Archive for December, 2007

27
Dec
07

“New” New York

I hear more about the “new” New Orleans these days (sadly, you can believe some of the hype, and not for the right reasons) than any “new” NY, but one need only satisfy one’s Law & Order addiction – as I’m doing as a side project to my PhD – to see how much NYC has changed over the years.  In keeping with the spirit of writing about not too much this week, this post is not a wonkish treatise about urban development and politics.  (I know, I know, you miss my lecturing ways.  Prof. Redstar will be back mid-January, after I shop my screenplay in L.A.  But I digress…)

I’m extemporizing here about my upcoming visit to NYC, which involves four nights of visiting friends in the outer boroughs.  And I’m not talking about the hipsterati in Brooklyn.  Nope, instead, with thirtysomething boyfriend in tow, I will be staying with friends and their families (collectively, three children under the age of five) in the Bronx and Queens.  Saturday night involves a trip downtown for a joint ABD status/birthday dinner with my best girlfriend from college and her husband.  And New Year’s Eve is still shaping up, but the likelihood of me blindly finding my way into a cab between 2 and 4 a.m. is about as high as one of the “lesser-known [presidential] candidates” debating on C-Span right now actually winning the election (someone take the remote away from the M.A.S.). 

Sure, I still have friends who live in Manhattan, and I’m still uncool enough that most of them live uptown (the married ones anyway…and I’ve never been cool enough to have less than a handful of friends living in Brooklyn), but really my NYC reality now is visiting my 22 year old cousin as she fashions her own version of my quarterlife adventures in the city.  Most of these friends are also out of town right now, on vacation with their young families, on mini-breaks with new flames, and just generally living their lives in the ways we know now, which mean that our paths cross less and less frequently, and generally only for special occasions such as reunions, weddings, etc.  My world is shrinking, and shifting. 

This post is not rueful, even if it is nostalgic.  This man of mine has a growing Flickr collection of us posed in front of extended family Christmas trees and dinner tables, at far-flung weddings, and in various leisurely settings.  Apparently, this is now my life.  And I’m wiser, and happier and fatter for it.  But what a kick, commuting from Boston’s own periphery of Brighton to the ‘hoods of Riverdale and Jackson Heights.  Places – mainly the latter – I’d consider living if I ever came back to NY.  A hope I still keep alive, even as I relax behind the wheel of my stepmom’s hand-me-down Pontiac, commuting between Newton and Quincy and Hanover and Connecticut in my own (re)new(ed) life in Red Sox Nation.  Who knew.

I’m off til mid-next week.  If I was more motivated, I’d organize a 2007 “Best of” collection of posts for your enjoyment; I’ve seen that around the web and wish I had done it.  Someone go through my archives for me, will ya?  But feel free to poke around here in my absence.  I can’t promise you’ll want any of the food in the cabinets, but there’s always some booze lying around.  Until I’m back on-line, I wish you all A Very Happy New Year – Be Safe and Have Fun!!

More or less cross-posted at NYC Weboy.

20
Dec
07

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, etc. etc. etc.!!!

For the M.A.S. and me, Xmas began tonight, and continues, ceaselessly, through Tuesday.  I’m off-line for most of that, perhaps sneaking in a blog post, and def. some blog reading, on Monday. 

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!  And a stiff drink, or zen meditation, or Bring It On on TBS, pick your poison, if you’re planning to be as exhausted by the end as I am!!!!

Be safe and have fun.

20
Dec
07

NOLA City Council Unanimously Approves Demolition of Public Housing

With a call for phased redevelopment of Lafitte in Treme, and St. Bernard in Gentilly – “where practicable.”  They also demand a replace of hard units with hard units, but allow for “affordable housing consistent with the mixed-income model,” which typically drastically reduces the overall number of housing affordable to extremely low-income individuals, which is who qualifies for public housing in the U.S.  Thus, don’t be fooled, the overall number of needed deeply subsidized units will be reduced.  The full text of the City Council motion is after the jump. 

