The Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) agreed Dec. 14 to postpone demolition of three public housing projects pending a hearing before City Council. Opponents of the demolition had filed a suit contending the Council’s consent was required by the city charter. Work crews were to start demolition over the weekend in a plan to replace 4,500 public housing units with “mixed-income, mixed-use” development. “We knew the law, HANO knew the law, maybe they forgot it,” said civil rights lawyer Tracie Washington. Demolition at a fourth complex, BW Cooper, continued because the Council had approved its demolition four years ago.
On Nov. 1, the Council passed a resolution to support a congressional bill calling for one-for-one replacement of public housing units. The plan seen by HANO and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) calls for faster redevelopment and a reduction in the number of public housing units.
HUD says some 3,000 New Orleans public housing families remain scattered across the country, and social workers say the number of homeless people in the area has doubled to about 12,000. (AP, Dec. 15)
On Dec. 13, protesters gathered outside City Hall, opposite a park where homeless people are living in dozens of small tents. Protesters chanted “Stop the demolitions now!” (NYT, Dec. 14) That same day, two were arrested attempting to block demolition of the BW Cooper project. The two occupied one of the buildings scheduled to be bulldozed, draping two handmade banners from the side before police intervened. The banners read “Reopen now,” and “No demolition.” (AP via the Houston Chronicle, Dec. 13)
At a Dec. 6 hearing, police blocked the side door of the City Council chambers to keep former housing project residents out as others chanted “No demolition” outside. Civil rights attorney Bill Quigley, who was standing by the door, was arrested and received a citation for disturbing the peace. “We live in a system where if you cheer or chant in a city council, you get arrested,” Quigley said. “But you can demolish 4,500 people’s apartments and everybody seems to go along with that. That’s not going to happen.” (WDSU, New Orleans, Dec. 6)
See our last posts on the struggle in New Orleans.
ethnic cleansing in New Orleans
So let me get this straight … New Orleans had some public housing built in the areas of the city that were the lowest, and therefore the most drastically affected by the flooding. From an urban planning perspective, this is land which should never be put any to residential use.
Now, when they refuse to rebuild the same housing in the same area .. it’s called ethnic cleansing? That’s absurd. Why not call it, “sensible”?
Because it’s ethnic cleansing.
As the text states, these projects are not to be replaced with wetlands to protect the city from flooding, but with new housing—only this time for “mixed income” residents. So this is pretty blatantly about changing the class and racial make-up of New Orleans.
Furthermore, as we wrote nearly a year ago when the plans were first unveiled:
Clash in New Orleans council chamber
From AP, Dec. 20:
From the Times-Picayune, Dec. 20:
There seems to be some confusion as to whether plans to demolish BW Cooper (formerly Calliope) was previously approved by the City Council or only the project’s governing council. Perhaps some New Orleans activists can clarify this for us…
Ethnic cleansing in action
This says a lot about the vote. From the New York Times, Nov. 20, 2007: