St. Charles garbage, cable service updates

By Jenny Hurwitz
River Parishes bureau

St. Charles Parish residents can expect noticeable improvements in garbage removal, aided by the addition of rear-loader trucks, as well as a complete restoration of cable television service by the end of the week, according to officials from the parish’s garbage contractor and from Cox, the area cable provider.

The Parish Council had requested updates from business whose public services were affected during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Reports from various spokesmen were given at Monday’s council meeting, which took place at the courthouse in Hahnville.

Waste Management, the parish's garbage collection contractor, completed a pass of the entire parish by Monday and is aiming to uphold its post-Katrina promise of once-a-week service, according to company spokesman Rene Faucheux.

Hurricane Rita set them back a couple days, due to rain and high winds, Faucheux said. But the company, which currently uses eight trucks to collect trash on a daily basis, is planning to bring in two rear-loader trucks by Thursday, he said.

Faucheux said the company would assess the situation at the end of the week with Parish President Albert Laque in an effort to bring service up to its former twice-weekly status.

Some council members still expressed dissatisfaction with Waste Management's service, saying garbage continues to line the streets and residents complain that pick-up has been irregular.

"I don’t think have achieved once a week service yet," said Councilman Clayton "Snookie" Faucheux. "We need to step up to the plate and get this taken care of."

Representatives from CERES Environmental Services, which is responsible for removing heavy construction and storm debris, also gave an update and fielded questions from the council.

Joseph Dantin, who is managing the parish operations for CERES, said that the company has finished about 85 percent of the vegetation pick-up, which includes tree branches, and have started on construction and debris removal.

"The problem is, some of residents are coming back, going into homes, taking debris from inside houses and putting it back on street," said CERES spokesman Charles O'Brien. "It might not look like we’re doing our job, but we’re picking it up and it’s getting refilled."

Dantin advised residents to separate vegetation refuse from construction debris, to make the removal process easier for workers.

Steve Sawyer, spokesman from Cox Cable, said the company intends to restore cable parishwide by Friday.

The restoration process has been slowed by additional outages caused by Hurricane Rita, Sawyer said. Also, garbage trucks have caused problems, disrupting connections that had been fixed, he said.

Sawyer said that Cox would not bill St. Charles Parish residents for the charges incurred during the month of September. Those that choose the easy-pay option, which automatically deducts money from customers’ accounts, will not be debited for the month, he said.

Red Cross to open Kenner center

7:07 p.m.

By Mary Swerczek
Kenner bureau

The American Red Cross plans Wednesday to open a drive-through relief center in Kenner where disaster victims may sign up for money.

Hurricane victims will receive applications to fill out in their vehicles at the center, which is to be set up in an employee parking lot at Louis Armstrong International Airport, City Hall spokeswoman Karen Boudrie said.

People are asked to take two forms of identification, such as a driver’s license and a utility bill. Parents may take Social Security cards or another identification for their children, because aid is based on the number of relatives in a household, Red Cross spokesman Ken Williams said.

The center will be open Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and others days until the need subsides, Williams said.

Red Cross officials can only see 1,000 cars per day at the center, and additional cars will be turned away, Boudrie said. However, more than one household may arrive in one car, Williams said.

No meals will be served at the center, so people should take drinks and snacks in anticipation of a wait, Boudrie said.

“Please bring some things for you and your family to eat,” she said.

To reach the center, persons westbound on Airline Drive should pass the airport’s main entrance and turn right at the next traffic light, before the railroad overpass. Persons eastbound on Airline from the St. Rose area should come down the overpass and turn left at the light, before the airport’s main entrance.

The street is called Service Road B. It is not marked with a street sign but is to have Red Cross signs noting its location.

Suspended CAO had backing of Kenner mayor in relief operation

7:05 p.m.

By Mary Swerczek
Kenner bureau

Kenner’s suspended chief administrative officer, Cedric Floyd, who is accused in a criminal complaint of hoarding hurricane relief goods at his house, had the backing of Mayor Phil Capitano “to distribute food and supplies at any time and at any location,” according to a Capitano affidavit obtained Monday by The Times-Picayune.

