Notes from the Field: New Orleans

Posted on: December 12th, 2007 by Walter Gallas 3 Comments

With last week’s report that the demolition of four public housing developments—B. W. Cooper, Lafitte, C. J. Peete and St. Bernard—could begin on December 15, the temperature rose this week among groups trying to delay or even stop the demolitions. I joined a diverse group of ministers, community members, activists and public housing residents at a meeting of the City Council, where we were allowed to address the Council even though the demolitions were not on the agenda. My remarks to the Council pointed out that there had been no meaningful consideration of alternatives in the federally mandated consultation process with HUD and the Housing Authority of New Orleans about the redevelopment plans.

Unfortunately, any good will that the group might have gained from the Council was lost when a number of group members refused to disband after our time was up and tied up the chambers with chats of “No demolition!” until police came to break things up.

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3 Responses

  1. Matthew

    December 12, 2007

    New orleans is full of truly historic buildings, I do not consider any building built in the 20th century to be historic. Please stop coming down here all you are doing is stalling our recovery.

    The projects need to come down, they are a sign of failed policy of decades of politicians. We can do better for our poor.

  2. New Orleans News Ladder

    December 12, 2007

    First, Mathew, the next person to say that they own the poor gets my foot in their disposition. By doing good for “your poor” do you refer to the Desire project that was torn down and replaced with cheaper, flimsy and down right corrupt buildings that were eviscerated by the hurricane, unlike the housing projects slated for demolition? Or, are you talking about the beautiful historic Walmart that sits on top of nearly 10 acres of asphalt where the vintage St Thomas projects used to, thus forcing the relocation of those residents to the other housing projects? I will not even address your bourgeois naivety regarding what constitutes “historic” architecture, as two of the projects in question are on the National Historic Register. Instead I will leave it to you to learn which ones since learning about historic places is such fun these days. I recommend it, as soon as possible, because they are vanishing all over the country to Walmarts and other ugly greedy, cheap and shoddy modern real estate development.

    Which brings me to Mr Gallas salient point: there was no discussion of alternatives to redevelopment of these apartments. Nothing about refurbishing, no redress for those who held leases among the 85% paid-up tenants. They were not even allowed to retrieve their belongings. I applaud Mr. Gallas for speaking up. I also applaud those who spoke out at the end of the meeting. This cannot stand. It is perfectly alright for people in this situation to refuse to assume the position. The time is now.
    We do not live in the former Soviet Union. This is not China. Americans care about each other.
    The very city that failed us during the flood has no inherent right to evict the survivors with yet another man-made destruction disaster. Our city was crucified and left to die once. I see no gain from doing it again.
    I am gratified that the Preservationist were on hand to monitor and inform the scene. I also regret that the residents have no other recourse. What other redress do these people have to return to their lives in New Orleans? You want to put them in camps like Renaissance Village? Walk them across the bridge into the loving arms of the Gretna police dept? Put them on barges bound for Africa? What?

  3. Rob

    December 18, 2007

    This issue has drawn nothing but overly emotional responses. It has attracted uninformed Hollywood types and sad politicians in search of more exposure. This issue/project has and will continue to burn millions of dollars, all for naught. House’s and neighborhoods were built where they should never had been. To try to rebuild or restore is total nonsense. If a house is worthy of restoration, it should be relocated. The neighborhoods in question were slums or boderline. Start hauling in millions of yards of fill, (of course after the millions are spent on the needed studys), and when the grade has been raised, and when reflooding can’t recur,then perhaps some rebuilding can begin. Sorry…it’s time to look at the facts. This is not a racial issue, a Hollywood PR scam, or a leg up for some failed politician. Looks like New Orleans is going to have itself a bunch of new parks.