JOHN CARLOS FREY: Controversy over which New Orleans neighborhoods should and shouldn’t be rebuilt started just months after the storm, when in early 2006 what is known as a “green dot map” was unveiled by city hall. The map had green dots on neighborhoods in low lying areas that urban planners thought should be considered for future parks instead of full scale redevelopment, infuriating residents of those areas. The Ninth was one of those neighborhoods.
While the map was scrapped amid the uproar, the message was clear… redevelopment should focus on areas with the best chance for recovery, Not neighborhoods like the Lower Ninth, which once had the highest percentage of black homeownership in the nation.
But there are those who are committed to rebuilding the lower ninth ward as it once was. Laura Paul runs lowernine.org, a non-profit committed to rebuilding the homes of as many former residents as possible.
Neighborhood "recovery" was always a function of Elevation + Insurance + Wealth/Social Status of Residents. The lower nine was on the short end of all of that. Which is why we needed something better than a laissez-faire approach plus the shitpile that Road Home became.
When the infamous Bring Back New Orleans Commission "Green Dot" maps were published they inspired vigorous pushback from residents who could afford to mount resistance. I often wonder if the commissioners had decided to omit relatively well off and organized Broadmoor from the map the way they left off the even more affluent Lakeview, would there have been enough political opposition to beat them back.
I'm not defending the Green Dots, of course. But their demise guaranteed that low lying neighborhoods ravaged by similar flood and rebuilding hazards would never again see themselves as being in the same boat. Lakeview sits as low as the Ninth Ward does and was devastated by a floodwall breach in practically the same way. Yet things have progressed much differently there.
Some of the explanation for that is geography. Lakeview and Broadmoor are not as physically isolated from the rest of town and nearby suburbs as the Lower Nine is. But mostly the problem here is, unless you take extraordinary measures to help people with limited means come home, for the most part, they won't be able to.
In October 2010 a judge did rule that a federally funded housing program designed to assist homeowners affected by Katrina discriminated against black homeowners in low income neighborhoods, like the lower ninth ward. That’s because the payouts were based on home values. Errol Joseph says that meant many people like him didn’t get nearly enough to cover the cost of rebuilding.But after Katrina, helping people with limited means was the last thing on anyone with any clout's agenda.
A few blocks from Mr. O'Dwyer, in an exclusive gated community known as Audubon Place, is the home of James Reiss, descendent of an old-line Uptown family. He fled Hurricane Katrina just before the storm and returned soon afterward by private helicopter. Mr. Reiss became wealthy as a supplier of electronic systems to shipbuilders, and he serves in Mayor Nagin's administration as chairman of the city's Regional Transit Authority. When New Orleans descended into a spiral of looting and anarchy, Mr. Reiss helicoptered in an Israeli security company to guard his Audubon Place house and those of his neighbors.
He says he has been in contact with about 40 other New Orleans business leaders since the storm. Tomorrow, he says, he and some of those leaders plan to be in Dallas, meeting with Mr. Nagin to begin mapping out a future for the city.
The power elite of New Orleans -- whether they are still in the city or have moved temporarily to enclaves such as Destin, Fla., and Vail, Colo. -- insist the remade city won't simply restore the old order. New Orleans before the flood was burdened by a teeming underclass, substandard schools and a high crime rate. The city has few corporate headquarters.
The new city must be something very different, Mr. Reiss says, with better services and fewer poor people. "Those who want to see this city rebuilt want to see it done in a completely different way: demographically, geographically and politically," he says. "I'm not just speaking for myself here. The way we've been living is not going to happen again, or we're out."
Along the way the important people were particularly careful to make sure we didn't rebuild too much affordable housing.
And finally we've arrived at a point where, now that the neighborhoods we cared about look to be back on their feet for the most part, it's okay to start Green Dot-ing people again.Jim Kelly of Catholic Charities, which is working with Enterprise and the AFL-CIO, says the city needs all the affordable housing it can get. "We were a poor city prior to Katrina," he says.Development activity is picking up for several reasons, not the least of which is that billions in federal dollars to buy people out of their flood-damaged homes is set to begin flowing this summer.Some developers are worried that because of tax incentives, there will be too much affordable housing and not enough mixed income developments."You can overload the city with affordable housing," local developer Pres Kabakoff says. "It's important we don't end up with concentratedly poor neighborhoods."
JOHN CARLOS FREY: Mark Davis is the director of Tulane law school’s institute on water resources law and policy. He’s helped shape policy that affects neighborhoods like the lower ninth ward.We didn't give you any hospitals or schools or tax-subsidized retail outlets so you guys shouldn't even think about going back there. It's just not "sustainable."
MARK DAVIS: It's not just a matter of moving back. You have to actually reestablish the entire framework on which the community was built. And when you-- if you have no place to shop, how do you move there? You know, you don't have a hospital. You have really one school. The-- things that actually become necessary to develop a neighborhood-- and attract people back aren't currently present.
JOHN CARLOS FREY: If the Lower Ninth Ward was built basically and solely on emotion and passion for restoring what was there, you are saying that that's not sustainable.
MARK DAVIS: No. It's not sustainable any more than my desire to be 25 again.
Meanwhile here's Gambit to tell about the "next neighborhoods to boom"
In this week's cover story about The New New Orleans, we looked at some statistics about the price of housing in New Orleans and the percentage of people who now are spending 50 percent or more of their income on rent. While neighborhoods like Bywater and Mid-City have become more popular, the price of rents there has gone up significantly.Here's the map.
So which areas are the next to boom for renters? We asked several local real estate professionals, plotted their answers on a Google Map, and overlaid it with PadMapper, a tool which searches Craigslist rental listings and plots out the results.
I especially like that the "expected to boom" neighborhoods are indicated by green dots. One of those big green dots is right about... here.
As the Bywater extends eastward, new residents are going across the Industrial Canal and into the Holy Cross neighborhood, said president and owner Dorian Bennett.