The document, dated Wednesday, appears to provide Floyd some official cover for activities that the Police Department considers to be a crime.

Police booked Floyd on Sept. 23 with malfeasance in office after officers searched his house and found truckloads of new clothing, tools and cases of food and medicine. Police said Floyd had diverted the supplies from a city-sponsored distribution center for Hurricane Katrina victims.

Floyd said he was storing the goods to give them to Mark Mitchell, pastor of New Hope Community Church. Both men said they had been planning to meet up so Mitchell could pick up the supplies.

Capitano’s affidavit says Floyd managed the distribution center at 2500 Williams Boulevard but “had the authority to distribute foods and supplies at any time and at any location.”

“We asked him if he would to try and get as much of that stuff to the different churches as we could,” Capitano said Monday. “We wanted him to move those supplies to the churches. We figured that by putting it at the churches, it would bring it closer to where people were.”

Nonetheless, after police searched Floyd’s house, Capitano placed him on leave without pay until the charge is resolved in court.

“We’ve suspended him, and until the justice system runs its course he will be suspended,” Capitano said.

Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick Jr. said his office hasn’t received a formal report from the Police Department so he wouldn’t comment on the affidavit.

Capt. Steve Caraway, a Police Department spokesman, said he would not comment on the affidavit because he hasn’t seen it. He said the Police Department hasn’t finished the investigation because members have not yet interviewed Capitano.

“We’ve been trying to meet with the mayor since last week,” Caraway said.

Floyd would not comment on the case, and his attorney could not be reached.

For two more public school systems, five-week hurricane hiatus ends

7 p.m.

By Rob Nelson
and Mark Waller
Staff writers

Two more Louisiana public school systems, one its top performing system and the other one of its largest, returned to the classroom from the five-week hurricane hiatus Monday to find some former students missing and some new ones in their places.

St. Tammany Parish schools, the highest-ranked public system in the state, had no attendance total but said they registered registered almost 1,800 new students whom Hurricane Katrina displaced from heavily damaged schools elsewhere. That's an increase of 5 percent from St. Tammany's pre-Katrina enrollment of about 37,000.

Jefferson Parish, Louisiana's second largest school system by enrollment after still-closed Orleans, reported almost 30,000 students, less than two thirds its former student population of 51,000. Jefferson officials did not know just how many registered from other systems, but they said they expect overall enrollment to climb quickly in the coming weeks, as more local familes return home from hurricanes Katrina or Rita evacuations and more families from devastated Orleans, St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes move to Jefferson.

Educators worked hard to make the transition a smooth one.

Inside a sunlight hallway of George Cox Elementary School in Gretna, a bulletin board reads, "Katrina, Katrina, go away. Come and learn today." Filled with color pictures of Katrina’s destructive toll on the building - shattered windows, uprooted trees and soaked classrooms - the board serves as a message of hope for the children now cruising the halls of the cleaned and largely repaired school, Principal Scott Steckler said.

"This is a metaphor for life for the children," he said.

Indeed, waves of recovery, normalcy and hope swept through Jefferson Parish public schools for the first time since Katrina scattered families across the country, shuttered the schools and tossed the system's finances and enrollment into uncertainty.

Jefferson is the largest school system in the New Orleans region to swing open its doors in the storm’s aftermath, progress that parish leaders say bodes well for the Jefferson’s overall recovery. Substantiating school leaders' hopes that Jefferson will become an educational refuge for students throughout the region, they said hundreds of Monday's students were new pupils from Orleans, St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes.

One was fifth grader Raja Harrison, who formerly attended Martin Behrman Elementary in Algiers. Sitting on a couch in Steckler's office, she laughed and giggled as she talked warmly about her new school.

"I'm excited to be back at schools because I love school," the 10-year-old said, lamenting only the school-provided free lunch. "I was kind of scared that I would not meet any friends, but it’s been good so far, except for the lasagna."

The reaction wasn’t quite as cozy from Brione Williams, a new freshman at John Ehret High School in Marrero, who had started the 2005-06 year in August at John F. Kennedy High School in New Orleans.

