Park gets boost in FEMA funding

New Orleans — FEMA recently awarded the city $3.7 million to aid remediation efforts at the Municipal Auditorium in Armstrong Park.

The auditorium, heavily damaged during Hurricane Katrina, has received about $27 million in obligated funds but still lacks the money necessary to fully rehabilitate it, leaving its future use unknown, said Ryan Berni, a spokesman for Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

The building is still plagued by mold, a basement that takes on water, an inoperable electric system and a roof that is in bad condition, Berni said.

FEMA’s previous funding addressed architectural damage in the auditorium’s basement through the fifth floor, excluding damage attributed to mold, asbestos and lead paint. The latest money, however, will allow the city to begin mold, lead and asbestos remediation and to begin minor structural repairs.

Officials recently re-evaluated damage to the auditorium and determined the new funding was necessary to assist with storm-related roof repairs that they did not previously take into account, said Andre Cadogan, acting executive director of FEMA’s Louisiana Recovery Office.

“In order for the city to move forward safely with these repairs, recent site investigations also focused on identifying architectural areas where damage to lead-based paint and asbestos materials had occurred,” Cadogan said. “These findings are now represented in our recent grant and will enable the city to move this recovery project along as needed.”

The future use of the auditorium remains to be determined until all repairs can be completed, Berni said. That likely will not be any time soon, though, since “very early” estimates after the storm put the price tag between $40 million and $45 million.

“These federal recovery dollars are an encouraging step forward and will supplement the money FEMA has already allocated,” Landrieu said. “We are making progress every day and will continue to work with FEMA to identify new eligible funding for this storm-damaged building so that we can one day get it back into commerce.”

FEMA has obligated about $6.4 billion in public assistance funding in New Orleans for Katrina- and Rita-related recovery work.