buildout of the market was funded entirely by Bayou Secret and they went through the normal channels as would any other business. This is a straight real estate transaction and nothing more. This was the third proposal for the building and two other groups turned down the opportunity. That is what it is. Bottom line. This is a LEGITIMATE, MORAL, and ETHICAL business. The owners were accepted because of their track record of starting small businesses and making them successful. We are still a new business, not even 3 months in. We have a lot of details on our agenda and we are fine-tuning it every week. Please check your facts before you make a decision as big as posting inaccurate hate about MY business, my fellow vendors, and staff. It is all public information. I employ 9 people, and the market employs many more. These are neighborhood people. I try to make my place of business a warm, loving and welcoming environment for everyone who works here and comes here.” —Donna Sieff Maloney
“Know what else ‘we’ own? The Superdome… maybe we should demand they serve more affordable snacks and accept SNAP at the Saints games.”