“It makes me nervous, meeting new friends,” said Williams, a shy girl whose voice barely topped a whisper while sitting in line to have her picture taken for a school identification. When asked what she missed about Kennedy, she demurely replied, “Everything.”

Seventy-six of Jefferson’s 79 schools that opened reported a total of 27,122 returning students.

“I think this is a very fluid situation,” said Patricia Mendoza, principal of Terrytown Elementary School, which was too damaged to open and is sharing the campus of Geraldine Boudreaux Elementary School. “Every month will bring something different.”

Three other conventional elementary schools in Jefferson remain closed because of damage and are also sharing campuses with functional schools.

In St. Tammany, classes resumed at all but four schools damaged by Katrina: Salmen High, St. Tammany Junior High, Brock Elementary and Slidell Pathways, all in Slidell. Those students either will platoon at other schools in the area or, in the case of Brock, attend classes alongside children at another elementary school.

At Ehret, the state’s largest high school before the storm with about 2,600 students, about 50 percent of students returned -- much to the delight of Principals Clothilde Cobert.

“I was excited to just see the kids get of the bus,” said Colbert, praising the system’s efforts to resume operation quickly. “When the schools open, it helps the whole community recover.”

The homecoming had a party feel at Airline Park Elementary School in Metairie. The day started there with an assembly that featured a reading from a storybook about a character that survived a hurricane, a slideshow set to Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” with pictures of New Orleans area landmarks and a second-line out of the cafeteria to return to class, complete with teachers draping beads around children’s necks.

“I missed all my friends,” said 10-year-old Brandan Dugan, an Airline student. “I only had a sister to play with. She’s 7. It’s better to play with friends.”

Students there also took part in the classic assignment of writing essays about their “vacation” from school.

“My family and I went to nine different states,” wrote a fifth-grade boy. “I can’t wait to go home in my own bed,” a second-grade boy scrawled.

Despite some busing-related glitches, Superintendent Diane Roussel said the reopening went smoothly and is a pivotal step in the region’s recovery because it lets thousands of parents return and tend to their homes and businesses.

“I’m encouraged,” she said about system’s post-Katrina debut. “It’s looking really good. I thought everybody put forth maximum effort.”

Jefferson’s system’s reopening, the feel of which closely resembled the traditional first day of school students experienced exactly a week before Katrina struck, attracted news media attention from around the country. National and local organizations, including CNN, MSNBC and CBS News, bombarded Roussel and classrooms at Airline Park.

The attention seemed welcomed by principals, relieved and encouraged by the return to work.

“Good schools will bring people back in a heartbeat,” Estelle Elementary School Principal Jackie Daniillidis said.

Registering her second-grade son at Estelle after weeks in Atlanta, Natasha Williams, whose Gretna house was destroyed, said her son was itching to get back to the books. Williams called Jefferson’s reopening “a blessing.”

“They helped me with my son, and he’s happy,” she said.

For Steckler, the hugs from returning Cox students that made his day.

“I couldn’t wait for this day, and I now I know why,” he said. “Today, I escaped Katrina.”

Michoud plant stirs to life

By Keith Darcé
Business writer

The space craft plant in eastern New Orleans crawled to life Monday as a space shuttle external fuel tank slowly rolled from the barge that carried it from Florida to a building at the Michoud Assembly Facility, where workers will begin preparing it for the next shuttle flight.

The moment marked a milestone in the National Aeronautics and Space Agency plant that employed about 2,000 workers before Hurricane Katrina and supplied the largest number of high-technology jobs in the city.

"That’s very encouraging," said Tommy Kurtz, senior vice president of Greater New Orleans Inc., the region’s economic development organization. "It shows that even in an actual catastrophe, a large plant can be up and running again," he said.

With many businesses in the region struggling to reopen in the wake of Katrina, major manufacturers such as Michoud are quickly becoming the backbone of the area’s economic recovery.

The tank left NASA’s Kennedy Space Center six weeks ago on the barge but was quickly anchored to avoid what was then Tropical Storm Katrina which had formed off Florida’s central Atlantic coast.

The five-day trip around the tip of Florida and across the eastern Gulf of Mexico was further delayed as Katrina made a beeline for the central gulf coast. The tank finally arrived at Michoud on Sunday.