Here, here and here is coverage of the police clash with protesters this morning at the Council meeting.  As I hear from the activist listservs, etc., I’ll do my best to update here, though Xmas officially starts tonight and runs through Tuesday with all the extended family.

I am so so sad about this. 

Continue reading ‘NOLA City Council Unanimously Approves Demolition of Public Housing’

20
Dec
07

NOLA City Council votes today on the future of public housing; Homelessness rising among Katrina evacuees in Houston

The Times-Pic reports that a “majority” is prepared to vote to demolish the Big Four.  This four person majority – Fielkow, Clarkson, Midura, and Head – represents the four white Council members, and four of the five representatives elected after Hurricane Katrina.  Along post-storm and racial lines, the fundamental shifts in New Orleans governance and city life are unfolding in front of us. 

The Council meets at 10am Central Time this morning.  I predict that Carter and Willard-Lewis will vote against demolition. UPDATE, 12/20/07, 5:57 PM est: This morning I erased the second half of the preceding sentence, where I wrote: “…or the Council will unanimously approve demolition.”  I should have gone with my gut.  The unanimous motion to demolish was approved today.  (See the predictions of The Coalition to Stop Demolitions here.)

Feministe and Feministing disseminated yesterday the Coalition to Stop Demolitions’s proposal and demands, The Curvature (among others) has where you can send financial support, and NOLA Indymedia has coverage of direct action at B.W. Cooper – an activist who chained herself to one of the buildings early yesterday morning.  The WaPo and TP took advantage of the coverage to publish anti-demolition editorials this morning, and Villanous Vitter appropriated pro-poor language and accused anti-demolition activists of wanting to warehouse and forget about public housing residents, or some such b.s. rhetoric.  He also accused Landrieu et al. of being beholden to “extremists” – gotta love the vituperative accusations from the hard line right-wingers.  (not linking to any of these, editorial discretion)

Stay tuned for updates on this fight, and of course, the on-going coverage of the aftermath of the vote, which likely will include more activists chained to buildings, more arrests, more official and public wars of words and empty rhetoric, and a renewed fight to pass S. 1668 once the “public housing issue” is theoretically laid to rest.  

As for re-patriating former public housing residents in New Orleans, well, that’s not likely to happen anytime soon.  Check out Black Amazon for more about “the power of Community and the fucking blindness of privilege to the needs and loves and desires of people who they for some reason can talk about all the time but can not see.” And READ THIS ARTICLE in the Houston Chronicle re: the fates of the displaced due to bureacratic bungling, government neglect and sheer exhaustion and despair on the parts of displaced families and the philanthropic/social service community.

18
Dec
07

HUD reducing deeply subsidized elderly and disabled housing in NOLA by 68%

Just so we’re clear. 

PolicyLink has released a brief analysis of HUD’s plans to replace subsidized housing for extremely low-income households, those making 30% of Area Median Income ($15,9k).  This includes many households in New Orleans with minimum wage employees working full-time (40h) per week in the service and hospitality industries earning just over $12,000 per year.  Overall, HUD plans to replace about one-third of the 12k pre-storm units.  Separate from the overly villified and spotlighted public housing developments, which face a 59% net loss, less than one-third of the deeply subsidized housing specifically set aside for seniors, the disabled, and low-wage workers will be rebuilt.  Check out the graph on page 3 to see the comparative reductions in public housing, scattered site housing, and supportive/senior housing.

I’m deliberately preying on the cultural distinctions we make between the worthy and unworthy poor here, a false dichotomy, not least in the reality of neighborhood composition.  I’m doing this because I know the assumptions we all make about who lives in public housing, including the assumptions held by public housing residents themselves about their neighbors.  But I want to make clear that the housing specifically built to enable our grandmothers or disabled relatives – those we can’t or won’t care for, or those who, like us, seek independent living that meets their needs – to live on their own is also being destroyed by the federal government in New Orleans, whether by deliberate and corrupt demolition choices, or because of a willful and callous lack of reinvestment to bring these properties back on line.

