Jacob Bielanski

Award-winning legal editor and journalist

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A Deadly Crossroads in Central City

It’s deadly down around South Claiborne Avenue and General Taylor Street–and that’s not a commentary on the crime.

In my latest piece for the Times-Picayune | Nola.com, I went to the intersection of South Claiborne Avenue and General Taylor Street to follow up on reports of a vigil. The “vigil” was for a pedestrian, Anthony Hickman, who was struck and killed by a vehicle. Once one site, I found little evidence of vigil, but plenty of evidence of a deadly situation.

Claiborne Ave., at that point, has six total lanes, separated into groups of three by a “neutral ground” or grassy boulevard. I made four separate crossings on the lane groups–I had to stop for, or rush out of the way of, cars for three of those crossings. This is the setup for the conversation I had with area residents, who claimed as many has seven had been killed. I pushed for names, and walked away with three full names and “Melvin.” All of them happened within the last nine months. Two of the deaths were confirmed by talking to relatives–a sister and a daughter, respectively–of the deceased.

A memorial placed at the site of the death of Anthony Hickman, who died after being stuck by a vehicle while crossing South Claiborne Avenue at General Taylor Street.

A memorial placed at the site where Anthony Hickman was stuck and killed by a vehicle as he crossed South Claiborne Avenue at General Taylor Street.

I pushed the NOPD for information on deaths in the area. My email was not returned that evening, but they later confirmed four deaths. Curiously, they did not (apparently) provide the name of the fourth person killed.

Absent from the article was the seething, through-the-teeth undertones of racial prejudice. This stretch of road’s lights have been out since April of last year. Work on new streetlights began in 2012 and was stalled due to contractor issues. Coincidentally, lights were on approximately six blocks further down South Claiborne as the road approaches Tulane University, and the demographics change to predominantly white. A few blocks in the other direction one reaches the CBD–another transition to predominantly white residents, and another location with working street lights.

Both of these areas, arguably, provide strong economic value to the city. And the city has needed to do triage on the thousands of backlogged streetlight outages in the city.

One woman, holding a bottle of guava juice in her hand, lamented that the media doesn’t report when residents in the neighborhood are hit by cars, but it’s “all over it whenever [black people] are shooting each other!”

By the end of the month, the lights are supposed to turn on. At that time, the majority of the city will move on and forget about Anthony Hickman, Jerry Carter and Alvin Turner.

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