25
Oct
06

“Like a Ton of Bricks”

For those of you following the struggles in New Orleans to save public housing, this is a phenomenal article from New Orlean’s Gambit Weekly detailing the primary “battleground” – the Lafitte housing projects in the 6th ward: structurally sound, dry, geographically desirable, and slated for demolition.  Despite the fact that it’s a) cheaper to renovate, b) easily convertible to temporary worker housing, and c) desperately needed to fill the employment shortages that continue to plague New Orleans.  All this and more is detailed in this piece. 

I attended some of the planning meetings linked with the company Zyscovich cited in this article.  It is true – and poignant and upsetting – that Treme residents talk about the “buildings” when talking about Lafitte.  The buildings themselves are as much a part of the community fabric as the neighbors and families that lived in these projects and neighborhood.  And it’s true that you don’t get much sturdier than this in NOLA.  It’s devastating to think that these buildings might come down.  And it’s confounding when you see them for yourself.  Every visitor I’ve had to New Orleans who sees them is confused all over again about HUD’s claims of the necessity of tearing them down.  It’s marvelous to watch them grapple with the contrast of the project with the notion that they must come down.  The consistency of everyone’s confusion is also righteously satifying, for those of us who are fighting to see these buildings survive.

It is my work in this battle that earned me the unjustified attacks by the housing activist back in August (a litany that continues to this day, btw), and this article covers my colleagues on all “sides” of the debate.  Although, it’s pretty difficult to see battle lines against anyone other than HUD.  Providence and Enterprise know its cheaper and better to keep the buildings than tear them down.  For those wishing to oppose Providence et al., they might redirect their energies at HUD and this Administration’s assault on the urban poor. 

You know, when the state redeveloped the West Broadway (“D Street”) projects here in South Boston, the tenants – including my aunt and cousins – lived in the projects throughout, as building by building was renovated.  There is no justifiable reason a similar situation could not be reached with Lafitte.  I wish you could see for yourselves, because it’s hard to present this case here when it seems so politically ideological versus what is best and most effective for residents, the neighborhood, city and economy. 

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