NASA’s investigation into nagging problems with tank foam insulation has been on hold for nearly a month because of Katrina and damage caused by the storm at Michoud.

The shuttle fleet has been grounded since July when foam once again broke from a tank after lift off. The same problem contributed to the shuttle Columbia's destruction more than two and a half years ago.

Now that the tank has been delivered, engineers with NASA and Michoud's operator, Lockheed Martin Space Systems, will begin dissecting sections of foam from areas on the tank that broke free during the last shuttle flight in July. Eventually, sections of the tank's foam will be re-designed and the tank will possibly be used for the next shuttle launch, which likely won't occur before May.

Meanwhile, many repairs are to be made at the Michoud plant. About 15 gaping holes dot the Vertical Assembly Building where tanks are stood on end. Pieces of the building's concrete roof collapsed during the storm and fell onto a shuttle tank being held in one of its bays. Engineers will x-ray that tank to determine if it sustained structural damage.

Other buildings sustained similar roof damage, including Building 118 where tanks go for final work before being delivered. Water poured through holes in
that building onto a tank lying horizontal. Workers vacuumed the water away from the tank's insulation foam exterior after the storm.

So far, only about 400 Michoud workers have returned to the plant, split evenly among production workers and office staff, said Mike Javery, vice president of operations for Lockheed and head of the plant’s storm
recovery program.

An additional 200 Michoud engineers are working at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Javery said.

Nearly half of the plant's work force could be back on duty in New Orleans by early November, he said.

But Michoud remains months away from returning to anything resembling normalcy. To reach that point, Javery said, utility and city services in hard-hit eastern New Orleans will have to be fully restored. And that won't be easy, given the damage sustained by the area's infrastructure.

In the meantime, Lockheed Martin and NASA are looking for ways to restore at least partial services to the plant. One possibility is drilling a water well on the
site, Javery said.

Housing for workers is another major barrier, as it is for many other companies in the region. NASA is trying to secure large passenger ferries normally used by the military that would be docked along the Intercoastal Waterway on the backside of the plant and serve as temporary housing for as many as 900 workers, excluding their families, Javery said.

Another option being explored with the Federal Emergency Management Agency officials is erecting temporary trailer cities for hundreds of Michoud workers on both sides of Lake Pontchartrain, he said.

Not everyone will return to Michoud, Javery said. He estimated that about half of Michoud workers either lost their homes in the New Orleans area or won't be able to reoccupy them anytime soon.

Some workers already have found employment at other Lockheed facilities in Dallas and Marietta, Ga., while others have resettled in other cities where they have enrolled children in local schools and found places to live, he said.

Workers who return likely will face less pressure to meet production schedules and more flexibility for dealing with personal problems brought on by Katrina, Javery said.

"The wrong thing to do right now would be to push employees," he said. "You have to believe in teamwork. (Managers) have to serve more in a coaching role than we did in the past.

"There will be days when an employee has to be home with his family to meet adjusters or see a doctor, and we will have to understand that," he said.

Keith Darcé can be reached at kdarce@yahoo.com.

Killona man shot outside bar

Monday, Oct. 3 5 p.m.

By Jenny Hurwitz
River Parishes bureau

A 26-year-old Killona man remained hospitalized in good condition on Monday after St. Charles Parish authorities say he was shot in the back of the head early Saturday morning, in the parking lot of Stipe’s Bar in Killona.

Authorities say Anthony White was outside the bar at about 2:31 a.m. when two men drove up beside him in a car and one of them got out and fired a single shot at White’s head, said St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s spokesman Capt. Pat Yoes.

Authorities said the man used a handgun of unknown caliber; afterwards, he fled and the driver fled the scene in the car.

Two men have been booked in connection to the incident, Yoes said. The first, Andre Demone Stipe, 38, 698 Killona Drive, was booked with attempted murder and two counts of aggravated criminal damage.

The second, Davin LaBranch, 27, 139 Hahn St., Hahnville, was booked as an accessory to attempted murder.

Yoes could not explain the relationship between the men or speculate on the motive behind the shooting.

