Tuesday, November 18, 2008

New Orleans East and the Master Plan

There have been a couple of interesting articles about the new master plan and the future of New Orleans East over the last week.

From City Business:

The days before the master plan charter change amendment appeared on the Nov. 4 ballot were marked by opposition from black community and neighborhood leaders who feared giving legal license to a land use vision that could ostensibly plan low-lying neighborhoods out of existence.

While television ads and dozens of “Vote No” signs at key intersections in eastern New Orleans, Gentilly and the 9th Ward failed to produce enough voters to defeat the widely supported measure, the campaign succeeded in hitting a delicate public nerve, reopening a conversation about the role race and class play in the development of the city.

“They talked about ‘green-dotting’ neighborhoods and really hit this spot of mistrust, fear, anger and disappointment,” said Pam Dasheill, director of the Lower 9th Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development and an advocate of the master plan process.

I don't think the lingering trauma related to the green dot map can be overstated. People try to pretend like that effort didn't happen but it did. The power players behind it are still big time power players. The inability to heal those wounds has been one of the biggest factors complicating efforts to build biracial progressive coalitions.

That is why it is so understandable that the heart of the opposition to the master plan charter change came from the Lower Ninth Ward and New Orleans East. The very existence of those communities was put in doubt under the BNOB plan. Since then, Mayor Nagin's recovery ideology and the larger edict that neighborhoods must prove their 'viability' instead of their need, have combined to compound the frustration and distrust in these communities.

So for me, the misgivings that many had about the charter change and the whole concept of planning in general are entirely understandable.

Yet, when I think about New Orleans East in the future, I don't exactly envision a series of sustainable communities. Instead, I see miles and miles of neighborhoods suffering from lack of social services, private investment, and public development. That's the direction it's been heading in, at least. I certainly don't see the area regaining substantive political clout given the current pace of repopulation.

For New Orleans East to be sustainable, doesn't it need a master plan more than anywhere else?

Michelle Krupa's article on Saturday was a great read.

Strident remarks in recent days by Councilwoman Cynthia Willard-Lewis, who represents most of the eastern part of the city, have given voice to racially charged suspicions that city leaders might not embrace the area's complete redevelopment. And those suspicions have been stoked by citywide voters' approval of a City Charter amendment that will give a master plan for land use, one not yet complete, the force of law.

Cynthia Willard-Lewis' position is curious to me. She has consistently and vocally complained about the lack of recovery projects in the East and the failure of her ally, the Mayor to provide the resources necessary to help it rebuild. Yet must vote with the Mayor's agenda close to a million percent of the time. I wonder what kind of political leverage she expects to get moving forward that would allow her to transform her district. I'd like to know Councilwoman Willard-Lewis vision for fixing New Orleans East. I don't mean that in a sarcastic or snarky way. I think it would be helpful for her to articulate how we could get a full recovery for her district. What would it look like and how do we get there?

There are 60,000 some people in the East today. There's no turning back.

They really need a plan, right?

Doesn't New Orleans East really need a high density mixed use urban main street? How else does CWL expect to get that?

From the end of the Krupa article:

Nabonne said that with the passage of the master plan amendment, his focus has shifted to another line of defense: "Now, we have to have full and meaningful participation."

That's so true.

New Orleans East needs this process to work. They need a plan.


Civitch said...

While I understand the legitimate concerns of those who were truly worried about the green dot issue, I don't understand the race-baiting language used by the leaders of the opposition, including CWL and Dr. Sanyika. I also wonder who funded the last-minute anti-charter change campaign, which probably cost around 25k. The group has still not filed a financial disclosure, which is always a red flag. Eventually, though, we'll find out who paid, and I doubt it will be fearful NOLA East residents.

jeffrey said...

All of this begs the quetion, how were these communities developed in the first place if no such plan-law existed previously?

One of the many things I'm concerned about regarding the master plan is its effect on the quality of life New Orleans residents have been accustomed to over the years.

At the recent District 2 public meeting, attendees were asked by the condescending planning assholes to prioritize a list of generic terms they would like to see in their neighborhoods. Attendees were asked, for example, if they would like more "safety". They weren't told what their request for more "safety" might translate into in the professionally planned new New Orleans. Does it mean more fire stations? Better lighting? Strict enforcement of vagrancy laws? 6PM curfew? Who the fuck knows? The planners aren't listening.

At one point one of the facilitators asked an attendee what kind of business he might like to live near of next to. The man, quite honestly, answered, "a bar." The facilitator looked confused for a moment then chuckled as though this was a joke or something.

These people we are paying tons of money to impose their design on us don't understand us and don't care to.

Why are we tolerating this at all?

Clifton said...

I put this on my blog before the election and I will repeat it here. I don't see how anyone who has any knowledge of the history of this city could have voted yes unless they were in a position where the new master plan did not affect them. I have tried to look as objectively as possible at everything since Katrina and I feel comfortable saying that I haven't seen many if anything that has shown me anyone in leadership has a total vision for all residents of the city. That statement is regardless of color.

What has gone right thus far to think this will? If this plan isn't done right it's going to divide this city for at least the next 20 years and ensure there will never be an election not based on race.

E said...

We'll have a chance to vote on what results from this latest effort. There's no chance in hell I'll be voting for a plan that hasn't earned the support of the East and the 9th Ward. So I hope that the public planning process is credible.

jeffrey said...

The process is not credible.

Civitch said...

@jeffrey - just curious, have you attended any of the meetings?