brickbat for HANO

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i-miss-my-neighbors2.jpg


We live on Lesseps St. in the Bywater, on very high ground back by Vaughn’s and the naval base. Katrina didn’t touch us. She ripped the tar roof off of the Section-8 style mini-project across the street though, and water poured in, ruining six people’s apartments and all belongings therein. Those poor people survived the hurricane but lost all their shit anyway and had to move, to where we have no idea. Several sources have told me that HANO owns the building. If so, than we need to shut em down.

It gets more infuriating than that though. In 2007, my wife, Morgana King (who heads many big public art projects at the Arts Council of New Orleans, and also helps run The Front Gallery on St. Claude) started missing our neighbors across the street. In tribute to them, she hand-sewed a 20-foot by 4-foot pale-green and brown banner: I MISS MY NEIGHBORS (see photo). She then painted childlike cartoons of our neighbors on poster board, and stapled the painting on the wood with which HANO had covered the windows. It was supposed to look like they were still inside and happy.

While she was finishing this cute project, a HANO truck stopped by. The driver asked Morgana what she was doing. She explained, making sure to point out that her art was not painted onto the building and thus was not vandalism. HANO dude said he actually liked it. Still the next it was taken down.

Whoever took it down (we suspect HANO, obviously, though maybe it was the Grey Ghost Fred Radtke, who is a well known hater of art) they stimply untied it, dropped it limp to the second floor concrete. So we just went and tied it back up. Our remaining neighbors on Lesseps loved the project, by the way. So we know it wasn’t any of them that, on that second night, cut it down, sliced it so it would have been impossible to re-hang unless it was also re-sewn. Which we did. On the third morning it was clean gone.

Flash to five months later, and the building’s temporary wooden doors have all dried and bowed and fallen off the place, exposing the contents within. None of those people were ever given the chance to go back into their apartments and salvage any of their belongings (which, isn’t that what the city did to most its public housing residents?), so all their couches, clothes, family pictures, and everything else are still sitting in there, visibly moldy, with the roof caved in all over it. At some point they even came and put ‘no parking’ signs on the building, so no one would mess up the grass, and they left without fixing the doors. That was summer 2008.

Flash to now, we’re almost on the one-year anniversary of the protective boards falling off. Last week, three small elementary aged kids built a bicycle ramp in the precious grass out front, five feet from the dangerously open doors. Luckily the kids seem uninterested in the moldy crap inside the apartments. If they wanted to though, they could easily go in and explore, and most likely get hurt, or die when the rest of the ceiling caves in on them.

To recap: it took HANO one day to notice and rectify the cute art project Morgana did. They spent all week diligently making sure it didn’t go back up. And yet the doors on this house have been dangerously wide open for almost a year. I suppose we’ll have to fix it ourselves. Or re-hang the art project to bring the HANO workers back. Here’s a shot of the building today (notice the kids' bike ramp):

ramp.jpg

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