White was transported to West Jefferson Hospital, in Marrero authorities said. As of Monday afternoon, he was expected to make a full recovery, Yoes said.

LaBranch was arrested Saturday after officials found his vehicle, a gray, 1986 Oldsmobile Cutlass, parked at his Hahnville home, Yoes said. Stipe turned himself in to the police Sunday afternoon, he said.

Both are being held at the Nelson Coleman Correctional Center in Killona, in lieu of bonds set by District Court Judge Robert Chaisson. Stipe’s bond was set at $200,000, while LaBranch’s was set at $100,000, Yoes said.

Attention, bad drivers: Traffic court back in session in Jefferson Parish

5:17 p.m.

By Matt Scallan
East Jefferson bureau

In what surely is an unwelcome sign of normalcy for some, traffic court in Jefferson Parish is back in business.

First and Second Parish courts opened Monday for the first time in five weeks, and court officials urged drivers who missed court dates because of Hurricane Katrina and Rita evacuations to stop by to resolve pending cases.

"We're asking people to just come in, or if they can't come in to call us," Judge Rebecca Olivier of First Parish Court said.

Even people with outstanding warrants won't be arrested if they try to resolve their issues, said Judge Stephen Gefer of Second Parish Court.

"We've instructed our staff to work with people," he said. "We want to help anyone who is trying to do the right thing."

The district attorney's office has assigned assistants to stay in court all day to handle traffic matters, unlike the normal routine in which traffic is limited to the evening schedule.

Parish courts handle traffic and misdemeanor cases, which include first- and second-offense drunken driving, shoplifting and battery cases, as well as small civil matters.

The buildings that house First Parish Court in Metairie and Second Parish Court in Gretna suffered some storm damage. But no information in the computer systems has been lost, court administrators said.

More than 30 people waited in line at Second Parish Court on Monday. Gilbert Higgerson of Bridge City, who hoped to deal with a citation for running a stop sign, leaned against a column in the building's lobby near a sign that said "Contempt Department." He wore an expression that said he wished he were somewhere else.

"It looks like everybody went to lunch at the same time," he grumbled. "They should let them go in shifts."

Still, traffic was light in both courts. Grefer said no more of the 10 of the 120 people scheduled for Monday's docket showed up.

"That's not really surprising, given the number of people who have evacuated," he said.

Under normal circumstances, arrest warrants would be issued for the no-shows. But considering the havoc wreaked by two hurricanes, Grefer said the court is being more flexible. First Parish Court Administrator Bea Parisi said her staff re-programmed the court's computers to eliminate its normal commands to sic law enforcement agencies on no-shows.

"There are procedures in place, but we're overriding some of that because of the circumstances," she said.

That doesn't mean that the court will be so understanding forever, Olivier said.

"Anyone has a case before us really needs to come in as soon as they can," she said.

WTC hotel deal may be delayed

5 p.m., Monday

By Greg Thomas
Real estate writer

Hurricane Katrina dealt a serious blow to long-stalled plans to convert part of the World Trade Center building at the foot of Canal Street into a hotel.

The storm blew out nearly 200 windows, turning the offices that were left exposed “upside down,” said Richard Allen, managing administrator of the World Trade Center of New Orleans, Inc., the non profit trade organization that built the 33-story structure. The storm also destroyed lounges on the building’s 31st and 33rd floors, but the building sustained surprisingly little moisture intrusion.

Damage to the World Trade Center isn’t the only hurdle faced by developers of the proposed 563-room, $190 million Westin Hotel, who are doing business as WTC Development LP. In the wake of the massive storm, Lane Sisung, son of lead developer Larry Sisung, wonders whether or not there will still be a market for hotel rooms in New Orleans.
Sisung said that John Keeling of PKF Consulting in Houston, the consultant on the project, will have to re-evaluate the project’s projected occupancy and room rates.

Furthermore, uncertainty about the local market raises questions about whether financing for the project – which was almost lined up before the storm – will still move forward.

“Financing was going excellent,” Sisung said. “We had it lined up and now this.”
But Sisung said the development team is not giving up on pursuing conventional financing.

