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December 20, 2007 7:54 AM   Subscribe

From the Magnolia to the Calliope to the Melph (part 2, 3, and 4), New Orleans projects are notoriously violent, but through the haze of murder and decay there is a project culture of dancing and revelry. Now the projects are being torn down in a mix of protest and unrest.
posted by plexi (23 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
"I'm not a slave," another woman says. "How you going to tell me to sit down." - live updates from the City Council vote to tear down 4 more of New Orleans' housing projects.
posted by plexi at 8:23 AM on December 20, 2007

Attorney Tracie Washington accused officials of changing the rules for the public housing crowd. "That's retarded," Washington says to Peggy Lewis, clerk of council. "You have to let these people in. You've got 800,000 police here. Ain't nobody going to do anything in here."

You would wish that an Attorney would choose her words better.
posted by ColdChef at 8:35 AM on December 20, 2007

I saw a video on CNN that showed hundreds and hundreds of people, from all walks of life,
living in tents under a bridge. The protesters were trying to stop them from tearing down some perfectly safe houses in a housing project. They were being torn down because the neighborhood was declared too violent and unsafe. This was before Katrina. What a waste.
And did you all see the picture of the unused trailer homes.......hundreds of them. The world's
gone mad.
posted by doctorschlock at 8:52 AM on December 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

City Hall is across the street from my office. They've got the streets all blocked off, and there are cops everywhere. I didn't know there was this much NOPD left.

What a mess.
posted by gordie at 9:19 AM on December 20, 2007

This whole story just keeps getting more fucked up. I have no clue what the solution is, but it doesn't seem like the right people are working to find it. Of course it's easy to judge from the suburbs almost 1,000 miles away, but it really does seem like some pretty fundamental injustices are happening here.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 9:22 AM on December 20, 2007

WWL is reporting that SWAT has been called in.

posted by djeo at 9:36 AM on December 20, 2007

Live news feed entitled "City Hall Under Siege".
posted by plexi at 9:39 AM on December 20, 2007

For those interested in the 'culture' links, check out Cocaine Blunts and Hip Hop Tapes' compilation of early-mid 90's New Orleans rap.

TRIIIIIIIIIIIIICK stop tellin' that lie,
We done hit you from the back for some Popeye's
You got a three piece white, a small, cold drink,
Some red beans, a biscuit and small fries.

posted by suckerpunch at 9:56 AM on December 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Aaaaand there's been some tazing.
posted by cortex at 10:05 AM on December 20, 2007

I don't know what he's sayin'
posted by chillmost at 10:42 AM on December 20, 2007

It's like a scene from a Naomi Klein novel.
posted by cytherea at 11:01 AM on December 20, 2007

Wow, this is just tragic.

I wish we could point to things like this when the jingoist pro-American rhetoric starts up, "Yeah? We can't even house or protect our own people, in a major American city! Who the fuck are we to bring civilization to anyone else?"

For Every Public Housing Unit Destroyed
A Condo Will Be Destroyed

And so begins hot part of the class war.
posted by quin at 11:35 AM on December 20, 2007

What is tragic is the protesters who aren't even from New Orleans, who have never lived in New Orleans are now concerned about housing? Whatever. Tear them down.
posted by govtdrone at 12:04 PM on December 20, 2007

It's hard for me to share the outrage about this. After the hurricane, I saw quite a few people who were displaced from New Orleans. One, as an example, was a skeletally thin black guy with an enormous weave/wig that looked like an alien was eating his head.

My point is, aren't these things poverty traps? Barriers to integration? I remember seeing some of the projects in New Orleans before the hurricane, and they looked like terrible places to live.
posted by atchafalaya at 12:14 PM on December 20, 2007

aren't these things poverty traps?

Yes, but they are better than not having affordable housing at all. You can't solve a poverty problem by simply making people homeless. You create mixed income communities and developments or require new development construction to have a percentage of units set aside for affordable housing if you want integration, you don't just throw people into the streets and hope they go away.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:07 PM on December 20, 2007

Their stated intent is to do just that: replace the units with mixed income housing. And to me, anyway, this is, in theory, a great idea. I've been in some of those buildings, and they are in rough shape. The city, however, has a notoriously bad record at mishandling this type of thing, and there is a justifiable amount of distrust. The St. Thomas projects in the Irish Channel were torn down in the 90s and replaced with a much smaller number of affordable units, as well as the only Wal-Mart in the parish.

On the other hand, yes, for a lot of folks hollering out there, this is their first time in Louisiana.
posted by gordie at 1:31 PM on December 20, 2007

They seem to be getting the cart before the horse here though. You build the housing units, then tear down the projects. They haven't even finished clearing out the debris fields, much less building enough affordable housing to replace what is to be lost.

That's how it is supposed to work in Cabrini Green (after similar demostrations by residents and continuing legal battles) too.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:41 PM on December 20, 2007

this issue is more complicated than tearing down a bunch of project buildings and replacing them with mixed-income housing. the majority of residents of the projects have been barred from returning to them; i.e., from coming home. the govvies--city, state, and federal--claimed the buildings were too decrepit to occupy. however, they backed down from that when an independent study showed that they're structurally sound. the feeling on the street is that the city didn't want the project people back because of the amount of crime emanating from those areas. however, even with the projects essentially closed, new orleans is on track to best its 2006 overall crime rate even without the return of the people commonly believed to be the perpetrators.

you also have to remember that even though these 'look like terrible places to live,' they're also home to an awful lot of people (as opposed to being home to a lot of awful people). i work with people who had $60-100k/year jobs who bitched and moaned because their jobs moved to different states after the storm. many of those folks lived in damage-free homes but were mightily put out by having to collect their check from a subsidized hotel room and eat their meals from their per diem.

then again, the protesters really didn't help their cause when they picked this woman to complain about her "slum-like"alternative housing. (this story was front page on nola.com yesterday.)

i'm more upset about the forced closing of tent city.

the planetary sister gives an excellent eye into the housing and homeless problems in new orleans.
posted by msconduct at 4:10 PM on December 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

thanks to outsiders and newcomers standing up for the displaced. if the only way people have gotten into housing in two years was to break their own doors down in protest, who can blame them when they follow the only marginally successful method? There are ever more people under the interstate at canal, working people. The problem of affordable housing is much bigger than the projects, and it is not going away.

the city / HANO / HUD will not even be replacing public housing one-for-one, as proposed by the Unified New Orleans Planning process, as the Times-Pic mentioned in their milquetoast manner. They plan to replace public housing over years at a rate as low as 28% of current stock, with the rest turned into "market rate" housing built by for-profit developers. Which is just code for expensive housing, with middle-class renters. thus the hate for condos. Rents for everyone are double what they were before the storm, and I can't imagine wages have moved that much, nor vouchers covering costs.

the whole crime excuse is a real joke, and the stats show it well. the projects may be the places where drug dealers get their on-the-job training, but the drug trade is based in the service/tourist economy in the french quarter--who is going to shut that down?
posted by eustatic at 11:36 PM on December 20, 2007

Rents for everyone are double what they were before the storm, and I can't imagine wages have moved that much, nor vouchers covering costs.

It is my understanding that vouchers cover up to $1300 or so, more than enough for a decent apartment in New Orleans anywhere outside of the CBD or the toniest parts of Uptown. I don't know how this works with family size and whatnot, but voucher reimbursements have been so high I've heard complaints about them pushing up rents for those who aren't eligible for vouchers.
posted by raysmj at 5:15 PM on December 21, 2007

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