I am in council chambers, where there are police standing between the audience and the council. A fight broke out as they were trying to begin, and people were hauled off. Outside, officers on horseback are blocking entry to the chamber. We heard that tear gas and tasers were being used against the crowd outside. In the meantime, HUD and the Lafitte developers were able to calmly make their presentations ... It's all very surreal.
In my presentation to the council, my points were:
- There was a limited amount of serious consideration that was given by HUD and HANO to alternatives to demolition during the Section 106 consultation process, and
- The city is going down a "planning by demolition" path in not just this but other aspects of redevelopment.
I called on the Council to demand that the City Planning Commission (as required by the City Charter) step up to the plate to prepare and recommend to the Council plans for the public housing developments. City planning has been notably absent in the whole process.
I also urged the Council to find a middle ground that incorporates retention, remediation, rehabilitation and re-use of the old, with the best of the new. Five buildings of the same vintage from the old St. Thomas developments were rehabbed in 11 months and opened last month.
(Editors note: The New Orleans Times-Picayune is liveblogging the Council hearings, and the information they are posting is fascinating. Please check it out.)