NEW ORLEANS (AP) The response to City Park’s demand for rent was clear: Hurricane cleanup workers squatting in the park packed up their tents, and a nearby massive staging area for trucks and heavy equipment is now a virtual ghost town.
City Park officials had planned Nov. 12 to start collecting rent from the workers, who lined their trucks and heavy equipment each day on Marconi Avenue, between the park and Delgado Community College. But now the workers and contractors who hired them are congregating in a Gentilly shopping center parking lot.
The City Park location was never meant to be a permanent staging area for workers who have been picking up debris left by Hurricane Katrina, said cleanup supervisor Donald Cleary with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The exit from the park was advanced in order to cooperate with the park which is trying to get ready for the annual Celebration in the Oaks, one of its biggest fund-raisers, Cleary said.
Phillips & Jordan Inc., the main contractor for the debris pickup, “negotiated with the folks at the shopping center,” Cleary said. “Now we just need to keep this area a little cleaner than the park.”
Workers will not be allowed to live there, he said.
City Park hired a company called Storm Force Inc. to manage its rental business, charging $300 a month for tents and $350 for campers that are being set up in areas such as Pan Am Stadium. Fliers were distributed to workers last weekend warning them that Nov. 12 was the deadline to pay or move on, campsite manager and Storm Force representative Ron Briggs said.
About 50 campsites were rented by Nov. 11, he said.
Some cleanup workers, who did not want their names used, said they can’t afford to pay rent and are going home. “It’s going to be real interesting to see how many workers who leave for Thanksgiving come back,” said one subcontractor.
Cleary said it is normal for workers to “show up and leave and go home.”
Some left after Hurricane Rita to head for Lafayette and Florida, he said. “That’s been an ongoing thing.”