Voscoville residents at odds with the city over new cemetery

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NEW ORLEANS— A quiet Gentilly neighborhood has been disrupted byt the city’s plan for a new development. It’s not just any developement, and the neighbors are fighting mad.

Colette Delacroix of the Voscoville Neighborhood Watch Association said,”What’s going on is that the City of New Orleans is proposing a cemetery in back yards of all of these people on Warrington Drive.

Voscoville sits just behind Dillard University and the neighbors just got word of the city’s plans. The City of New Orleans has not built a ‘new’ cemetery since the Katrina Memorial, which actually rests inside of another cemetery. Before that Resthaven Memorial Gardens was built in New Orleans East and began interring bodies back in the 1960’s.

Proposed site of Voscoville cemetery in Gentilly (WGNO-TV)

This plan from the city has left these residents wondering why their neighborhood was chosen for a new cemetery.

Voscoville Resident Aloma Hutchinson told WGNO, “I was horrified to think that here we go with traffic, here we go with bodies back here. We have coyotes that run back here now it’s a grave, next it will be a two-story mausoleum”

In a statement from Ramsey Green, Deputy CAO for Infrastructure the city says, “The city has offered affordable burial options to residents for more than 300 years. In order to ensure that this important tradition continues, work has been under way for some time to improve the conditions of city-owned cemeteries and expand cemetery spaces. To that end, the Department of Property Management has been developing a cemetery design as well as rules and regulations to ensure that any new space includes only professional granite markers, appealing landscaping and adequate facilities.

The COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed the lives of more than 500 of our residents, has exacerbated the need for additional space. As such, we are proposing a new cemetery in a city-owned space behind Dillard University and the Department of Parks & Parkways. This particular space is being considered because of its location on high, safe ground; its affordable cost; and its availability based on the current need.

“On May 21, the Neighborhood Engagement Office (NEO) held a meeting with Gentilly/Voscoville stakeholders who are directly impacted by the proposal to receive comments. The City is considering those comments and will make a decision on whether to move forward with the proposal behind Dillard University and the Department of Parks & Parkways in the coming weeks.

ON BACKGROUND

All City-owned cemeteries are located in residential neighborhoods: Valence (Freret), Carrollton No. 1 and Carrollton No. 2 (Carrollton), Lafayette No. 1 (Garden District), Lafayette No. 2 (Central City), and Holt (Parkview). 

The City has considered a range of locations for new cemetary space including the Parc Brittanys in New Orleans East, the lot behind Resthaven on Old Gentilly Road near Almonaster, and another location that was deemed too small and too low-lying in Algiers. None of the above-mentioned locations fit the criteria necessary for effective implementation and management of the site as the one in Gentilly the City selected.”

Sign at the site of proposed Voscoville cemetery (WGNO-TV)

What’s made this more frustrating for the resident, they say, is the lack of communication from the city, and they lack of input from residents.

Bruce White of Voscoville said, “I think it was May 6th and they gave us a flyer and put flyers to 8 residents that lived a butted to the proposed area”

The proposed area includes a park that was named after Cyril Dusset, an African American sodier killed in Pearl Harbor.

Resident Morgan Wampold said he received an email from Mayor Cantrell, “Basically the email said, that we hear your concerns, and we’re sorry that you fell that way but this project is whether you like it or not. Not verbatim, but that’s the tone and message that I received.

Some of the folks we spoke to are angry and have a message for city leaders.

“Go and put this graveyard in your neighborhood, then you can come back and put it in our neighborhood. Until then, keep it out of my neighborhood so help you God,” said Floyd Romenack Sr.

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