A Decade Later, New Orleans Mends Finances and Neighborhoods

27 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Life Inside the Levees: New Orleans Ten Years After Katrina.

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama says New Orleans is “moving forward” a decade after Hurricane Katrina dealt it a devastating blow, and has become an example of what can happen when people rally around each other to build a better future out of the despair of tragedy.ABC News commissioned New Orleans photographer William Widmer to visit three neighborhoods in New Orleans immediately adjacent to levees that failed due to Katrina – the Lower 9th Ward, Gentilly and Lakeview.

Pictured: A view of Jourdan Avenue from the Industrial Canal at sunrise, Aug. 2, 2015, in the Lower 9th Ward.Scientists rank hurricanes according to the power of their winds–Category 5 hurricanes, the strongest possible, must have sustained winds greater than 155 m.p.h. (250 km/h).

Ten years after the flood, the landscape is populated with abandoned houses and a population still demanding infrastructure improvements, but his photos also show new homes being built and life in the city moving forward. A powerful hurricane that never reaches land will be forgotten by everyone but meteorologists, while a relatively weak storm can wreak havoc if it strikes a heavily populated coastal city. I’d seen pictures, but when I got there I had to consider it all over again.” Ahern, a former reporter dispatched to cover disasters, says: “This was unlike anything I’d seen – worse than a fire or tornado. It was such complete devastation.” Now media director for the Trust for Public Land, Ahern came to New Orleans specifically to assist with the efforts to restore City Park.

The storm caused major damage to the Gulf Coast from Texas to central Florida while powering a storm surge that breached the system of levees that were built to protect New Orleans from flooding. Video of residents seeking refuge on rooftops or inside the Superdome or the convention center dominated the news coverage as Katrina came to symbolize government failure at every level. The birds and animals had died or disappeared and a foul odour permeated the park. “It smelled rotten,” says Hopper. “It was very brown and very stinky.” Visiting the park this summer, such damage was hard to imagine.

In the speech, Obama says Katrina helped expose structural inequalities that long plagued New Orleans and left too many people, especially minorities, without good jobs, affordable health care or decent housing and too many kids growing up in the midst of violent crime and attending inefficient schools. A sign for a local advocacy group that says “Hold the Corps Accountable!” sits in an empty lot on Warrington Drive, Aug. 14, 2015, near the site where the east side of the London Avenue Canal was breached during Hurricane Katrina. Bobby Jindal, a Republican waging a long-shot bid for his party’s presidential nomination who told the president that the anniversary is a time to mourn the loss of loved ones, not to espouse “the divisive political agenda of liberal environmental activism.” “A lecture on climate change would do nothing to improve upon what we are already doing,” Jindal told Obama in a letter Wednesday. “Quite the opposite; it would distract from the losses we have suffered, diminish the restoration effort we have made and overshadow the miracle that has been the Louisiana comeback.” He feels that the 17th Street Canal, which borders the property, must still be leaking water because the grass grows much faster on the lots he maintains next to the levee than the ones across the street or elsewhere in the neighborhood. But a 2005 masterplan, implemented months before the hurricane, called for converting the southern golf course for other uses, and after Katrina it was repurposed as festival grounds and a conservation-focused area called Big Lake.

Adjacent to the New Orleans Museum of Art and near a streetcar stop, the revamped Big Lake exemplifies intentional “green infrastructure”, says Ahern. “In New Orleans it’s not about rebuilding after the last flood, but building the next flood.” Big Lake’s waterways are gorgeous, and functional: “Parks can absorb excess water, in essence serving as barrier islands. A 2013 report from the Seweage and Water Board of New Orleans says, “It is well documented that even before Katrina, the Sewerage and Water Board was in dire need of funds to repair and re-build its aging sewer and water systems.” The golf course at the northern edge of the park was restored to its original purpose and is busy – 37,000 rounds were played there last year, according to City Park officials. So earlier this year, when City Park announced that construction would finally get under way on its long-delayed plan to create a single new golf course on 250 of those 375 acres, protests ensued.

A coalition called City Park for Everyone (CPFE) filed a lawsuit in February claiming that the Federal Emergency Management Agency and City Park had not adequately assessed potential environmental damage. “The golf course plan was pushed through – we didn’t feel there had been enough community input,” says CPFE’s president, Christopher Lane, adding that the area had become “a de facto nature preserve” and CPFE was “asking for it not to be developed”. The “tree sitting” drew global media attention, and ended dramatically when Boover fell from the cypress where he’d perched for 12 days below a banner declaring “Wild is Free”.

Funds come from private donors, corporate grants (such as a post-Katrina $2m donation from Pepsi for tennis facilities), user fees, even slot machines at the fairgrounds. “Our tagline is the ‘most entrepreneurial park in parkdom’,” Hopper says. It cites the example of the East Lake Foundation in Atlanta, where revamping a golf course and redeveloping a notorious public housing project brought in investment, charter schools and rising property values. Lane, however, argues that revenue plans other than golf should have been considered, such as turning the area into a ticketed nature preserve. “There is a tremendous opportunity lost,” he says. “This could have been wild and wonderful and unique, but now it’s just going to be another golf course.

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