Monday, December 17, 2007

We're Still Not Thinking About This

Okay. So now we're really getting stupid about this. We've got letters coming in from Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. We've got condo threats and FBI and DHS. The Mayor thinks it's "interesting." The Times-Picayune bumped the Saints from the Sunday front cover.

All this because some people think it might be a good idea to reexamine how the affordable housing mechanisms work in this city.

Does this city have an affordable housing crisis?

The tents on Duncan Plaza tell me yes. The reports of 12,000 homeless tell me yes. The reports of rental shortages tell me yes.

HUD and HANO and the developers and the politicians tell me no.

Karen Gadbois
says this:

In a recent Mid City neighborhood survey, the City of New Orleans was found to have a low accuracy rate for FEMA-funded hazard demolitions. Overall,the results of the MCNO survey contrasts greatly with Mayor Nagins claim of 99.9% accuracy. and his pledge that ” no home is demolished improperly”

MCNO undertook a review in August 2007 of properties placed on the demolition list and found a majority of the City’s proposed choices culled from the “Good Neighbor” list ranged from haphazard to absurd. Of the 160 properties surveyed, it found that 79 houses (49 percent) were undeserving of demolition,with situations ranging from renovations in progress to owners who had posted “do not demo” signs on their house,and less damaged homes that had been gutted and secured by owners. Only 18 houses(11%) were identifiably blighted and deserving of demolition asap. An additional 4 addresses (2.5%) were on the City’s public notification list were vacant lots where the properties have already been demolished. The remaining 59 houses (36.9%) fell into an unsure category of houses with moderate damage that needed closer examination.

The demolition and redevelopment plans were in place before Katrina. Some people say that that's the reason it's okay to just go ahead with the demolitions. People are so sick and tired of waiting for the city to "make progress" that they just want to see them do something, people want to their money get spent on something they can see. And the reasons they get seem logical:

"These projects were eyesores"
"These projects were cesspools"
"The redevelopment plans promise sustainable communities"

Wait. Just wait.

Doesn't it make sense to reexamine all of this?

You know what might be an eyesore, a cesspool, and an unsustainable community? The entire city of New Orleans once its reduced to empty lots and blighted homes once the demolition committee is finished tearing down salvageable properties and leaving behind ones that are not.

I give you Gadbois:

So here we are letting market forces do the job, and right now the market force is demolition. Let’s face it, it is easy..not cheap, so a fair number of folks are making a nice profit off it. And it sounds like progress to our Mayor. But it sounds like, looks like and feels like despair to those of us who do not live on Park Island.

Market forces. The economic buffet. Who can eat? Is it the outside agitators coming down here and living out of cars to defend public housing residents? Or is the outside agitators coming down here and showing Ray Nagin power point at the Yacht Club?

We need a plan for this city not just for the projects. Have any of you been to B.W. Cooper recently? What kind of "mixed-income community" do we expect that to look like?

Do they have gates in the budget? Because I don't know many white collar people who will be willing to buy a home or a condo in a neighborhood that looks like what surrounds B.W. Cooper. Not because of the people that live in that neighborhood, but because there really aren't a whole lot of people in that neighborhood. I did see stray dogs having sex and making more stray dogs.

So what are we talking about? Are we really talking about a sustainable urban community when we redevelop this land?

Or are we talking about a subdivision?

HUD and HANO argue that residents of public housing has a lot of input in the redevelopment plans when they were formulated before Katrina. Perhaps I should have highlighted the words 'before' and 'Katrina.' I don't know if anybody else noticed, but the city looks different before and after that thing that we had. We have different needs. New challenges. Our public housing situation outlook has changed. Let's study it before we tear down any more buildings! That's both public housing projects and private homes. Because it looks like we're doing both in an indiscriminate fashion without examining either our long term needs or our short term crises.

So before we go ahead and give away public land and public tax dollars to private developers and private contractors, don't we owe it to ourselves to have some of these questions answered?

Shouldn't we know exactly what we're getting before we sign our names on the dotted lines?

Shouldn't we know what's really going on?

Why can't we cancel these demolitions and come up with a real plan?


Editor B said...

We've got a real plan, or at least the start of one: UNOP. That's the best articulation of community desires we have, and we should honor it.

Unfortunately UNOP seems to be forgotten in all this brouhaha.

Anonymous said... the folks in the tents in Duncan Plaza were really living in the projects before Katrina...