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Central City Food Truck Festival has two aims: Serve food and raise awareness

 
        Food trucks on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard        (Photo by NOLAFoodTrucks.com)
NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune By NOLA.com | The Times-PicayuneThe Times-Picayune on October 11, 2012 at  1:21 PM, updated October 11, 2012 at  2:03 PM
 

The Central City Food Truck Festival kicks off Thursday, Oct. 11, at 5:30 p.m., with a dozen operators hoping to feed the crowds and raise awareness of their campaign to ease city regulations on mobile food vendors. The festival comes on the heels of a New Orleans City Council meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 9, in which food truck operators met with council members regarding their yearlong effort to get the city to ease regulations for mobile vendors.

Among the trucks serving food will be: Brigade Coffee Truck, Bittles with the Vittles, Empanada Intifada, Foodie Call, Frencheeze, La Cocinita, Mama & Me Soul Food, NOLA Girl Food Truck and Catering, Ramisha's Snoball Stand and Rue Chow.

The two-hour festival ends at 7:30 p.m.

The event, which will be in the 2000 block Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard, is hosted by Councilmember-at-large Stacy Head and Good Work Network, according to a press release by Head.

"My goal is to engage in discussion with mobile food vendors, the restaurant industry, city planners, and others that will be affected by a change in mobile vending laws, in addition to researching the reforms implemented in other cities,” Head said in the press release.

“We want to create a set of laws that bolsters mobile vendors and the restaurant industry so that New Orleans' cuisine continues to thrive.”

On Tuesday, no one spoke in opposition to easing the rules.

The festival is among a recent spate of events in which New Orleans Food trucks operators have come together to support one another as small local business, including the recent Street Fare Derby at the Fair Grounds and Race Course.

Food trucks are no strangers to Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard. In July, the street was home to “Let The Food Trucks Roll: A Food Truck Rally and Symposium,” which drew more than 100 attendees. Trucks such as Taceaux Loceaux, Empanada Intifada and Rue Chow regularly park on the street, tweet their locations and serve dinners to walk-up diners. The trucks, and the pedestrian traffic they bring, are crucial to the revitalization of the historic boulevard. The street has been designated as one of the city’s four Urban Main Streets and received a Community Development Block Grant of nearly a million dollars, as reported in the Gambit.

But as reporter Alex Woodward’s headline (“O.C. Haley Avenue: The New Freret?”) suggests, the disparity between Freret and O.C. Haley can be traced to the business saturation. Freret’s success is measured by the number of thriving restaurants, bars, and stores that line the street. The food trucks that will be parked along Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard tonight will be the only dining option on the street, as Café Reconcile is currently closed for renovations.

 

Stan Lee Media sues Disney for billions over Marvel comics characters

 
The Associated Press By The Associated PressThe Times-Picayune on October 10, 2012 at  2:39 PM
 

LOS ANGELES -- Stan Lee Media, an Internet company that shut down more than a decade ago and has been mired in litigation ever since, has filed a multibillion-dollar lawsuit against Walt Disney Co.

The complaint was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Colorado, where Stan Lee Media -- co-founded by the famous Marvel Comics writer, who is no longer an officer of the company -- is headquartered. It claims that a contract signed by Lee in 1998 assigned his rights to all of his comic book creations, including Spider-Man, the X-Men and most members of super-team Avengers, to Stan Lee Media.

"The true facts are that Stan Lee Media Inc. owns the copyrights to Stan Lee's creations," the complaint states. "Accordingly, Stan Lee Media Inc. is entitled to the billions of dollars of profits that have been kept by Defendant Disney."

Specifically, the lawsuit focuses on the many successful movies based on Marvel characters released since Disney acquired the comic book company at the end of 2009, including the Marvel-produced "Iron Man 2," "Thor" and "The Avengers," as well as "X-Men First Class" and "The Amazing Spider-Man," which were licensed to other studios.

