By Rob Masson/ Fox 8/ Feb. 29, 2024

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) – Residents awaiting a unit at the Upper Pontalba Apartments are growing increasingly impatient, waiting for the French Market Corporation to take control of the unit ordered to be turned over by Mayor LaToya Cantrell last year. They say it’s time that the City of New Orleans starts capitalizing on the high-demand apartment.

Since the New Orleans City Council’s decision over six months ago to revoke Mayor Cantrell’s use of the apartment, the unit has yet to be relinquished to the French Market Corporation, which is responsible for renting out the building.

“Why isn’t the French Market Corporation entertaining anything? Why don’t they change the locks?” said Paul Bello, who has been on the waiting list for two years.

With its sought-after views of Jackson Square in the heart of the French Quarter, dozens of people like Bello have spent years on a lengthy list, waiting for a chance to secure one of the coveted units to no avail.

“It’s embarrassing. It’s national news. Everyone has seen her walking in and out at all hours,” Bello said.

LaRue Cage, manager of the Rendezvous specialty clothing store just beneath the apartment, is frustrated that store owners are paying increasingly higher rent and the unit is still out of commerce.

“I don’t think it’s fair at all, especially since I heard through some of the stories she wasn’t even conducting visits, not on the phone, not taking calls. She can’t even justify she was doing business up there,” Cage said.


According to a report by the Inspector General last March, the Pontalba apartment could be rented for about $2,900 a month and would generate about $36,000 a year for the city.

Bello says that money could go towards repairing streets.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office recently subpoenaed Fox 8, targeting our “Outside the Office” investigations and video footage from the French Market Corporation’s publicly-owned camera situated just outside the front door of the apartment.

Rafael Goyeneche, head of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, suggests that the government could be gearing up for indictments.

Emails obtained by Fox 8 show the French Market Corporation coordinating with the mayor’s office to gain access to the apartment to send in maids, service fire alarms and smoke detectors, and install new floors.

“I don’t understand how they’re powerless. If the city council voted to remove her control of the apartment, I think the French Market Corporation is in violation of the law right now,” said Bello.

“The law is very clear and the law is very obvious,” said Dillard University Political Analyst Dr. Robert Collins. “Yes, both the mayor’s office and the French Market Corporation should execute the law as they were ordered to do so by the city council. And if they’re not, that’s a problem because it means they’re deliberately ignoring the law.”

“Actions speak louder than words and we have the ordinance,” Goyeneche said. “So, the people over in the French Market Corporation, there’s an in-house attorney who realizes what the written word means. They know what the instructions are and the wishes of the council, and it hasn’t happened. I think there needs to be an explanation offered to the public as to why this apartment has not been put on the ‘available to rent’ list.”

Fox 8 reached out to the Mayor’s Office, the French Market Corporation, and Councilman J.P. Morrell for a comment. They all declined.

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