NEW ORLEANS — Some New Orleans residents and city officials are pushing back against tour operators who bus out-of-towners into the city’s Lower Ninth Ward, where Hurricane Katrina unleashed a wall of water that pushed homes off foundations and stranded residents on rooftops when the levees failed.
About 9 million people visit New Orleans each year, mostly to see its stately homes along oak-lined avenues, dine at its renowned restaurants, and take in the jazz and ribaldry of Bourbon Street.
But Katrina’s devastation in August 2005 unleashed an unexpected cottage tourism industry, drawing a daily parade of rubbernecking tourists for a close-up look at the city’s hard-hit Lower Ninth Ward.
Worried that a flood of tour buses and vans would interfere with clean-up efforts, the City Council approved an ordinance in 2006 banning them from crossing the prominent Industrial Canal entering the neighborhood that received Katrina’s fury.
Now, tour operators are crying foul, saying the ordinance had been thinly enforced until recently.
‘After all the suffering we have been through, we deserve more respect than this.’
They contend that a business bringing them and the city tourist dollars is being hurt.
‘‘I can’t afford to keep paying tickets,’’ said David Lee Ducote, owner of Southern Style Tours.
As the Lower Ninth Ward slowly rebuilds — vacant lots still attest to where homes once stood — visitor interest has also been piqued by housing built by actor Brad Pitt and his Make It Right foundation.
Councilman Ernest Charbonnet, who represents the neighborhood, said residents complain that the tour vehicles block streets and damage roads. They also are weary of being gawked at.
Charbonnet said city officials didn’t enforce the ordinance unless someone filed a formal complaint, an infrequent occurrence as a daily parade of buses, vans, and shuttles packed with camera-wielding tourists trouped by the Pitt houses and the home of rock ‘n roll legend Fats Domino.
That changed in recent weeks when complaints prompted officials to stop and fine operators.
‘‘We’re fed up and tired of them coming through the neighborhood like we’re some sideshow,’’ said Vanessa Gueringer, a lifelong resident.
‘‘After all the suffering we have been through, we deserve more respect than this,’’ she said. ‘‘We don’t need those big buses coming through here tearing it up.’’
Lynn Wolken, a guide who belongs to the Tour Guides Association of Greater New Orleans, said many fellow guides were not aware of the ordinance or knew it existed but was not being enforced.
Yet she said no warning had been issued from the city’s Taxicab Bureau, which regulates tour companies.
‘‘A warning would have been nice,’’ she said.
She noted that about 30 companies ply the neighborhood, charging tourists about $25 apiece.