I originally wrote this post last night, only to have my blog crash.  It was much more personal and rhetorical, if no less strident.  I linked to this very personal and clear post from kactus, about her experience as a mother, disabled woman, and community member in public housing, and I wrote about my own experiences growing up visiting family in South Boston public housing.  I wrote about eating corned beef and cabbage on tv trays at my grandmother’s, and how I thought tv trays were the coolest thing ever.  I wrote about how excited I was on these visits to cross the pedestrian bridge over the 2 lane road in front of the projects, and I distinctly remember the snazzy leather Members Only type jacket my 80s mustached dad was sporting on these visits.  I remember the specific language my grandmother used to describe her home, words like “rubbish” instead of trash, which went into the “incinerator” chute outside in the hall, and how our visits were in the “parlor” versus the living room.  I remember playing with my cousin Clare’s new Easy Bake oven during one of many Christmas’s visiting her and her sibs and parents and grandmother in the notorious D St projects, which went through phased redevelopment around that time, starting from the back towards the street, per the insistence of the residents, who knew that the housing authority would be more likely to prematurely stop development once improvements were visible from the street.  I remember more recently my aunt, who raised 5 kids and not a few grandkids at D Street on AFDC and worked her way up from a clerk to a property manager at the Boston Housing Authority, complaining that the redevelopment of D Street failed to reflect some of the daily realities of how people lived, for example, in its awkward placement of utility hookups that made it difficult for families to do their laundry.  And I wrote about how, more recently, the M.A.S. listened to 2 of my cousins his age laugh about how they shoveled some snow at D Street one winter, only to receive a check from Housing for their services several weeks later. 

In 2005, my uncle gave up the McCormack property that once belonged to my grandmother, an apartment we had in the family for over 40 years.  My cousins still live in other developments in Southie.  And my many cousins and aunts and uncles who have moved out to the suburbs continue to battle problems of poverty, including poor health and healthcare, addiction, homelessness, and insecure housing tenure.  Last night, before my blog crashed, I asked, whose quality of life are we talking about when we debate the ills of concentration and the benefits of dispersion, and the pathologies of public housing and the problems of poverty?  We’re talking about my family, my cousins, my aunts, my uncles. 

I’m sure glad they don’t live in New Orleans. 

16
Dec
07

More Public Housing Updates (i.e., victories!)

In the news this weekend:

I’m late on this one: Pres. Cand. John Edwards speaks out against demolition.  Even better: Majority Leaders Pelosi and Reid send a letter to Bush asking him to halt demolition for at least 60 days while an alternate plan is worked out.  The text of the letter is here, and includes data on the doubling of the homeless population in NOLA, the new loss of affordable units in the city, and the (at least) 45% rise in rents.  But here’s the excerpt I like the most (my emphases and $.02 throughout):

Given the City’s housing needs and the current availability of these affordable housing resources, we are extremely disappointed by the Department’s insistence on moving ahead with this demolition despite insufficient resources to make up the clear loss of affordable housing (shocking, I know). For the Federal government to reduce affordable housing units at a time when the City is desperate for this very type of housing is a misuse of taxpayer funds and runs counter to the mission of the Department, not to mention the core values that we share (A waste of $$ + un-American!!  Fascists.). Additionally, HANO has not completed a promised survey of displaced residents and has indicated that this important document now will not be ready until late January at the earliest. HANO has also not provided meaningful opportunity for residents to collect their belongings. The additional sixty days would allow for the resolution of these and other essential issues, including the completion of a comprehensive plan for HANO redevelopment of all affordable units, and replacement of any units proposed for demolition (i.e., tell HUD/HANO to do it’s f***ing job).

