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.