“We’re in the same position as everyone else in other Downtown development projects,” Sisung said. It will probably take months before a plan for the project is put together.

“I don’t think anyone is going to know what to do until the city reopens,” he said. “This is just another punch thrown at the project … and we’ll just keep on fighting,” Sisung said.

The hotel project, first announced in 1998, has faced a series of setbacks. An earlier round of private financing for the project fell apart in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. And in June, the Louisiana Supreme Court found that a controversial tax-increment financing plan behind the project was unconstitutional.

Allen said that the WTC board of directors will try to meet Thursday to determine whether to use insurance money to repair the building or to simply use the building as an investment by giving it to developers with expectations of repayment once and if the hotel is ever completed. The trade group is already owed nearly $5 million by developers for pre-hotel construction costs.

Meanwhile Ray Wooldridge, former part-owner of the NBA New Orleans Hornets, was unavailable for comment on whether or not he will rebuild the two nightclubs he operates in the building. Katrina’s winds blew out every window in Attitude 33, the 33rd-floor lounge Wooldridge recently refurbished. The storm also destroyed Ray’s on the River, the 31st floor jazz club Wooldridge’s company – Big Play Entertainment LLC - spent $3.8 million creating. Wooldridge has also expressed interest in becoming a player in the development of the hotel, an infusion of equity that would be welcomed under the right circumstances, developers have said.

St. Bernard mail available at Covington Post Office

St. Bernard Parish residents trying to get mail that could not be delivered because of Hurricane Katrina can now pick it up at the Covington Post Office, parish officials said.

Parish spokesman Steve Cannizaro said the Covington office has all mail for residential and business addresses in St. Bernard.

St. Bernard sesidents displaced by Katrina can file a change of address request at any post office or by calling the United States Postal Service at (800) 275-8777, or completing a change of address form at the service's Web site: www.usps.com.

Death toll now at 964

October 3, 2005: Updated Number of Deceased Victims Recovered Following
Hurricane Katrina

• At this time, state officials, working in conjunction with coroners
from local parishes, have recovered 964 bodies. This is an increase from
929 recovered bodies on Sept. 30.

• These numbers have been reported to state officials by local
coroners. A breakdown is as follows:

775 are at the morgue in St. Gabriel

Parish Coroners:

Ascension – 9
Assumption – 2
East Baton Rouge – 72
Iberia – 6
Jefferson – 30
Lafourche – 2
Livingston – 5
Plaquemines – 3
St. Charles – 8
St. Tammany – 7
Tangipahoa – 26
Terrebonne – 16
West Baton Rouge – 3

ASK FEMA #3

This is the third in a series of columns answering commonly asked disaster recovery questions. Additional “Ask FEMA” columns will be released weekly as the response and recovery effort continues.

Q. I called yesterday and completed a registration. When I called today, I was told my application is not in the system. Do I need to register again?

A. No. If you have already registered you do not need to register again. Please wait 48 hours for your registration to be available in the system. Also, you will receive additional information in the mail regarding your application, along with additional referral information for your area. Completing multiple registrations may actually delay processing and receipt of assistance.

Q. I applied online through the www.fema.gov Web site. When I went to check my status, my information was not available. Do I need to register again?

A. No. Due to the large numbers of affected individuals, it may take up to 24 hours for your information to show in the system. If it has been more than 24 hours did have not received a Personal Identification Number (PIN #) in your e-mail Inbox, call FEMA’s Helpline to ensure we have your correct email address.

Q. I called to update my application and was told by the FEMA Rep that my application was in the incomplete file. Why was my application not completed when I initially registered?

A. Incomplete applications occur when critical information, such as your social security number or contact number, is missing. Once all critical information is entered into our system, the application should be complete.

Q. Does it take longer for my FEMA application to process if I apply online?

A. No. All completed registrations will be processed as received. However, 24 hours after registration you should be able to access the online application without delay. At times it is difficult to get through to our 800 # when call volume is high.

Q. I have damages from Hurricane Katrina and would like to register for assistance. When I called to register I was told that I needed to have a Social Security Number. Can I get assistance without having a Social Security number?

