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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

4 Corners

There has been a war on the corner of Carrollton and Claiborne. The enemy has shifted at times, and there was never a Peace or Resolution. Just an uneasy cease fire.

Our Neighborhood was never much of a player in this war. We live in the Territory but we had always figured it was someone elses fight. That we were powerless to effect a change and that the outcome would be one that we would have to live with.

As is said so often “Katrina changed everything”, it changed our landscape and it reinvigorated our desire to save our Neighborhood.

Jenel…..One of the quickest thinkers ever, she walked the Neighborhood and passed out flyers till she assembled the beginings of a Team. She wrote the letters and spoke up when perhaps Silence was what was expected.

Scott… One of the first ones back, no gas, no hot water, no heat. His first fight was with Entergy and our then Council Person. He is The Architect, and the quiet force who balances our strident yells with a quiet firm no.

Kim…. The Bow Tie Man, he is the Yin to our Yang and flew the Flag. Before we met I would silently salute the Flag on the front of his house on Carrollton. “DON’T GIVE UP THE SHIP” it said. He has taught me a lot.

Morrey…. The passionate pragmatic actress. See her now at Southern Rep. [shameless plug] She kept us on point with paperwork and membership and remebering to dot the i and cross the t. It made all the diffrence.

Our last recruit. Debi…. She lives at the corner of Blight and Despair. Her house overlooks the 4 Corners. When we met she was worn to the nub from this fight and sure that the outcome would be one that was inevitable. She brought reality to the situation. When ever I thought that the fight was over I drove to the Parking Lot and looked at her house. I thought about being a single mother and trying to make a home for a 11 year old. As the piles of trash and gas tanks and flooded cars grew I thought about what it was like to live there. As I write this I am listening to “Room with a View [of the Blues} by Johhny Adams. That is her theme song.

Me…All I know is that there is a right way and a wrong way, and my list of gratitude is long. Alan at Think New Orleans he pointed me in a the direction of Civic Activism that has forever changed the way I see things. Maitri the Magnificent and Ray from New Orleans relocated to Austin and back again with a shovel and broom.

All of this is an introduction to the announcement this week that Walgreens will be working with the City, and the residents of our Flooded City. They are planning on building according to the Carrollton Overlay and including a much needed Grocery in the equation. Marc Robert is on board with this and we are as well.

For the first time in a long time the residents of the 4 corners are working together for a better community.

We have Shelley Midura to thank for that. Shelley did not even have time to hang her hat in her City Hall office, and she was meeting with us, and other residents in the area. She and Alex Morgan worked tirelessly and dogedly to resolve this issue. At a time when there are nothing but issues, she gave this one her full attention and we can not say enough about her even handed approach.
So Thanks to all those who made it happen. Walgreens, Gordon Kolb, Justin Schmidt, Marc Robert and all those that care about the future of this City. And not to forget, Mid City, Neron Place, Marilyn Barbera [The Sage], Richard Layman in D.C. Michelle and Peter, for gas when I was running low.

I have probably forgotten to thank you, my mind is now hampered by chemo and Double Post Traumatic Stress, and the relentless sound of jack Hammers in my Neighborhood.
So Thanks… Karen Gadbois

Sunday, August 27, 2006

NorthWest Carrollton mentioned in NYTimes

Planning... Lambert
Planning... UNOP
Planning... CPC to come

In the neighborhoods, New Orleanians are skeptical. “Why does it seem that every time someone swoops in to help us, it winds up being a mess?” asked Jenel Hazlett, of the Northwest Carrollton Civic Association, a neighborhood group. “They keep moving the players around, and we as citizens keep getting jerked around.”

Like others, Ms. Hazlett professes bewilderment at a planning process, now stretching out for nearly a year,that involves an ever-shifting cast of characters, embraces and then swiftly rejects differing visions, and calls for repeated consultations with the citizens — and still produces no plan.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

NorthWest Carrollton in the Village Voice

See the article in the Village Voice.

Building Blocks
Neighbor by neighbor, house by house, New Orleans struggles on

By Anya Kamenetz Tuesday, Aug 22 2006

"I've lost all sense of what's normal," says New Orleans resident Bart Everson. His house, which took on five feet of water, stands at a crossroads in the city's recovery—one of the points where people staring at destruction must decide whether to stay or go. At the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, he and his wife are back in their Mid-City home, in a neighborhood where fewer than 30 percent of the families own the place they live in and which most visitors might see only on their way to Jazzfest.

