public housing demolition protestor’s playbook

reprint below courtesy of Laureen Lentz Metroblogging New Orleans

“After the fiasco at City Council this week when this group disrupted the proceedings and were met by stiff security, the affordable housing folks are trying to get a bit more organized going into next week. At a meeting yesterday led by housing advocate, Bill Quigley, a plan was outlined for next week’s strategy as they fight to stop the demolition of The Big 4 housing projects in New Orleans.

Sunday, Dec. 9th: March to Ray Nagin’s House . . . all the way to Texas?

Monday, Dec. 10th: 9 am : Press Conference Protest at City Hall.
10 am: Stagger (not storm) into the Housing Conservation District Review Committee (in Safety & Permits) which is scheduled to hear the case of residents and give final consideration before issuing the necessary permits for demolition for Peete, Cooper and Lafitte. Liprap chronicles a play-by-play of the events this morning.

This room, where the HCDRC is held, is very small. It’s going to be ugly. Knowing the sketchy background of the HCDRC, these public housing advocates ought to go see if these buildings haven’t already been demolished. The group plans to ask for denial and/or deferral of the matter. At best, they are hoping for a no action or lack of a quorum.

Having attended too many of these train wrecks, I wonder how Super Mario, the Chair of the Committee, (Nelson Savoie) plans to get out of this mess. Maybe they will kidnap Nelson. Someone at the meeting today called the HCDRC, ‘a rubber stamp committee’. I am thinking they may pull it from the agenda on a technicality.

Tuesday, Dec. 11th: Preparation and training for a larger mobilization organized by Defend New Orleans Public Housing.Org. The AFL-CIO plans to go into the D.C. Court to stop demolition of St. Bernard. Look for a press conference.

Wednesday, Dec. 12th: Barbara Jackson is in charge of galvanizing people at River Gardens to get them to show up at the protests later in the week. Barbara’s going to have to promise that they will make it home in time for their soaps. Apparently, the insurgents need to inflate their numbers by gathering up people who already have some pretty nice public housing. You would think that these residents would actually support the demolition of the gulags.

Thursday, Dec. 13th: Day of Action: Mass mobilization of protesters at Lafitte. The plan is to deliberately block the I-10 exit ramp.

Friday, Dec. 14th: Catholic Charities Day. After a busy few days of insurrection, this must be the day the group talks about genocide. Inevitably, it comes up in all their discussion. They equate the demolition of public housing and building new ones as a violation of Human Rights. Are they saying that thousands of people have been systematically murdered by the government by keeping the projects closed?

Saturday, Dec. 15th: Whomever is not yet in jail, protest at St. Bernard.

Jump in Front of Bulldozers: Some cursory thought was given to Plan B. If the HCDRC approves the demolitions, these folks plan to send a message to those contracted to do the demolitions that they will be met with the same level of hysteria. They plan to stand in front of the bulldozers.

The rest of this post is more detailed background information for the serious reader . . .

The Bad Element of Public Housing is Not Always the Residents

Slated for demolition are C.J. Peete, St. Bernard, part of Lafitte, and part of B.W. Cooper, currently referred to as ‘The Big 4″. Housing projects are mere microcosms of actual streetscaped neighborhoods. While I agree with saving some of the old buildings because of their historical and architectural strength, the spacial element is only part of it. I don’t think anyone in New Orleans wants to make this same mistake again in redevelopment because the situation in the projects had made them the center of Pre Katrina Violence. We’ve seen many shootings already in the projects which are open. Notably, our violence, in general, hasn’t abated since the projects were closed, so it’s not just the configuration to blame for the bad element that gives the projects a bad name.

Senate Bill 1668: Trying to make sure it’s right.

Senate Vitter’s successful block of Senate Bill 1668 this week was largely due to the lack of definitive language in the bill regarding the density of the newly built housing replacing the ‘Big 4’. There is some concern that the bill also lacks any language regarding economic support programs/obligations for those in public housing which would have been funded by the Gulf Coast Housing Recovery Act, aka GCHRA. Even the use of percentages dictating a ratio of subsidized and market rate housing might not be enough to ensure the developments are truly mixed. (Market Rate issue is discussed further under HUD Transparency.)

Senator Landrieu is trying to dismiss much of Councilwoman Head and Senator Vitter’s concerns in wording but this is the same woman who failed to get these same people evacuated in short order as water began to rise when the levees broke. She ignored calls from people like myself who called pleading for her to push for the National Guard to be deployed to drop water and food on Monday after the storm. Based on that mistake, I tend to trust the people closest to the problem today for direction.

HUD, Transparency and Market Rate Rent Vouchers

New facilities have opened up along MLK. What is the occupancy rate? HUD is not forthcoming with updated information for the public regarding the reimbursement rate for Sec. 8 for New Orleans residents. As you recall, when rental rates spiked immediately after the storm, HUD raised the voucher amount to meet the market rate. So the term ‘Market Rate’ is not a definition that could require developers to create a true mixed environment.

The plans for the new housing should be made accessible to the public. The lack of transparency on HUD’s part is adding to the anger of many involved in the process. Portions of places like CJ Peete have been empty for years and years. So language per the GCHRA legislation replacement as ‘one-to-one’ could actually increase the functioning number of subisidized units to higher than those inhabited pre-Katrina. This benefits the money handed to developers. It’s warped.

Today, rental rates are leveling out a bit as more houses are repaired. As drug crime continues to plague some areas, like Dumaine St., the rates are bottoming out to nothing and good residents couldn’t be paid enough to live there.

Based on the many ‘Section 8 Welcome’. signs I see, it’s now pretty desirable to landlords in areas like Mid City. Despite this plea, many units are still for rent. Many homes remain unoccupied. The last number I could find for rental vouchers was $980. Did this increase actually push the rental rates up in the City?

Do we really have a housing shortage? After all, we keep tearing down perfectly good houses.

Ultimately, WWL-TV reported Friday, the majority of folks are happy to see these gulags of poverty go away forever. In fact, I know someone who grew up in St. Bernard. He said he can’t wait to see it torn down. It makes him sick.

BGR’s Report on Public Housing Redevelopment”

and more commentary over at We Could Be Famous


~ by maringouin on Monday, December 10, 2007.

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