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Spat Escalates Between Mayor, Friends Of Park

An advocacy group for Armstrong Park racheted up its criticism of a plan to renovate the park, and City Hall characterized the effort as misguided.
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WDSU .com

The group "Friends of Armstrong Park" fired a second salvo at a City Hall plan to spend $1 million on park improvements, claiming the money pegged for the project comes from a "quasi-public" fund.

The Mayor's Office took immediate issue with the claim and restated that the effort would receive "100 percent private funding."

Friends of Armstrong Park based its new claims on an assessment of something called the "Wisner Fund." The fund is named for Edward Wisner, who made a fortune in the early 20th century buying Louisiana land, making improvements, then reselling it.

His estate has helped fund various cultural programs in New Orleans.

Friends of Armstrong Park launched a criticism of plans to use money from the Wisner Fund for the purchase of custom-ordered sculptures for the park. The group insinuated that the source of the funding had been kept secret.

"Only the Mayor can make requests for funds and the money has to go to non-profit groups in the city," the organization said Monday.

A spokesperson for Mayor Ray Nagin took issue with the charges, asserting that "nothing was hidden."

In a statement, Nagin's office repeated its assertion that no tax dollars are being used for the project, and excerpted from the mayor's spring State of the City Address that publically touted the plan to enshrine local legends like "Tootie" Montana, Mahalia Jackson and Jelly Roll Morton at Armstrong Park.

The statues would be part of a cultural sculpture garden that tells the story of New Orleans' artistic past.

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