On Oct. 15, 1998, according to documents filed with the suit, Lee signed a contract assigning the rights to all characters he had created or would create to Stan Lee Media. Just two weeks later, Lee signed a contract with Marvel assigning the same rights to the then-independent comic book company.

Stan Lee Media claims that its rights supersede Marvel's because its contract was signed first. In addition, it claims Disney never publicly recorded Marvel's agreement with Lee with the U.S. Copyright Office.

Four pages of the 10-page complaint are filled with descriptions of the other litigation involving Stan Lee Media. They include suits between the company, its shareholders and Lee.

A 2009 suit filed by Stan Lee Media shareholders against Marvel and Lee in New York federal court over ownership of Lee-created characters was dismissed.

The new complaint notes that Stan Lee Media's history of litigation is "somewhat tortured" but that none of the prior rulings "limit in any sense" the new claims.

A Disney spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did a spokeswoman for Lee.

 

Independent New Orleans cabbies protest new taxi rules, to take effect Monday

Richard Rainey, The Times-Picayune By Richard Rainey, The Times-Picayune
on September 27, 2012 at 11:58 AM, updated September 27, 2012 at 4:12 PM

 

New regulations on New Orleans taxi cabs will drive independent drivers into extinction, several drivers who crowded together in protest outside City Hall complained Thursday. "We need work!" they chanted, circling the front steps.

taxis-in-line.jpg New regulations on New Orleans taxi cabs will drive independent drivers into extinction, several drivers who crowded together in protest outside City Hall complained Thursday. "We need work!" they chanted, circling the front steps. David Grunfeld, The Times-Picayune

The new rules for cabs, imposed by Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the City Council and since vetted by city and federal courts, kick in when the vehicles are brought in for their inspections. Cabs will have to be equipped with air conditioning, surveillance cameras, credit card machines, global positioning devices and other modern features, or risk being fined or taken out of service. They must also be less than 11 years old to operate now, and seven years old or less by 2014.

The protesters see these changes as impossible to make with speed, considering the costs and the short time frame to put them in place. Suspicions that city workers will be scraping the inspection stickers off non-compliant cabs spread quickly through the crowd.

"This is not a dictatorship," said driver Delores Montgomery.

Several cab drivers said they were suspicious that "special interests" were at work to use the new regulations to consolidate vehicles under large umbrella companies.

Emanuel Wilson, who has been driving a New Orleans taxi for 29 years, said cabs should not be judged by their model year. A 1957 Chevrolet would make a fine ride for a tourist coming into New Orleans, so long as it's in good shape, he said.

"It shouldn't be the age of the cab, it should be the condition," Wilson said as he pointed to several well-washed vehicles rolling past, honking in solidarity.

The new rules, drafted by City Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer for Landrieu's office, have passed through several hurdles since the council approved them in April. U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon declared the new ordinances were acceptable, but balked at the city calling the taxi permits, or CPNCs, a privilege to own, not a right.

The city has issued about 1,600 CPNCs. Many cabbies purchased their CPNC from another driver, while other medallions are owned by non-drivers and rented to drivers.

Apart from disliking the changes, many drivers say they're not being given enough time to bring their cabs into compliance. The drivers complained that three months wasn't long enough.

"We have no problem with being upgraded," driver Don Sykes said, "but it has to be phased in."

Longtime driver Gunasekara Niran saw a double standard. He had a receipt from paying for his permit renewal in March, but said the city had lost his paperwork and still hadn't approved it.

"If they cannot clean their house, how can they make us clean our house?" he said.

Switching their chants to "Where is Mitch?" the protesters called Monday for the mayor to meet directly with taxi drivers.

"A real leader would come out to talk to the people," Montgomery said.

