July 27, 2015

THEY DISTRUSTED THE MOTIVATION IN MOVING THEM OUT OF THE DROWNING ZONE?

10 years after the storm: has New Orleans learned the lessons of Hurricane Katrina? (David Uberti, Monday 27 July 2015, The Guardian)

"FOUR MONTHS TO DECIDE," the headline blared. "CITY'S FOOTPRINT MAY SHRINK; FULL BUYOUTS PROPOSED FOR THOSE FORCED TO MOVE." Broadmoor was, according to the report, among a handful of low-lying neighbourhoods "that will have to prove their viability to rebuild". An accompanying map showed the area where Carroll and her husband had bought their first home, in 2002, covered by a large green dot. "Approximate areas expected to become parks and greenspace," the key explained.

"I cried," Carroll recalls when I meet her this summer. "I thought: 'This cannot be happening.'"

In Broadmoor, an area with a long history of civic pride, that green dot proved a symbolic turning point in the uncertain days after the flooding. "It was so intense that you couldn't even describe the situation to a family member," Carroll says, explaining how 400 residents crowded under a tent days later to try and make sense of it all. "We decided to deal with this just like we'd been dealing with all of this nonsense."

The proposal to shrink New Orleans caused a massive public backlash, especially since countless residents remained scattered across the country with no say in the planning process. The plan bore out the fears of working- and middle-class New Orleanians - many of them African American - who tended to live in low-lying areas. They distrusted the city-elite's motivation in rebuilding. The Bring New Orleans Back Commission merely made people wonder whether parts of the city would be brought back at all.

These people had, of course, already experienced severe trauma. Government preparation for and response to the humanitarian disaster had proven woefully inadequate. More than 1,800 died across the Gulf Coast region, which also suffered more than $100bn (£65bn) in damage. The flooding put roughly 80% of New Orleans under water and displaced more than 400,000 residents. Some who didn't escape were drowned and entombed in their own homes. Others were stranded in squalid conditions at the Superdome, the city's football arena. Orders circulating through the police department authorised officers to shoot looters as the city fell into a state of collapse.

Small wonder, then, that the green dot rekindled a me-against-the-world mentality among many New Orleans residents. Unlike some other neighbourhoods, however, Carroll's already boasted a well-established organisation to channel that energy. City plan be damned: the Broadmoor Improvement Association, coupled with no small amount of outside aid, helped the community bring itself back to life.

Posted by at July 27, 2015 7:15 PM
  

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