HUD has sent over its own scoldings and threats to Mayor Nagin (I refuse to link), incl. revoking affordable housing vouchers for former public housing residents, stripping the city of affordable housing development funds, and other disgusting and punitive measures on the backs of our country’s poorest residents.  Perhaps as consolation prize HUD could at least give the residents copies of the $100k portraits they recently commissioned of the agency’s executives.  If facsimiles of the benevolent Sec. Jackson smiling down on folks in soup kitchens and FEMA trailers doesn’t demonstrate that our government cares, I really don’t know what does.  Meanwhile, the investigation of HUD practices under Jackson continues.

Finally, as I mentioned last week, demolition has been halted, pending the decisions of the City Council, expected to be taken up this Thursday.  If you want to register your opinion with City Council members, there contact info is:

Arnie Fielkow – (504) 658-1060 AFielkow@cityofno.com
Jacquelyn Clarkson – (504) 658-1070 JBClarkson@cityofno.com
Stacy Head – (504) 658-1020 SHead@cityofno.com
Shelley Midura – (504) 658-1010 SMidura@cityofno.com
James Carter – (504) 658-1030 JCarter@cityofno.com
Cynthia Hedge-Morrell – (504) 658-1040
Cynthia Willard-Lewis – (504) 658-1050 CWLewis@cityofno.com

14
Dec
07

THANK YOU

I’m working off a mac right now, and I don’t know where my icons are for bolding, linking, etc., so bear with me on this rough cut. – UPDATE: LINKS ADDED.  12/16/07.

See the last bunch of posts – and my colleagues in the blogosphere, inc. Brownfemipower, Kai and Cara – re: the literal battle over the future of public housing in NOLA. There’s a stay of execution for the moment, and we should give ourselves a collective moment of thankful pause before resuming the relentless pressure over this issue. But that’s not the point of this post, written during my dept.’s holiday party on this Friday afternoon.

I want to thank the blogosphere for helping me pass my general exams, which I did today, WITH DISTINCTION, a rarely invoked status here in my dept. In addition to my colleagues in the Gulf, who have educated me, often painfully, on framing, power, gender, identity, conflict and struggle, I’m indebted to my virtual peers here. The obvious is NYC Weboy, my unparalleled champion, and Prof. Zero is a close second, for hosting such a supportive environment to share my ideas and the personal struggles that inform my thinking. But it’s the debates of the broader community that I’ve been listening to, and reading, and thinking about, that I feel really helped me here at MIT and this morning in particular, especially when it comes to issues of race, class, ethnicity, gender, power and equity/justice. Shout outs go to Pandagon, where I cut my teeth on the feminist blogosphere, Feministe, who’s writing I respect, Feministing, who seems to have the biggest market for throwing one’s hat in the ring, Shakesville, who’s mainstream progressiveness and f***ing hilarious snark never fails to please, and especially, Sylvia and Brownfemipower, for eloquent, provocative writing that truly leaves me thinking. Kai, Black Amazon (who also just met her own academic hurdles – check out this post!), Rachel’s Tavern, Racismreview, the Field Negro, The Curvature, Racewire, Racialicious, the Silence of our Friends and Outside the Toybox are also in my reader and in my mind. The M.A.S. wants to know why I love the blogosphere, and it’s because it’s my real intellectual community, where I shape and test my ideas.

Of course, my peeps keep me grounded and engaged and sane, and they’ll be getting their shoutouts offline. So thank you fellow bloggers. Today is a f***ing red letter day, filled with wine and good cheer and warm praise and proud, humbled tears and I hope you can all share in it with me!!

PS: If you want to add to this syllabus, pls offer your recommendations in the comments below!!

14
Dec
07

We’ve won a battle…

FROM THE TIMES-PICAYUNE:

HANO halts demolition plans at three public housing sites

New Orleans Times-Picayune

by Susan Finch, Times-Picayune staff writer
Friday December 14, 2007, 11:31 AM

The Housing Authority of New Orleans agreed in court today not to demolish
the C.J. Pete, Lafitte or St. Bernard public housing developments unless
the New Orleans City Council approves permits for the work.

The agreement allows HANO to proceed with demolition work, approved in
November 2003 by the City Council, at the B.W. Cooper housing development.

