Mass Demolition

Hmmm… looks like a certain university is aiming to demolish a whole neighborhood. Well, not quite, but 21 houses.

Housing Conservation District Review Committee
Agenda
10 a.m. June 25, 2007
Room 7E07, 7th Floor, City Hall

NEW BUSINESS:

Gert Town
947 S. Cortez St. – Owner Xavier University has applied to demolish this workman’s cottage to be replaced with a vacant lot.

934 S. Cortez St. – Owner Xavier University has applied to demolish this workman’s cottage to be replaced with a vacant lot.

4921 Dixon St. – Owner Xavier University has applied to demolish this ranch-style single-family residence to be replaced with a vacant lot.

4937 Dixon St. – Owner Xavier University has applied to demolish this workman’s cottage to be replaced with a vacant lot.

7231 Dixon St. – Owner Xavier University has applied to demolish this contemporary commercial building to be replaced with a vacant lot.

4816 Drexel Dr. – Owner Xavier University has applied to demolish this ranch-style single-family residence to be replaced with a vacant lot.

4836 Drexel Dr. – Owner Xavier University has applied to demolish this single-family residence to be replaced with a vacant lot.

7200 Drexel Dr. — Owner Xavier University has applied to demolish this contemporary commercial building to be replaced with a vacant lot.

4824 Howard Ave. – Owner Xavier University has applied to demolish this workman’s cottage to be replaced with a vacant lot.

4836 Howard Ave. – Owner Xavier University has applied to demolish this single-family residence to be replaced with a vacant lot.

4916 Howard Ave. – Owner Xavier University has applied to demolish this workman’s cottage to be replaced with a vacant lot.

4934 Howard Ave. — Owner Xavier University has applied to demolish this single-family residence to be replaced with a vacant lot.

5004 Howard Ave. – Owner Xavier University has applied to demolish this workman’s cottage to be replaced with a vacant lot.

1003 S. Clark St. — Owner Xavier University has applied to demolish this altered single-family residence to be replaced with a vacant lot.

910 S. Cortez St. – Owner Xavier University has applied to demolish this workman’s cottage to be replaced with a vacant lot.

922 S. Cortez St. – Owner Xavier University has applied to demolish this altered Arts-and-Crafts style bungalow to be replaced with a vacant lot.

943 S. Telemachus St. — Owner Xavier University has applied to demolish this workman’s cottage to be replaced with a vacant lot.

965 S. Telemachus St. — Owner Xavier University has applied to demolish this single-family residence to be replaced with a vacant lot.

971 S. Telemachus St. – Owner Xavier University has applied to demolish this single-family residence to be replaced with a vacant lot.

7440 Stroelitz St. – Owner Xavier University has applied to demolish this altered single-family residence to be replaced with a vacant lot.

7940 Washington Ave. – Owner Xavier University has applied to demolish this raised basement altered Neoclassical Revival house to be replaced with a vacant lot.

Squandered Heritage has pictures.

Update: These demolitions were all approved at the HCDRC meeting on July 23.

City Walk

Xy and I took part tonight in the third City Walk sponsored by Silence Is Violence. The concept is simple: People gather at a designated neighborhood spot and walk to another spot in an adjacent neighborhood. The first week they walked from the Marigny (I think) to the 7th Ward. The next week, the path led from the 7th Ward to Mid-City. Tonight we walked from the Parkway Bakery in Mid-City to Daiquiri Island in Gert Town. Turnout was a little low, less than twenty, presumably because of French Quarter Fest. But we were glad we went. Soul Rebels played when we got to Daiquiri Island. I’ve wanted to see them for years.

Walking round in the 6th Ward
Everybody knows who we are
Soul Rebels in the place to be
Let your mind be free

Free your mind with education
Help to build a better nation
Stop killing for recreation
Let your mind be free

If you’re in New Orleans, I highly recommend getting in the loop with Silence Is Violence, and do the City Walk when they come into your neighborhood.

Fattening Frogs for Snakes

So I went to the neighborhood planning meeting for Mid-City and Gert Town Saturday morning, and was deeply disturbed by what I saw there. Something doesn’t smell right. It’s not just the lack of publicity for this particular meeting. The whole process seems suspect.

The aim is to come up with a recovery plan for each neighborhood by July, and then a comprehensive plan for the whole city in August. The plan would go to the City Planning Commission and then to the City Council (which body is sponsoring this whole process) and finally to the Louisiana Recovery Authority.

There’s a lot of money at stake here. Billions, I suppose. That federal money I keep hearing about, designated for rebuilding, is coming down to the LRA and they have to decide how to spend it. Established precedent from other disasters dictates that the devastated community should decide how to allocate these funds.

The planning process now under way seems to be designed to give the illusion of community participation — a veneer of legitimacy.

But it’s not the real thing. At least I don’t think it is. How could it be? The timeframe seems unrealistic. They want to cook up a plan for our whole neighborhood in two more meetings, from what I gather. That’s just not possible.

As one guy in the audience said, we’re “fattening frogs for snakes.” I never heard that expression before but it seems to fit. This looks like a scheme to get dollars into pockets, but whose pockets I don’t know.

Of course, I could be wrong. I hope I am. But it’s complicated. I have heard that the LRA will only accept plans for New Orleans that have the City Council’s stamp of approval. And with Saturday’s election, we effectively have a new city council.

I need to figure this out and fast. The pressing question for neighborhood organizations: repudiate or participate?

Gert Web

The university where I work is located on the edge of a neighborhood called Gert Town. Back when I lived Uptown, I used to ride my bike through Gert Town every day. Some people said I was crazy to do this. Gert Town is an economically depressed neighborhood populated almost exclusively by African Americans. I stood out like a sore thumb, but I was only harassed occasionally (“Hey white boy!”) and I never felt genuinely threatened.

For a while the local Greens had an office in a warehouse in Gert Town, but no longer. Since we moved to Mid-City, I’ve had little occasion to venture past the main campus and into Gert Town, except to go to the university’s new Art Village. But the neighborhood is still very much on my mind. It has a fascinating history, but it’s also clearly in a state of crisis. A variety of faculty that I work with are engaged in various projects such as collecting oral histories in the neighborhood. Last summer Xy did some volunteer work at the Gert Town Family Center.

All of which I mention as context.

Yesterday morning I went to the Gert Town Family Center myself for the first time and met Sharon Alexis. We talked about getting a website going for them. In thinking about this idea in advance, I’d come to the conclusion that what they really needed was a blog. Blogs make web publishing easy, even for people who don’t have any web authoring experience. I think it’s the perfect model for a community-based organization like this.

So she told me about the many, many things going on at the Center, and then we talked about blogs, web hosting, domain names and the like.

It turns out that gerttown.com is already owned by GNO Communications. They’ve had it for five years but aren’t doing anything with it. They’ve also registered lots of other local neighborhood names. Maybe they have legitimate plans, but it looks like cybersquatting to me. Who knows? Maybe they’ll give it up for a good cause. If not, there are plenty of other names available.

I wanted to show her Blogger, but it seems they get their internet connection via the Archdiocese of New Orleans, since they are a Catholic Charities program — and their filter is blocking blogspot.com. Huh. How do you like that? Just like China.

But one way or another I think this is gonna happen, and it strikes me that blogs are particularly well-suited to community-based organizations.