Absentee landlords have abandoned more than half the nearby buildings in his district. His neighbors across the street, an elderly African American woman with her three grandchildren, are gone, replaced by someone who seems to be a squatter. Newly arrived Hispanic laborers are paying twice the pre-Katrina rents, yet some have no electricity or gas. Some pile their unbagged garbage in the street. The block around the corner is full of FEMA trailers, and across the street is a grocery store untouched since the storm. Inside, rats scurry over a floor slick with rot.

And yet Everson, who works at Xavier University, and his wife, who teaches school, have no plans to leave. They are renovating their flooded first story. They complained to their City Council member about the garbage and the rats, and used Spanish-language flyers to persuade new neighbors to clean up. And most of all, the Eversons are active in their neighborhood organization, which like dozens around the city is working independently to devise a plan for rebuilding. Their group is proposing to form a community redevelopment corporation to buy blighted houses and provide a path to homeownership for those willing to renovate them.

"We want to give people a reason to move to Mid-City," Everson says, especially people from more wrecked neighborhoods who can't afford to buy in the areas that stayed dry. "I really think we are the best of the worst, as far as a flooded neighborhood that's coming back."

If you want to get what's going on in New Orleans right now, you need to understand Everson's state of mind, which he describes as "tightly bridled optimism." People here have always read the map as a checkerboard—rich and poor, safe and dangerous, white and black. One year post-Katrina, the grid has acquired a few more dimensions. Multiply the August 30 flood line by the percentage of renters vs. homeowners, and by the distance from the "sliver on the river" or the "Aisle of denial"—the dry area from the French Quarter to Tulane University—and you get a rough index of viability.

The grassroots commitment of individual residents like Everson is the X factor in the fate of each of the city's 73-odd neighborhoods; still-inadequate hurricane protection and an absence of citywide coordination are the immovable variables that threaten them all.

Add to that mix the big money and big plans coming at the beginning of September. Up to $150,000 in homeowners' assistance is coming through the Road Home program, federal grants administered by the state Louisiana Recovery Authority. But for rental housing and every other city planning issue, no one knows what exactly will be funded, or how and when. John McIlwain of the Urban Land Institute, a national urban planning and developers' trade organization, has been advising in the process officially and unofficially for the past year. He says Mayor Ray Nagin has just a few weeks to designate someone who’ll make sure the money goes where it's supposed to. "There is a window of opportunity now with the plans in place and the money coming in,” McIlwain argues. “If they're not coordinated by a strong organization, the money will be wasted."

On the other hand, he says, "One thing I think is really positive is that the neighborhood groups are involved in the planning effort . . . . Recovery has to be neighborhood based and block by block."

Dozens of neighborhood organizations have either been formed or greatly expanded, even in the most devastated areas, and suddenly everyone knows the local city councilperson by name. "I knew my neighbors to wave to," says Karen Gadbois. After the storm, she co-founded the Northwest Carrollton Civic Association and is now trying to get elderly neighbors back in their homes, shut out a big-box store, and improve police response. "I've called them and they literally say, 'If you'd like to report an emergency, press 3--it's like calling Cox Cable, except you're calling 911." At a recent 2nd District community police meeting, she says, a man reported that a gunshot victim crawled under his FEMA trailer and died.

Talk to neighborhood activists citywide and you hear the same chorus of complaints: housing blight, decaying infrastructure, resurgent crime, and a lack of leadership. "The mayor is invisible," says Maitri Venkat-Ramani, a Shell Oil geologist who hears drug deals outside her house on Magazine Street.

"He's done nothing for the city," seconds Linda DeGruy, who moved back into the Iberville projects in June without authorization and is withholding rent. She’s suing the Housing Authority of New Orleans for her right to stay. While most of the city's public housing remains closed and slated for demolition, around 250 residents have returned to this development, some with permission and at least 29 without it. The drug trade is back here too, with a vengeance. Cleveland Young, one of a group of men standing outside Iberville's corner grocery with beers on a Sunday afternoon, says he got out of prison in the spring after five years and is "just trying to survive."

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Walgreens Kills Flooded Neighborhoods

In spite of the fact that the Walgreens Corporation has leased property for 8 years and has let it fall into a a state of disrepair.

In spite of the fact that it has become a public nuiscance to the degree that the neighbors next to the site fear for personal safety.

In spite of the fact that we have experienced the worst man made disaster in the History of this Country.

In spite of the fact that we are busy trying to fight for the survival of our Neighborhood with no help from The LRA and our Federal Government.

In spite of the fact that we have asked repeatedly and been lied to repeatedly by Walgreens Corporate offices as well as local representatives.

In spite of all that they want to continue to ignore the Zoning Laws of this City.