Officials with the housing authority and attorneys for demolition
opponents, who sued HANO Thursday to stop tear-downs at Pete, Lafitte and
St. Bernard, reached the accommodation after meeting privately with Civil
District Court Judge Herbert Cade, who said he would sign an order later
today approving the deal.

Plaintiffs argued that the City Council had to approve demolition work at
the three housing complexes. HANO had not secured that approval for the
three demolition projects.

Attorney Tracie Washington, representing the plaintiffs, said HANO’s
willingness to halt demolition work pending a City Council review is a
first: “We have never (before) been able to get a court to order a stop to
demolition.”

The City Council is expected to address the demolition matter next week.

The agreement says that any party to the agreement, if dissatisfied, can
return to court to seek a modification.

13
Dec
07

Who knew folks from the projects were so g*d damn powerful?!

Through my post-Katrina recovery networks I get the latest Inside the Beltway chapter of the demolition of public housing in New Orleans.  In case you missed my endless press about S. 1668, you might not know that the bill has been basically permanently stalled, due to Vitter’s (and other mostly white fat cats) compassionless conservatism.  The latest end-run strategy of Sen. Landrieu (D-LA), Rep. Waters (D-CA) and other Dem allies had been to work language halting demolition and a plan for equitable redevelopment of public housing into the government’s continuing resolution, an interim funding measure that keeps the government running and was scheduled to expire tomorrow (Fri, 12/14). 

Well wouldn’t you be unsurprised to hear that the GOP Minority leaders at the 11th hour objected to the language. They then went on to threaten to refuse to pass the resolution, i.e., THE GOP WOULD SHUT DOWN THE GOVERNMENT OVER PROVISIONS FOR PHASED AND EQUITABLE RE-DEVELOPMENT OF PUBLIC HOUSING. 

And the f***ing Democrats caved.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you don’t matter.  Even public housing residents, without even resorting to protest, riot and street theatre, can shut down their nation’s government.  Without even leaving the comfort of their own trailers, tents, or overcrowded rental housing.  Make that the spectre of project tenants.  Given the economic and geographic chasms between our fearless leaders and those living in our country’s shelter of last resort, what’s the likelihood that these politicians have met or have any degree of relationship with people who live in public housing?

The field Negro and Shaker William K. Wolfrum, respectively, have more on the allegiance of the Dems to black folk, and their constituents more generally.

13
Dec
07

Updates on Resisting Public Housing Demolition

Thanks to Brownfemipower and the group blog The North Star for linking to yesterday’s post re: the demolition of public housing in New Orleans.  Wrecking balls arrived yesterday at B.W. Cooper while we were writing.  Activists stepped in front of bulldozers and stalled the bulk of the day’s planned destruction.  AP coverage of the direct action tactics remind us that these are not “normal times” in which we’re standing down HUD and elected leaders and developers and all those who plan to profit from this wholesale eviction of the city’s poorest and most vulnerable residents.  Funny, seems pretty status quo to me, if particularly egregious.

The National Lawyer’s Guild more accurately calls for halting the “racially motivated” demolitions.  This is a good part of the equation, but not all of it.  It’s race + class that’s so problematic.  Let’s not forget that “the poor” are not welcome most anywhere, other than churches, soup kitchens, and the charitable like. 

North Carolina activists have also joined the cause of protecting affordable housing in New Orleans, targeting Sen. Dole (R-NC) to seek her support for S.1668.  Their efforts are commended and appreciated, though without flipping Vitter, who is in my Top 5 of Public Enemies and 2007 Villians, S. 1668 doesn’t stand a chance.  Seems Landrieu, like me, is lying awake at night plotting her revenge against his stonewalling, though she’s likely more motivated by election ballots than me.  Me, I’m just a righteous and angry person these days.  

I leave you with this coverage of the estimated 12,000 homeless folks in New Orleans, living in tents across the street from City Hall and beneath the highway.  It’s a perfect Dickensian Christmas in the Crescent City this year.




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