Archive for February, 2007
I’m back on my couch beside a snoozing M.A.S., after we got up at 5:45 am this morning to fly from Raleigh,NC home. Of course, in this wintry post-Jet Blue world, our 9 am flight was delayed three hours, and with commuting via T from the airport, it was 4:45 pm before we finally came through my door. I’m not much longer for this day myself.
But of course, there’s a whirlwind of thoughts going through my mind, spurred in part by spending the weekend in an American exurban subdivision, one from which the M.A.S.’s sister has wracked up 83k miles on her car in only three years in her daily commutes between home, work and leisure. I’m not a great navigator in M.A.S. road trips by any stretch (I’m definitely a driver, and not one who’s keen on asking directions), but I was particularly pitiful this weekend with nothing but fields and farms and sparsely dispersed strip malls as my landmarks.
Needless to say, I was out of my element among the highway culture and no Starbucks in sight, even if the M.A.S. clan and friends offer rich conversation on cities and planning and keep me busy trying to keep pace with their family dynamics. But then he and I took a road trip Sunday to Greensboro and, along with my latest academic read, we were back in more familiar territory of exploring urban history, decline, struggle and activism. We also visited with my lovely friend K and her delightful new babe, and I got to give more yummy baby clothes in my role as Auntie Redstar, you know the glamorous one with the retail addiction.
And after seeing his sister’s custom built home with the paint on the walls and the china in the hutch, I am back on my couch confronted again with my own need to paint my condo and renovate my kitchen. Some people find the prospect of design exciting. I dread it, and can only think, irritably, what a hassle.
I promised to keep you updated on the housing hearings happening in New Orleans today and tomorrow, but I misspoke. I’m more or less off-line until Monday, as I’m spending the weekend down south with the M.A.S.’s extended family.
So this is what I’ve got for you on the day’s events in NOLA: Nagin makes a power grab, HUD is Public Enemy #1, and activist-residents “[heckled]” their pro-demolition neighbors. I’m sorry I missed it. Not least because it would have been much more fulfilling than this nonsense.
While I’ve devoted myself pretty substantially to the public housing battles in New Orleans, countless conflicts over the redevelopment of the city are at play. One is regarding the future of Charity Hospital, a public facility that is the “oldest, continually operating hospital in the county” and the hospital for the region’s poor and indigent (and, frequently ignored in the following debate: a Level 1 Trauma Center).
“Big Charity” has been closed since Katrina, with a small satellite operating out of the convention center (this link from the American College of Physicians offers an excellent overview of the hospital’s pre-storm operations). The legislative skirmish over how much money to allocate to LA State University (LSU) over re-opening Charity has been both typically partisan and atypically political: while it’s just another fight between Dem. Gov. Blanco and GOP Senator Vitter, it also represents the first time the state legislature overrode the governor’s hand-picked Louisiana Recovery Authority’s recommendations for redevelopment regarding its plans and spending for LSU to re-build Charity. The opposing claims are using federal $$ to re-open Charity as a service provider for the indigent ASAP (Blanco) vs. setting aside some of that $$ for private voucher programs that will theoretically give the poor some choice in healthcare and eliminate the “two-tier” system of healthcare for the poor vs. the insured (Vitter). I say theoretically because voucher programs tend to be circumscribed by who is willing to accept them, and quite often it’s facilities a step above a Charity but rarely the sort of place a discriminating, insured American would opt to seek care.
In my hometown of Braintree, some familiar faces have moved on. The Hilltop Steakhouse, the “western-style steakhouse” conceived by Frank and Irene Giuffrida, has closed its doors. The only one remaining is the original in Saugus.
The fiberglass cows that greeted Braintree residents and Route 3 travelers from their hilly post sold for upwards of $1,000 at auction yesterday.
Another sure-to-be-circulated article from NYT’s architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff.Â I just got it off the activist listserv this morning.Â Ourossoff talks about the inequities in HUD’s approach to public housing redevelopment so far:
- a refusal to investigate viable alternatives to demolition (with a reference to John Fernandez again.Â Love MIT celebrity!);
- ignoring the input from preservationists and other experts;
- threatening the architectural and urban fabric of the city with cookie-cutter suburban design proposals;
- using design “concerns” as a foil for larger social policy problems.
This article is published as the Congressional hearings kick off today.Â Tours of the public housing developments are underway as I type.Â Difference sources tell me it’s been a mysterious process getting these tours set up, worthy of Deep Throat.Â A call received a half hour before you’re supposed to meet Maxine Waters at Lafitte; times for tours etc. changed at a moment’s notice.Â Etc. etc.Â Stay tuned at the RP for coverage of the hearings as they unfold.
Ok, I don’t have confirmation on the marketing campaign yet, but surely representing Christian dieters everywhere is Sherley’s next career move?
On Friday, February 16, MIT’s Professor Sherley ended his hunger strike, explaining that his “carefully modified” demands were still on the table even though he was breaking fast from his success at shining attention on issues of “equity” and “diversity” at MIT and in higher ed. Too bad it was his insanity that spent most of the time in the limelight; his “open letters” to the MIT community got increasingly vociferous and wacky as he dropped 20 pounds in 2 weeks. In one letter he compared his own travails to that of African-America civil rights activists, writing:
“These actions on the part of our provost and president are nothing short of the water hoses, dogs, and billy-clubs of the civil rights struggles that Martin Luther King, Jr. led.”
This proved to be too much for some on campus. Last week, other professors and execs – including a former President of MIT who bristled at the suggestion that he might be the administration’s “errand boy” in his visit to Sherley’s hallway protest site – got in on the hunger strike “listserv” and started emailing public responses to Sherley.