Monday, December 17, 2007

A little response from little ol' me to some recent discussion on a certain listserve:

...those of us with education know that this is much bigger than just developing the projects into retail and making their former residents "useful to society" in some way. This is about a presumption that the public is quite happily willing to hand over any and all property that was once dedicated to public service, no questions asked. Once it is handed over, with excuses such as "People don't want to live in old houses", among many others (it's such a sick joke - I live in an old house and love it) put forth to justify the transaction, the folks involved in private enterprise can do whatever the hell they want with it. Nine times out of ten, it ends up not serving anybody but the few who own it. The only thing that companies such as Providence and Enterprise are being held to with regards to the projects are the demolitions.

Those so-called "politics of the past" are still alive and well. They have been given a primo opportunity with the difficulty most people who want to return and rebuild are having with obtaining financing from Road Home, insurance companies, and other funding sources. The poor are the ones who are the least able to defend themselves in this scenario - there goes the affordable housing. The sick, who need good medical care, are the next least able - there go the hospitals. The kids in K-12 - forget it, goodbye schools.

Unless there are some legally binding contracts based on serious consultation with displaced residents who want nothing more than to come home and help make this city better than ever, even the least paternalistic, well-intentioned plans will fall flat. No real effort is being made to find a way other than the easy way - the most amount of money for the least amount of people. And it certainly ain't gonna go to the poor, the sick, or the poorly educated.
Read more about this over at Wet Bank Guide. Mark also directs us to what happens when HUD/HANO rebuilds. Not good. Not good at all.

Schroeder weighs in on the way the media is treating this issue, and even points out Bill Quigley's questioning of the HUD secretary's dealings with regards to New Orleans. Schroeder, I wish I could fully back the Make It Right foundation, but one glaring bit of fine print is my main obstacle.

Yes, Dambala, the projects didn't work. I just want to see, in some fine print, where, when, and how the neighborhoods will be rebuilt. I'm still not confident enough to hand over that land to private enterprise and rely on them to correct those "mistakes we've made in our city planning."

And, as for the article that came out in the Times-Pic this past weekend, that's very nice that there is available housing. Where's the effort to place people in these homes? Why are there still tents in Duncan Plaza and homeless folks roaming the streets? Where is Providence's and Enterprise's contractual obligation to rebuild on formerly public land? Social services, anyone? (Oyster makes the point that social services put forth on the part of the protestors to put 'em in homes could well tip the scales towards the anti-demolition activists. Get yourself out there, ya treif bivalve, you! ;-) )

Update, 10:05 AM: What's with us Nolas? Check what TPMCafe has to say. (thanks, Greg!)

Anudder update, 1:35 PM: E has more. And he's right. Everybody must do their best Aretha Franklin and think.


saintseester said...

Beware the developer who says he has the best interests of the community at heart...

Puddinhead said...

Kill all developers. Those who would make a profit off of any project are evil. Land should remain open and undeveloped, available for anyone who cares to pitch a tent. Everything should stay the way it is, because change is the enemy of the people.

Seriously, though...keep an eye on the companies who would seek to redevelop large tracts of land, of course, to ensure as much as possible that they keep the wishes of the surrounding neighborhoods in mind. But keep in mind that that "public land" should be used such that it benefits ALL of the public...which includes those who are economically well off enough such that they do not need public housing. Meaning that when public land is used to serve the needs of the poor it should not be used in such a manner such is detrimental to those who are not poor. That has been the basis of my support for the demolitions all along; I've lived in close enough proximity (not across the street, but within "long" walking distance) to housing developments for enough of my life to recognize that the "concentrated" method of serving the poor's housing needs wasn't working. It wasn't working for the poor themselves as well as some other methods where the housing is more integrated into the community as a whole, and it certainly wasn't working for the rest of the community, as evidenced by the depressed state of neighborhoods surrounding housing developments.

Some protesting a change in housing methods float a red herring argument. They point out that most of the projects are closed now...and yet so many of the problems unsympathetic people have blamed on the projects all along still exist. We still have a terrible crime and social ills problem, they say, even now with the developments closed--how could you say the developments have anything to do with the problems if they still exist? As though the types of ills that stem from concentrating populations of people in such a manner that they're practically disassociated from the rest of the community, that were generations in the making, would immediately disappear the moment there's no one living in the developments.

Schroeder said...

Sure, admittedly, some of the designs are an abomination -- who wants to be reminded of disaster every time you see your house? Still, there's more to work out. The point is, Brad Pitt said he wants to build 150 houses, and conceived a plan to do it, by creating an art installation on hallowed ground, which lights by night, creating and inspiring others to think of what's possible. Everyone knows what's clearly *not* possible if we do nothing.