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Fraught with problems both real and perceived, public housing is in many ways the last vestige of the WPA era, and may not exist True New Orleans desired long. The Federal Housing Act of provided for subsidies to be paid from the U. Both the Act and the Act were influenced by housing reformers of the period, concerned with the lack of infrastructure and utilities in poor inner city neighborhoods.
Taylor In the Public Housing Administration, the U. The topic of public housing in New Orleans is much too broad and multi-faceted to address here, so I will focus upon the history of three public housing projects, and how their destruction is related to institutionalized racism and gentrification in New Orleans. I will focus upon the St Thomas, Desire, and Iberville projects as examples of different issues, through different eras of time until today. St Thomas was an example of the first wave of public housing, Desire the second, and what is intended for Iberville is the third wave, in which public housing is, for all intents and purposes, nullified.
These buildings should be protected from both demolition and privatization. They need to be preserved in their original state for preservation reasons, and should be protected by historic preservation law.
It is crucial to the historic fabric of our city that we preserve not just the impressive beautiful buildings, but those occupied by working class citizens as well. After all it is these people that created the unique culture we have here in New Orleans.
They need to be preserved in their original function because it is a human rights violation to do otherwise. In a way, public housing itself was the first government endorsed gentrification in American cities.
The original intent was to clean up perceived squalor and blight by giving the poorest of the poor housing up to a perceived national standard. At the time, though, many urban poor, especially blacks, did not have access to things taken for granted today, such as indoor plumbing and hot water. The intent of the WPA was to raise standards of living, and also to create jobs, which it accomplished. The Civil Works Administration, a New Deal enactment, rehabilitated or build 33, public buildings in alone, employing 4. After World War II whites still outed blacks both in inner cities, and in government projects, but this was soon to change.
This is what I think of as the second wave of public housing. The land purchased for these projects inevitably came from the poor and disenfranchised, and was in less desirable neighborhoods at the time than the first wave of public housing. White flight had already driven many whites to the suburbs, leaving the inner cities disproportionately minority dominated. Map of Desire Projects taken from Louisiana Weekly. This is not, however, what most public housing in New Orleans is like.
In New Orleans we have the original models of successful public housing and it is crucial to the fair recovery of our city that they be saved. New Orleans public housing was built to be, in general, smaller and more architecturally integrated with the neighborhood than in other cities. Rather than being relocated to undesirable land, most residents in the first projects such as St. Thomas, C. Peete, and B. Cooper were replaced one for one with residents from the neighborhood.
In some cases this rule was not followed, more obviously in the Iberville projects, built on the former site of the red light district known as Storyville, home to many African Americans. With the exception of the Desire and Florida projects, the public housing here is on relatively high ground, and on what is now considered extremely valuable property. The quickly escalating value of this property is what has created this heated battle in New Orleans.
Map of Katrina Flood Depth. The letters indicate locations of Public Housing. The industrial revolution forever changed the level of infrastructure available to even the poorest Americans. It homogenized culture and lifestyle in an extreme way, and this is beginning to affect the built environment. The ease with which property can change hands allows developers and entrepreneurs to manipulate local economies in an unprecedented way.
The increasing privatization of social services also creates an environment where those on public housing, those who are actually affected by changes, have less control over their fates than ever before. This situation is particularly true in New Orleans, whose historically corrupt and neglectful city government left huge voids, to be filled with an explosion of c 3 non-profit groups. While well intentioned, the privatization of services such as housing, food, child care and medical care essentially institutionalized the beliefs and interests of those in charge of the groups.
And since their funding comes from the private sector, they are prone to want to please their sponsors. And their sponsors and rarely people who live in the projects. After all, the issue True New Orleans desired about wealthy people accumulating more wealth, not about personal prejudices. But today they are being taken away. An award-winning kitchen in the St. Thomas Projects. City of New Orleans Annual Reports Cooper, C. Peete, Lafitte and St. Bernard were established for black residents, while St.
