Build With Care
I wanted to thank Allen Johnson Jr. and Gambit for running a piece on the proposed LSU-VA hospital and its potential impact on the Tulane-Gravier and Mid-City neighborhoods ("Worried Sick," Dec. 25, 2007). The hospital is plainly one of the most important projects planned for New Orleans in recent memory, but the proponents of the hospital " of which I am one " should understand that development does not have to come at the expense of neighborhoods or of preservation. One of the reasons that New Orleans has built an environment unrivaled by any other in this country is because it did not follow other major US cities in undertaking urban renewal projects during the 1950s and 1960s. It would be ironic if one of Katrina's results was that we came to make the poor decisions that we avoided four decades ago. It is possible for the hospital to benefit both the city at large as well as Tulane-Gravier and Mid-City. Instead of the city and state merely demolishing buildings, government has a number of options to minimize the displacement of residents and the impact on the neighborhoods while simultaneously lowering costs to the public.
For homes already being renovated, government can pay to move homes to infill lots in the two neighborhoods adjacent to the hospital, which in most instances will cost far less than fair market value of buying the homes. For homes which are not being renovated but which are structurally sound, government can declare eminent domain on the homes and move them to infill lots, and then sell them at a fee to homeowners and nonprofits, saving money for all parties involved. In other words, we can minimize impacts on neighborhoods, preserve historic structures, promote homeownership and minimize the impact on public coffers. The possibilities are many, and this is a situation where we can have our cake and eat it too, if those planning for the hospital " public officials, neighborhood organizations, and preservationists alike " will only see each other as partners and not obstacles in the way of development.
Clean Up Your Act, City Hall
There is a dumpster in front of a property on my block. No permit of any kind is posted. Upon calling safety and permits [offices], the recording says they are not able to take calls, and I must come to City Hall in person to complain. Great. How many of us can afford that kind of time to help them do their job? Gretchen Bomboy Support for Public Housing We send this statement in response to the New Orleans City Council's unanimous vote to move forward with the demolition of 4,500 units of public housing. Due to our unique Sister City relationship with the people of the 7th Ward of New Orleans and several Ithaca residents who left our area to work for social justice in New Orleans, we feel a particular affinity to New Orleans and its people.
Housing is a universal human right. We are shocked and outraged that citizens of New Orleans were shot with pepper spray and tasers as they went to ask their City Council to vote against approving demolition permits for public housing. Many more were arrested and harassed. Hundreds of people were turned away from the City Council meeting. Public housing residents and their supporters faced this horrendous treatment when they went to City Council to ask that there be a moratorium on demolition until one-for-one replacement of public housing units is guaranteed and that public housing residents be included in the decision-making process.
In the two-plus years since Hurricane Katrina hit, New Orleans' poorest families have had a very difficult time returning home. Despite Katrina causing the worst affordable housing crisis since the Civil War, HUD is spending $762 million in taxpayer funds to tear down over 4600 public housing subsidized apartments and replace them with 744 similarly subsidized units " an 82 percent reduction in housing. We are also concerned and cognizant of the underlying race, class and other discrepancies that are apparent in these and other actions.
We call on our elected officials in New Orleans to stop these needless demolitions and take immediate action to uphold the human rights of New Orleans' poorest citizens.
Maria Coles, Michelle Berry, Gayraud Townsend, David Gelinas, Svante Myrick, Daniel Cogan
Alderpersons, City of Ithaca, N.Y.