The Heymann Memorial Conservatory was demolished by the Audubon Nature Institute on Wednesday,
November 14, 2001. So ends a long history of botanical display in Audubon Park, which started with
the popular Horticultural Hall during the Cotton Exposition in 1884.
Civil District Judge Yada Magee refused to issue a temporary restraining order to prevent
the demolition. Although a hearing on Save Audubon Park's request for a preliminary injunction
was scheduled for November 20, the Audubon Nature Institute made sure that the issue would be
moot by that time... as expected.
Describing the Conservatory as an "accessory structure" and therefore immune to demolition oversight
procedures, the Safety and Permits Department caved in to direct pressure from the Institute
and granted the demolition permit. The Department had previously scheduled a hearing on this demolition, at which time the public would
have had the opportunity to discuss the impending destruction of their property.
Alternative proposals such
as the renovation of the Conservatory may also have been aired.
We were informed by the Director of Safety and Permits, Paul May, that the proposed demolition of
the Heymann Conservatory would not be discussed at the Demolition Review Board meeting on November 12th.
In a confusing, mistaken and wilfully perverse reading of applicable ordinances, Mr May argued
that the "greenhouse" is an "accessory structure" rather than a "main building" and that therefore its demolition
is exempted from review. Quite why this large free-standing building should be an "accessory" structure,
and what exactly it is an accessory to, is not made clear.
Accessory Before the Fact
We believe that the Department's decision to waive public hearing on the demolition of the Conservatory
is based on a convenient but erroneous interpretation of the Housing
Conservation District Review Committee (HCDRC)
ordinance and the provisions of the Comprehensive
Specifically, the two following provisions:
Section 26-6 of the Ordinance 19791 M.C.S provides
that accessory structures are excepted from the
review [by the Demolition Review Board]
The provisions of Section 10.4.4 of the zoning
ordinance provides that the greenhouses are permitted
accessory uses in a P Park and Recreation District.
These two clauses were quoted to us by Mr May in describing his department's decision.
However, the City's
Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance also states
"For the purpose of this Ordinance, certain terms and words are hereby
1. Accessory Building. A subordinate building, attached to or
the main building, the use of which is incidental to that of the main
and not used as a place of habitation except by domestic servants
employed upon the premises."
Clearly the meaning of "Accessory Building" as described above is not merely any building that is permitted
in the Park as a "permitted accessory use", but rather a building that is attached to or subordinate to a
"main building". This rule is clearly intended to facilitate demolition of out-houses, servants quarters etc upon
successful application for a permit to demolish some notional "main building".
The Heymann Conservatory was not an accessory building in this sense. To say that the Conservatory was
"accessory" is to say that every building in Audubon Park is accessory to the park and that would include
the boathouse, the new clubhouse and the zoo itself.
We believe that it is shameful for a City agency charged with protecting the interests of the public
to connive with a private organization, the Audubon Institute, in the destruction of public property
without a public hearing.
Those of you who have followed the entire Audubon Park controversy closely, know that the Institute's
plan to build extensive new parking facilities on the site of the Heymann Conservatory and its adjacent
greenhouses is extremely controversial. We have argued that the Conservatory could be retained and still
leave adequate space for parking for the new golf course clubhouse, and that the Conservatory and indeed
the park itself are public properties that do not belong to the Audubon Institute to do whatever they
We have protested the Audubon Institute's methods in arriving at its plans and the details of the plans themselves.
The public has had to elbow it's way uninvited into the Institute's decision-making processes. We should
not have to do so with City authorities. A public hearing to determine the necessity and legality of the demolition of the Conservatory
is the very least that the public should expect from the City.
What is the hurry?
If you believe that the City should at least hold a hearing on the Conservatory demolition, you can
contact Paul May, Director of Safety and Permits at 565-6111, fax 544-5292, or write to
Department of Safety and Permits,
1300 Perdido Street,
City Hall, Room 7E06.
New Orleans, LA 70112.