I wanted to take a moment to share the comments I made before the City Council yesterday, which reflect both my and the National Trust for Historic Preservation's position on the planned demolitions in New Orleans.
A few years ago Bill Borah, local preservationist and planner, coined the term “planning by surprise.” It referred to the practice in New Orleans of keeping plans out of the public eye until they are revealed full-blown in the local paper, where citizens learn about the plans for the first time.
Today, I would like to add a new term to the local dialogue in post-Katrina New Orleans—“planning by demolition.”
- We see “planning by demolition” in the city’s response to homeowners whose buildings are cited as imminent health threats. Buildings, many of which are structurally sound, are threatened with demolition.
- We see “planning by demolition” in the state’s and Veterans Administration’s plans to build a new medical complex in a National Register historic district that has been repopulated by homeowners and local institutions like Deutsches Haus.
- We see it in the Recovery School District’s application to demolish Lockett elementary school in the Upper 9th Ward, a community anchor which local neighborhood association members desperately want to retain.
- And now, of course, we see “planning by demolition” in the plans which bring us here again today—the redevelopment of the B. W. Cooper, Lafitte, C. J. Peete, and St. Bernard housing developments.
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