View Full Version : Rebuilding New Orleans

September 5th, 2005, 10:03 AM
Inevitably the question will arise: How to re-build New Orleans?

This thread is open to suggestions, ideas, dreams, schemes, etc.

Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert has suggested that bulldozing the city is a logical option (he has since back-tracked on this).

One blog (http://www.buzzmachine.com/index.php/2005/09/01/rebuilding-new-orleans-2/) has begun to address this, though at this early time many posters are offended by the very question.

One response seems to hit the nail on the head:

Oh, Piffle with that race and politics crap!

However, as a practical matter, I disagree with Hastert and any number of commenters for this simple reason: Look at the map.

Where is New Orleans? New Orleans is at the mouth of the Mississippi. Been there since long before the United States was the United States. Why did anyone build a city at the mouth of the mississippi on the Gulf of Mexico? Follow the Mississippi through the middle of the United States.

What is the Mississippi used for? Shipping of goods and products. It is one of the largest, natural transportation routes in this country if not the world. The largest Port in the United States. It is not only economically strategic, but also strategic in case of war directed at our shores or in case some other disaster (like hurricanes, tsunamis, etc) destroys another port.

We will rebuild NO because it has a purpose that is beyond the levees and the people that live there. it is vital to the security (economically and physically) of the US. Discussions otherwise are simply foolish.

I do believe that another intelligent poster commented on what will be the reality: lessons learned will mean new engineering and a new city.

Necessity is the mother of invention.

And another:

Oh, stop weeping you emotional slobs. It’s a good question. Should we rebuild (and pay for) something that’s below sea level and has been subjected to flloding and devastating hurricanes a number of times? When Chicago burned is spawned buildings with fireproof materials. We could do that. When San Francisco fell it created new earthquake-resistant building codes. We could do that. Are we going going to raise New Orleans above sea level or are we going to create (and can we afford to create) a monsterous cat-4 hurricane-proof (the levees were built to withstand cat 3) flood control system that will keep New Orleans dry? Can we do that? Forget how you “feel” about it. (People are getting help regardless of your feelings) It’s a good question. Someone has to ask it.

September 5th, 2005, 10:11 AM
Here is a post from what is called the "Most In-depth, Conservative, Honest News & Commentary":

By J. Grant Swank, Jr.
MichNews.com (http://www.michnews.com/)
Sep 2, 2005

It makes no sense.

And yet the courageous sounding continue with the age-old baptized mantra: "We will come back. We will rebuild."

That is commendable in that it is basically an emotional response to the New Orleans and environs tragedy. But it is not reasonable.

Are we going to rebuild a city that is going to go under again and again and again? The geography was warned over and over in the past by professionals who forecast that the bowl would fill up with flood waters one day. And now that apocalypse has come. We are experiencing the worst disaster in the nation’s history.

Would we rebuild in order to do a return of same in some year yet to be? Would that be fair to the upcoming generations let alone to our own logical present-tense see-throughs?

The whole time I was watching horrific scene by horrific scene, I kept coming to the same conclusion: Let’s not do that bowl thing again. Americans are proud people. They don’t like to be called quitters. They are achievers and go on with the show.

But all that has nothing to do with constructing a city once more in a bowl waiting for overflows. There is no guarantee that any system whatsoever could ward off floodwaters. We American planners always feel we have it safe and down pat. Sometimes we do. Then there are other times when we are proven to have imperfect plans.

The obvious logic in this whole mess is to say forthrightly to one another that we must learn from this not to be foolhardy in putting up another metropolis in the very same location that could be vulnerable to more mayhem in a short time to come? In a long time to come? In some time to come? Whatever, it’s not worth the gamble.

It’s the same toss of the dice in California. It makes no sense to me to build a house on the side of a potential mudslide. People do it. They take pictures of their grand homes and send them all over the place. They brag on their chances. And then calamity hits.

They go back and ask for the same mudslide spill all over again. I say that when they walk into the fan another time, they deserve every shredding they get. It's just not logical, and if Americans pride themselves on anything, it's that they are so downright logical. Not so.

US House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) says the same thing. He told the Daily Herald in a Chicago suburb that "’it doesn’t make sense to me. And it’s a question that certainly we should ask.’" That answer was to the question whether or not New Orleans should be resurrected on the same spot.

As reported by Bill Walsh of The Times-Picayune’s Washington Bureau, Hastert’s remarks followed Congress cutting short its summer break in order to return to DC to tend to emergency business.

As one can imagine, illogical pride rose to the occasion to counter Hastert’s comments. Those in charge from Louisiana scolded Hastert for being so brash, so unfeeling, and so forth and so forth. Illogical pride has a way of getting just a bit too emotional about things important at times.

"’We help replace, we help relieve disaster,’ Hastert said. ‘But I think federal insurance and everything that goes along with it. . .we ought to take a second look at that.’

"Hastert questioned the wisdom of rebuilding a city below sea level that will continue to be in the path of powerful hurricanes."

Now that makes sense.

And when it comes to those in California falling off their cliffs, knowing full well that one of these days or nights the cliffs could give way, don’t give them any moneys by which to build another monster house again on the slip side of existence.

