Thursday, December 20th, 2007

The New Storm In New Orleans

By now you may have heard news of what are being called riots by residents and supporters of public housing in New Orleans against police and the NOLA City Council. In fact, peaceful demonstrators were met with Tasers and pepper spray.

This is a storm that has quickly gathered in the past few weeks. The issue at hand is the vote to destroy 5000 units of public housing in the city, a move that many believe is tantamount to permanently clearing poor Black residents from their home.

Today, the City Council was scheduled to vote on whether or not to approve that drastic, unconscionable step.

In the past few weeks, even NY Times architecture critic Nicolai Ourrossoff has decried this move as “ruthless indifference to local realities.”

At the same time, The Gulf Coast Recovery Act is up in the U.S. Senate. It will ensure that for every unit of housing demolished, another one will be replaced. This bill has been blocked by Republican Senator David Vitter who has said of the housing shortage, “I can’t imagine the need is as much as the need pre-Katrina.”

Here’s the latest from on-the-ground, via the Katrina Information Network, a broad network of residents and supporters that has been working on post-Katrina issues. More information is at the Defend New Orleans Housing website.

12/20/07 13:30p.m. -New Orleans Public Housing residents, and affordable housing advocates are being locked out of the New Orleans City Council (public meeting) proceedings and being harassed by multiple ‘law enforcement’ agencies as they attempt to conduct a peaceful show of support for a halt to the immoral and untimely demolition of the 4 largest housing developments during an unprecedented housing crisis in this city.

Approximately 500 participants who attended an opening press conference preceding City Council’s regularly scheduled session this morning were met with a show of force from several law enforcement agencies. Since 10:00a.m. this morning people have been peppered sprayed, locked out of the proceedings and 24 have been arrested.

Organizers on the ground in New Orleans are asking for supporters in the struggle for affordable decent housing and the right for all those displaced by Hurricane Katrina and the policies which hold blatant disregard for low-income and poor people to send out a call to:

1.Get on the Phone– Call your congressional and senate representatives urging them to support the passage of SB 1668- the New Orleans Housing Recovery Act, currently awaiting a vote in the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. There is a list of phone numbers here.

2.Send out Mail and Make Calls – Send word to New Orleans elected officials that their way of working with recovery issues is inhumane and until the broad constituency they were elected to represent are treated with the respect they deserve and represented in the process of redeveloping their city their plans are hinged on the backs of the very people that make this city the unique and special place that it is.

Council Members
Arnie Fielkow (President)
City Hall, Room 2W40
1300 Perdido Street
New Orleans, LA 70112

Phone: (504) 658-1060
Fax: (504) 658-1068

Jacquelyn Brechtel Clarkson (Vice President)
City Hall, Room 2W50
1300 Perdido Street
New Orleans, LA 70112

Phone: (504) 658-1070
Fax: (504) 658-1077

Shelley Midura District A
City Hall, Room 2W80
1300 Perdido Street
New Orleans, LA 70112

Phone: (504) 658-1010
Fax: (504) 658-1016

Stacy S. Head District B
City Hall, Room 2W10
1300 Perdido Street
New Orleans, LA 70112

Phone: (504) 658 -1020
Fax: (504) 658-1025

James Carter District C
City Hall, Room 2W70
1300 Perdido Street
New Orleans, LA 70112

Phone: (504) 658-1030
Fax: (504) 658-1037

Cynthia Hedge-Morrell District D
City Hall, Room 2W20
1300 Perdido Street
New Orleans, Louisiana 70112

Phone: (504) 658-1040
Fax: (504) 658-1048

Cynthia Willard-Lewis District E
City Hall, Room 2W60
1300 Perdido Street
New Orleans, LA 70112

Phone: (504) 658-1050
Fax: (504) 658-1058

Mayor Ray Nagin
New Orleans City Hall
1300 Perdido Street
New Orleans, LA 70112

City Hall Operator: (504) 658-4000

3. Spread the Word – Get the word out to your network of family, friends and co-workers. The attack on low-income and poor families is not limited to New Orleans, If we allow affordable housing to disappear during a critical time in it’s recovery, there will be less chance for it’s survival throughout the US.

HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson has helped to procure lucrative contracts for hundreds of thousands of dollars for friends and associates who went to work at HUD-controlled housing authorities in New Orleans and the Virgin Islands, he is now holding the end to funds for all redevelopment in his sector over the head of this city, if demolitions do not go forward. There is valid reason to be suspicious of the type of contract work that will be done for millions of dollars that destroy sound structures rather than redeveloping communities with the input of it’s residents. Act now to support a full and just recovery for all of those so devastated in the gulf south.

posted by @ 12:45 pm | 4 Comments

4 Responses to “The New Storm In New Orleans”

  1. Do You KNOW Clarence? says:

    ‘preciate the clue you’re dropping right here about what is really going down in New Orleans. Hopefully some of your readers will be inspired enough to get down and participate (I’ll be seeing about how Boston can be in the mix as well).

  2. ethan says:

    Thanks for the great post, Jeff. It’s hard to overestimate the scale of the housing crisis in New Orleans now–nearly 52,000 rental units damaged from Katrina, rents doubled since the storm and now the demolition of the projects. We also have a massive encampment of homeless folks in front of City Hall. Yet New Orleans is just an extreme example of so many things that are going wrong all over the country right now (rising crime, rising levels of income inequality, etc). Unfortunately, I believe that we down in New Orleans are experiencing what the rest of the country will see in the years to come.

    Thanks again for the great post Jeff and thanks for keeping New Orleans on the radar of your readers.

    –Ethan Brown,
    New Orleans

  3. Bay Radical says:

    Thanks for the horrifying but informative update on New Orleans.

  4. Leo says:


    It’s been a long time, it’s Leo, we met at the University of Florida awhile ago. I’ve been in the Gulf the past 2-yrs community organizing, and I must say it’s been past drastic.

    In New Orleans, we cannot talk about the future of affordable housing in respect to the whole city, there’s conflict because 1) people need urgent transitional housing, 2) local folks dont want the substandard housing conditions to return and 3) developers are on the timeline to put in new mixed-income housing units with Fed money they got.

    I really hope we find housing for people but build a better system—it’s been a freakin 2 years goin on 3, this is where we are America.

    Not most people know but all of the Mississippi Gulf Coast got a tsunami-30ft-surge during Katrina wiping out a good 80% to 90% of some cities housing stock. Local cities don’t even want to rebuild rental let alone affordable units. There’s AT LEAST 12,000 active FEMA trailers in the state and Governor Barbour is asking HUD to take out $600 million out of our housing programs for a Port project.

    If people want to support our campaign feel free to check out on our latest updates.

    Thanks for the post. Leo

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