 

NOLA Media Group launches $500,000 effort to boost community access to digital technology, information

NOLA.com By NOLA.com
on September 24, 2012 at 4:29 PM, updated September 24, 2012 at 4:44 PM
 
 

NOLA Media Group will provide funding to non-profit organizations in the New Orleans area and across southeast Louisiana that work to provide communities with access to digital technology, the company said Monday.

nola_media_group.jpg

The NOLA Access Initiative, a partnership between the NOLA Media Group and the Greater New Orleans Foundation, will invest up to $500,000 in the effort, NOLA Media Group President and Publisher Ricky Mathews said. The Greater New Orleans Foundation is a community foundation serving the 13-parish region of metro New Orleans. NOLA Media Group is a new company launching on Oct. 1, combining the reach and journalistic resources of The Times-Picayune and NOLA.com into a single digitally-focused media company.

The initiative is the beginning of a continuing effort by NOLA Media Group to help communities across the state increase digital access in an increasingly digital news and information environment, Mathews said.

In New Orleans, the Initiative, working with the New Orleans Public Library system, will increase library patrons' technology access by 25 percent, according to Charles Brown, city librarian and executive director of the New Orleans Public Library.

"A digitally connected and engaged community is an empowered community," Mathews said. "There are dozens of successful programs throughout southeast Louisiana that are working to increase community engagement online. We want to make an immediate impact and help them expand their successful efforts."

The NOLA Access Initiative will fund non-profit organizations focused on computer literacy and access to digital technology and the internet. NOLA Media Group's partnership with the Greater New Orleans Foundation also includes challenge grants that will provide matching funds to non-profit organizations that have received funding for digital access and computer literacy programs from other sources.

Three NOLA Access Initiative projects will begin immediately.

 

  • The New Orleans Public Library Foundation will receive funding to purchase 66 iPads for community use at all city library locations. In addition, the Main Library will have a kiosk to allow patrons to use an iPad in the library.

 

"Our city's libraries are neighborhood centers of learning and exploration," said the public library's Brown. "In many cases, we are the first place residents go to learn about new technology. On a given day, the computer terminals at the Main Library are booked from the moment we open until the moment we close with patrons learning about job opportunities, gathering research and catching up on the day's news. This is the case at nearly all of the city's 14 library locations."

 

  • The Community Center of St. Bernard will expand its Basic Computer Literacy Training program for St. Bernard Parish residents. In addition, the organization will use iPads and compatible software to record oral histories from survivors of recent events, including hurricanes Katrina and Isaac, as well as those affected by the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill.

 

"St. Bernard Parish residents logged more than 4,000 sessions in 2011 through the Community Center's public media lab, on projects ranging from entry-level computer literacy training and financial literacy class to completing job applications and certifications online and navigating social service programs," said R.M. "Iray" Nabatoff, executive director of the Community Center of St. Bernard. "The NOLA Access Initiative will bring technology into people's homes, allowing them to learn in a comfortable environment and in many cases, strengthen family bonds as children work alongside their parents and grandparents to explore and learn."

 

  • The Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeast Louisiana will add portable technology devices at each of the organization's four locations in Orleans, Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes to teach Club members about social media and develop new ways for the Boys & Girls Club to share information.

 

"The NOLA Access Initiative is helping the Boys & Girls Clubs use technology responsibly to create positive discussions that can change the culture of our communities," said Darrell W. Guy, Sr., director of Special Projects, Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeast Louisiana.

 
 

Developer wins city approval for design of Canal Street high-rise

Published: Monday, September 24, 2012, 2:36 AM     Updated: Monday, September 24, 2012, 7:32 AM

One year ago, after much controversy and debate, a divided New Orleans City Council gave provisional approval to plans for a high-rise residential building at 1031 Canal St., approving zoning waivers but also imposing some conditions on developer Praveen Kailas. After months of discussions, Kailas has secured city approval for the design of the 190-foot tower, and he hopes to begin construction on the $70 million project next year, he said last week.

canal-street-tower-rampart.jpgHarry Baker Smith ArchitectsThe plan for the former Woolworth's site at Canal and Rampart streets includes 230 apartments, 10 penthouses, 550 parking spaces and 65,000 square feet of retail space.

The site at Canal and North Rampart streets was the longtime home of a Woolworth's store, but it has been vacant for many years. Kailas has created a website, www.livingtheeasyway.com, that says the new building is "coming (in) 2015" and is "leasing now."