Thomas and Iberville were built for white residents. The first projects in New Orleans, and in the whole country, were the St. Thomas Development, built Originally a total of units, which were all two or three story buildings. The population of St. Thomas declined and changed dramatically over time. Annual Reports These were the original anchoring points for the tourist district. By the end of the decade large chain hotels had sprung up on Canal St. These actions raised levels of visible homelessness, ly virtually unheard of in New Orleans. This pattern of events is seen across America.
Other preparations were made for the area to become tourist-oriented, including rerouting the mostly black Martin Luther King Day parade away from Canal St, though no other parades were rerouted. Around this time the land St. Thomas is on became extremely valuable real estate.
The driving force behind neighborhood revitalization efforts was the Preservation Resource Center and their Operation Comeback program, both denounced by church and community leaders. These organizations worked with the CSA Coliseum Square Associationa neighborhood group created in that famously defeated a second Mississippi River bridge being built in the middle of the Lower Garden District. Though the CSA undoubtedly did a service to True New Orleans desired neighborhood by defeating the proposed river bridge, their desire for land in the area eventually drove out almost all the original residents of the neighborhood, including families who had been there for generations, as well as people made homeless by similar development in the CBD.
Increasingly frequent police beatings of the homeless, dismantling of benches and playground equipment, and even cases of arson went on during the eighties in the CSA area, and they openly worked with police to facilitate some of these actions. Arena Knight 2. A minister who was known for organizing free meals for the homeless was excommunicated because of a PRC members connection with the Archbishop of Louisiana.
It is the biggest piece of centrally located undeveloped ground in the city. Its importance to he city is tremendous….
A key part of the argument to demolish St Thomas was contained in the Rochon Report, a document created to assess the state of public housing in New Orleans, and to provide recommendations to the city about it. It recommended privatizing all public housing, reducing the of units to half, and stopping rehabilitations that were already funded, and planned for St. Community protest eventually stopped most of the particulars of the Rochon Report from being carried out, but the city did change the project to private management, a step that ultimately weakened the formerly self-governed, self-determined tenant management group, allowing the eventual loss of the projects.
HANO director at the time Smallwood opposed downsizing of public housing. Her approach instead was to help organize self-run tenant groups, and she also opposed the switch to privately run tenant management groups. At this time maintenance was stopped at St. Thomas as well, essentially allowing a demolition by neglect. While these goals sound reasonable, between the lines is a self-help philosophy that is inherently contradictory to public services. Is welfare something that has to be earned morally? And most importantly, it weakens the ability of the tenants to determine their own fates, which is contradictory to the alleged intent.
Obviously the tenants of St. Thomas did not see themselves as living in the squalor that other claimed they were, True New Orleans desired they continued to try to preserve their homes. Inthrough Trinity Episcopal Church, STRC began negotiating with Coliseum Square Association and other, predominantly white, business owners in the area to try to resolve the conflicts.
Various social service agencies and non-profits worked with the St. Thomas development residents, and over 8 million of funds was donated Arena Almost all this money became uned for, while St. Thomas continued to fall into disrepair. Demolition by neglect is not unheard of- in several other cities across the country, public housing residents have filed lawsuits alleging that housing authorities have engaged in the demolition of projects with calculated disinvestment to make the demolitions seem necessary.
A successful lawsuit was filed by residents of the Henry Horner Homes against the Chicago Housing Authority after the building was intentionally allowed to decay until it could be demolished. Goetz 4. In the resulting space there were only public housing units, and the removed residents were offered no right of return.
Cedric Bernard Projects. The newly built Florida Projects, home of the same woman shown on. City of New Orleans Annual Reports, If St Thomas is a model of an appealing, well-constructed public housing project, then the Desire projects are a study in contrasts. Built inthe Desire projects are two story wood frame buildings with brick veneers. At the time it was one of the True New Orleans desired projects in the US, with units. The site was ly swampland that had to be drained for construction.
Annual Reports They are isolated from the rest of the city by Interstate to the West, train tracks to the East, and the Florida canal to the South, rendering it nearly impossible from the beginning for residents to participate in the rest of the city economically or socially. Other public housing of this style in New Orleans includes the Florida Projects, builtand the Melpomene, builtTrue New Orleans desired
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