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Algiers Point, NOLA's Neighborhood of the Year, Explained by Resident Michael Verderosa

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The People's Guide is Curbed NOLA's tour of neighborhoods, led by our most loyal readers, neighborhood experts, and other luminaries of our choosing. Have a piece to say? We'll be happy to hand over the megaphone. This time around, we welcome Michael Verderosa, Realtor, architectural historian and Algiers Point resident/cheerleader. The neighborhood just won the 2015 Curbed Cup and been named our Neighborhood of the Year.


Tell us something we don't know about Algiers Point.
Algiers Point is very much the "Mayberry" of New Orleans—a small, tight-knit community where neighbors all know each other. We're surrounded by water and Federal City, so it sometimes feels like a little island, but we're just a five minute ferry ride from the CBD and French Quarter, so it's the best of both worlds. We boast some of the lowest crime stats in all of Orleans Parish, and an extremely active and engaged base of residents.

Are there any neighborhood traditions of note?
Well, we have some well-known regular activities, like the Wednesdays on the Point concert series in the summer, the annual Algiers Bonfire just before Christmas, the best view of the fireworks for both New Year's Eve and the Fourth of July. But the neighborhood association has also developed some new programs in the last couple of years: Fridays on the Point (New Orleans' only weekly neighborhood-wide happy hour, every Friday night); Movies on the Point (free family-friendly movies on the big screen, on the lawn of one of our local churches); and Holidays on the Point (a culmination of holiday events that runs from Thanksgiving through New Years Eve).

Hidden gems in Algiers Point:
Something that seems to shock many visitors to the Point is the extraordinary view of the CBD and French Quarter skyline we have from our paved levee bike path—well worth the $2 ferry ride from the base of Canal Street. Also, we have a great small-town breakfast/brunch spot located right in the middle of the neighborhood called Tout de Suite Café, which is like stepping back in time 80 years. Great neighborhood corner bars, including Johnny's Old Point Bar (great live music just about every night), the Crown and Anchor British Pub (complete with a 'Dr. Who' telephone booth front entry), the Dry Dock Café, and the Vine and Dine wine bar and restaurant, all within about a six-block walk from each other and the ferry terminal.

Do you need a car to get around?
Absolutely not. Algiers Point is super walkable. You can walk on paved levees to Gretna or Lower Coast Algiers. You can take the ferry and be in the CBD or French Quarter in five minutes. A pedestrian could leave their house in Algiers Point, take the ferry, then take the streetcar either Uptown, to Mid-City, or along the riverfront line to the Marigny.

Good for kids?
Awesome for kids! We have two kids' parks/playgrounds in the center of the neighborhood, and we're working on building a third. There is an extremely active group of Algiers Point parents who run these parks through a nonprofit called Confetti Kids, and again, the tight-knit community is a great place to raise a family. We also have great schools in the Point, including one of the campuses of the International School of Louisiana). This is still enough of an old-New Orleans neighborhood that if a kid misbehaves, a neighbor is watching and will make sure his/her mom an' dem are immediately made aware.

Beloved neighborhood joint?
My personal favorite is the Vine and Dine. It's small, it's intimate, it has an endless supply of wine and dee-lish cheese plates.

Best park?
Well, in addition to the two kids' playgrounds noted above, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the open batture area immediately opposite the French Quarter, where Wednesdays on the Point is held (when it isn't flooded by the Mississippi). There are always tons of people out running or biking on our paved levee, or throwing a ball on the batture. It's a tremendous open greenspace, with a killer view of downtown.

Inflate the bubble or burst it: What's not-so-swell about your "perfect" neighborhood?
If you asked me that a few years ago, I'd have said our ferry debacle, but thankfully, we are in the process of coming out of that, and we're much better off than we were. As most New Orleanians will remember, after the bridge tolls were voted down, the ferry went away. As a result of the sudden lack of tourist traffic, most of our little mom-and-pop businesses in Algiers Point were brought to their knees. Many didn't survive. I'm thrilled to report that—due to the hard work of Friends of the Ferry and the Algiers Point Association, along with a cadre of some very dedicated elected officials—our ferry hours have been reinstated and all continues to grow and improve in the Point. In fact, we are slated to receive two brand new, much more efficient and reliable ferries in the coming year.

What's the neighborhood housing stock like?
Algiers Point is the second oldest neighborhood in New Orleans, having been founded in 1719. We have a fair amount of extant antebellum housing stock, but a tremendous fire in 1895 took out a wide swath of the neighborhood—so we're left with glorious, low-scale, predominantly Eastlake (Victorian houses with "gingerbread") and Craftsman-era residential buildings. The best part is, we are extremely affordable when compared to other downtown New Orleans historic neighborhoods.

Better for buyers or renters?
It's a great time to buy in the Point, because you can get a great property at a third or a half of the price as what similar properties would cost on the East Bank. But we've always been a hotspot for musicians, artists and service industry folks who rent in the Point and commute on foot to the Quarter. Rents are still very affordable, and there is a really nice mix of renters and homeowners in Algiers Point.

Best-kept secret?
It's not uncommon to find residents hosting impromptu barbecues, ball games or mini-bonfires on the batture of the Mississippi River levee, all year long. Over the 11 years I've lived here, I can't count the number of times I've been running on the levee at night, and stopped short of my 5K goal to grab a beer with some neighbors who have dragged a cooler and a grill over the levee for last-minute get-together. The best-kept secret is, everybody is welcome!

Stereotypical residents?
We don't really have one. The Point attracts every subset of the population, and for various reasons: we have old time Algerines, whose families have lived in the Point for multiple generations; we have the urban pioneers who invested here in the 1990s, when property was dirt cheap; and we have experienced a new wave of young families, who have discovered the Point post-Katrina, as the housing markets of Uptown, Mid-City and Bywater have become cost prohibitive.

Most common sight?
Howsabout most common sound? We are treated to some wonderful sounds, including the calliope music from the steamboats, bells from not only the local churches but also our beautiful, historic Algiers Point courthouse, and the low foghorns of passing ships, as they make their way around the crescent of the river.

What kind of person would love this neighborhood?
Anyone who loves engaging with their community, and who would enjoy the feeling of small-town life in the big city.

What kind of person would NOT love this neighborhood?
Well, if you're the type who prefers to park your car in the garage on a Friday night and never leave the house until you go to work on Monday morning, this is the wrong neighborhood for you. If you're not friendly and not social, and you don't like people who are, look elsewhere.

By Lauren Laborde | Curbed