The plans presented to the council last year called for a building with 307 apartments, 486 parking spaces and 38,000 square feet of retail space, perhaps including a restaurant.

On the recommendation of Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer, the council voted to require that the retail space be increased to at least 65,000 square feet, or 80,000 square feet if a restaurant is included. Palmer said the extra space would increase the chance that the developers could attract an upscale retailer.

The current plans call for 230 apartments for lease, 10 penthouses for sale, 550 parking spaces and 65,000 square feet of retail space, Kailas said. Residents would have the use of three rooftop decks, two gymnasiums, two swimming pools, a banquet room, an elevated dog-walking park and a private movie theater.

Rental rates or purchase prices have not been announced.

Asked about his financing, Kailas said only that he is "working with our lenders, who support the project." He said architect Hank Smith is working on the design-development drawings for the project.

Kailas said he has been working with Brenda Canada, director of retail attraction and development for the New Orleans Business Alliance, to find retail tenants. "We have had significant interest from both local and national brands," he said, adding that Canal and North Rampart is "a high-profile corner."

During debate on the project last year, some experts said they saw little chance of attracting a high-end retail tenant unless the building owners offered such favorable terms that they would lose money on the deal.

Debate on the project last year centered mainly on the building's planned height, which far exceeded what was then allowed by the zoning law, though there also was criticism of the proposed design.

Although the zoning set a 70-foot height limit for the site, a draft of the city's proposed new comprehensive zoning ordinance would raise that to 120 feet. The City Planning Commission staff therefore recommended approving a 120-foot building, but the commission voted 5-3 to approve 190 feet.

Many French Quarter and preservationist leaders also called for limiting the building to 120 feet, saying that as proposed it would be too high and too massive for a site just outside the historic French Quarter. Other critics said their main objection was to the design, which they said was unattractive and out of keeping with neighbors such as the Saenger Theatre.

However, some Quarter residents and many business leaders supported the project, citing its purported $200 million economic impact and the fact that more than 1,800 citizens and the owners of nearly every business along Canal Street had endorsed Kailas' plans. They said the building would revitalize an economically distressed section of Canal Street, attracting hundreds of new residents to the Central Business District and providing badly needed parking for nearby theaters.

Kailas told the council he could not get financing for a 120-foot building because it would not be economically viable. He said he had financing lined up for the larger building.

Opponents charged that giving in to Kailas' demands would violate the spirit of the city's new master plan, which was intended to set up uniform zoning and land-use rules everyone must follow and to end the age-old custom of developers cutting special deals with council members.

But Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson, long a champion of the master plan, denied that the council was caving in to a developer's wishes. "Canal Street needs development, and this is an iconic corner," she said.

Palmer, whose district includes the site, said she thought that adding more nearby residents would benefit the Quarter and that, because the site is at the corner of two major streets, it could handle a large building. She said the 70-foot zoning limit along Canal was an overreaction to construction of the 440-foot Marriott Hotel in the 1980s and that even a 120-foot limit would be "arbitrary."

However, in approving the 190-foot height, Palmer added several restrictions. She limited the height of the portion of the building closest to Canal Street to 147 feet and the height of the portion on Iberville Street to 70 feet. The height limitation along Iberville must extend back for at least 30 feet from the sidewalk, and the limit along Canal must extend back for at least 25 feet, she said.

She also required the developers to get approval for their final design and choices of exterior building materials from the staff of the Historic District Landmarks Commission.

Councilwomen Stacy Head and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell voted against the project. Head said allowing a 190-foot building would be "a mistake with far-reaching consequences," and Hedge-Morrell said the project threatened "the integrity of the French Quarter."

Since the council's vote, Kailas and Smith, his architect, spent months in discussions with the HDLC staff and others, going through a total of 17 revisions, Kailas said, before finally coming up with a design endorsed by the landmarks staff, Palmer's office, the planning commission and other officials such as William Gilchrist, director of place-based planning for the Landrieu administration.

Bruce Eggler can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 504.826.3320.

 
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