A. A social security number is required to receive disaster assistance. A household may register for assistance using the social security number of any household member provided they were part of the household at the time of the disaster, including that of a minor.

Art for Art's Sake goes on

By David Cuthbert
Staff writer

Art for Art's Sake ushers in the New Orleans visual arts scene with a celebratory event: gallery-hopping on a grand scale by limo, town car or shank's mare, dressed to the nines, or at least the eights, sipping wine, being seen being seen and oh, yes - coolly appraising the latest in nouveau virtuosity and occasionally even buying a piece of art.

Alas, a whirlwind assault from Hurricane Katrina dampened the party almost out of existence.

But last Saturday at Barrister's Gallery on Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., owner Andy Antippas determined that Art for Art's Sake would live, if only in a mid-morning-to-dusk showcase-reception. The attractions included a major exhibit by Sallie Ann Glassman on one side of the space and on the other a group show of self-declared mentally ill artists.

Antippas isn't sure how many people showed up for his one-day event, which usually includes coordinated gallery openings centered on Julia and Magazine Streets.

"I never keep track of things like that; I think about 90," he said. "But the good thing was that it wasn't just a symbolic gesture. Everyone was grateful that we did it. It gave the art community something other to do than just hunker down depressed on a Saturday afternoon. It was all artists and people who love art.

Attendees were a shabby chic, beer-and-water crowd; more Toyota than town car. For glamour, there was Pres Kabakoff, Don Marshall, Kathy Randels in a cowboy hat and slick Nick Slie of Mondo Bizarro. Stage species -- Julie Condy and Jose Torres Tama - mixed with arty types such as Alan Gerson and Myrtle van Demitz. Trisha Moss, Antippas' squeeze, hosted the shebang with affable elan and it was an eclectic, mellow mix.

Except for Katrina, who had the gall to show up in several canvases.

Two were by Glassman, one a rural scene of a country road and small, fragile, weathered buildings dominated by an angry sky in shades of darkening blue storm clouds. Adjacent to this was the powerful "Hurricane Season," a New Orleans cityscape in which the sky appears on fire in an unexpectedly furious mix of black, yellow and ochre. (This was the most recent Glassman work, painted to accompany an Art in America magazine article she had written.)

"Fleeing the Tempest," by Marthe Itten Bach showed the devilish face of a storm, a mad Prospero whipping up sky and sea as birds above and dolphins below attempt to escape nature's upheaval.

A water damage interpretation was suggested by Natalie Gaidry's "Fallen Angels," in which multiple mattresses lie in a heap, as if thrown out on a street corner. Elsewhere, Gaidry uses a variety of bright colors in her abstract, inviting "Business Cards," "Bowls with Salad Forks" and "Bathroom Shelves."

The accomplished Glassman, whose variety of styles and contrasting sense of color encompass stylized, detailed swamp scenes ("Wetland Sunset") the spiritual ("Oracle at Delphi"), strikingly bold, Lautrec-like pastel portraits of eccentrics and "Lobo's Got Soul," in which her dog is depicted with its head half realistic, half other-worldly, with angel wings against a backdrop of iridescent, circular peacock feather patterns.

Kenny Champagne's lineup of vacant-eyed Holocaust victims and another of Vietnam vets are haunting, drawing you in to study each face.

Two paintings by William A, Kelly are extraordinarily intricate. "Early Autumn by a Stream" encompasses a cottage, trees, foliage, with each blossom rendered with obsessive, pointillist precision. This work also has a maze-like puzzle quality that fascinates, as if it holds a secret.
"Daydreaming by the Calladiums" is a portrait of actress Estella Warren, her features, especially the lips and stylized strands of hair becoming objects of veneration. Based on a photograph, Kelly re-set the image against a stone background and steps, also rendered with great care and beauty.
For sheer fun, Gus Fink's "Family Portraits" are demonic defacements, taking his - or someone's - venerable family images, serious, formally posed portraits and turning them into monstrous creations that make "The Addams Family" look like the Cleaver clan.

Antippas plans to keep regular gallery hours, hoping to witness the art scene's revival. On Saturday, he saw a glimmer of hope.

"Hey! We even made three sales, with a couple more pending," he said.