Copyright © 2005 by J. Grant Swank, Jr.

September 5th, 2005, 10:22 AM
Another interesting post:

A Not-So-Swiftian Suggestion for New Orleans

by David Tufte

http://voluntaryxchange.typepad.com/voluntaryxchange/2005/08/a_swiftian_sugg.html (http://voluntaryxchange.typepad.com/voluntaryxchange/2005/08/a_swiftian_sugg.html)

Why not convert New Orleans into a National Park?

I am being provocative, but very, very serious.

We have a conjunction of two issues here: 1) the largest natural disaster and 2) the biggest example of the rules vs. discretion problem, in the history of the developed world.

(For those not in the know, Kydland and Prescott won a Nobel Prize in 2004 for pointing out that it isn't very bright for the government to give people money to rebuild after a natural disaster because they will rebuild in the same spot and get clobbered again).

I'm not going to argue that we shouldn't give people money to rebuild, but rather that there should be strings attached. Specifically, give them a bonus if they move elsewhere. It doesn't have to be far - Hammond, Ponchatoula, and Baton Rouge will all do OK in a Category 5 storm.

It would be far cheaper to build in those areas, and it may be an easy thing to pull off if everyone is out of NOLA for a few months.

Then take the remaining drier and higher areas of New Orleans and build the super-levee that has been on the table for the past 5 years around them. That proposal would ring the CBD, French Quarter and other areas of historic and tourist interest. Most of this stuff is old, and it built on the more desirable higher ground. It is the construction of the last 100 years that is the problem.

Then there is the problem of the destroyed neighborhoods and the toxic gumbo swilling around them. This is an environmental hazard of unknowable long-term consequences. I am not a fan of eminent domain, nor am I phobic about environmental hazards, but this is far outside our past experience. I suggest using eminent domain extensively, bulldozing, burying and capping all the low lying areas of the city - just as you would a landfill.

Over the top of this could be built new, low population density infrastructure.

In particular, New Orleans has needed a new airport for decades. For years, the best proposal on the table has been to build an island out of fill in Lake Ponchartrain. This is much more practical now that Lake Ponchartrain has moved south. The current airport in Kenner locked in by (now wrecked) neighborhoods, and primarily serves tourists anyway. Rebuild it much closer, but outside, the super-levee.

Then connect the new airport, the area inside the super-levee, and the now more heavily populated outlying areas with a bullet train. This could run along the current I-10 - which will need to be repaired - but which is already elevated above flood level for most of the 50 mile stretch from Laplace through greater New Orleans and into St. Tammany Parish. I'm not stupid enough to think that a bullet train is cost-effective for transportation, but if your don't put stops in low lying areas, people won't build houses there in the future.

All the other destroyed and capped areas can be converted into other amenities, like golf courses, marinas, amusement parks and so on. Just don't let people build houses there again.

This proposal has the virtue that most of what tourists come to New Orleans for is still intact - except for the homes of the people who service the tourists. So, tourism - which is the biggest industry in NOLA anyway - will survive. This would even be a good time to move the Super Bowl, the Final Four, and other major sporting events into New Orleans, where seemingly most of the fans want them to be anyway.

The big potential criticism of this proposal - I'm told that Rush Limbaugh used this on air - is that the port of New Orleans is too important. This is a misnomer. As pointed out by The Quaker Economist (http://tqe.quaker.org/2005/TQE130-EN-Katrina.html), the Port of Louisiana - primarily located at the mouth of river is the 5th largest port in the world. Most of the shipping traffic already bypasses New Orleans proper.

I suggest that the time has come to largely abandon this site as a population center. A little history lesson shows that this site was selected as the shortest point for portage between Lake Ponchartrain and the Mississippi River. This was necessary because the 100 miles of winding river going down to the gulf was a difficult trip in the age of sail. This raison de etre is, of course, moribund.

So, leave the history and the tourism and get the vast majority of the residences and businesses out of the bowl. Nostalgia is not a good enough reason to let people rebuild in this spot. And ... make Jean Lafitte National Park the Las Vegas or Disneyworld of the 21st century.

September 5th, 2005, 10:38 AM
Here is a post from someone who has given the re-building a lot of thought:

Dreaming A New New Orleans, Version 1

Alan AtKisson (http://www.worldchanging.com/alan_bio.html)


The full measure of the catastrophe in The Big Difficult has yet to be taken; indeed, the catastrophe is still worsening.

There will be, as soon as the city can be re-opened, many funerals. Mardi Gras -- should there even be one next year -- will undoubtedly have a special theme of mourning. I am in mourning already.

As one who has at various phases of life called the New Orleans region both "home" and "client," I have a special love for the place that has sometimes expressed itself irrationally. Helping people escape from rationality has always been one of the city's unique talents. One does things both in New Orleans, and for New Orleans, that one would be unlikely to do in, or for, other places. The city inspires a freedom of spirit, which in turn creates a fierce loyalty.

It is no wonder then that city leadership was already talking about rebuilding, even before the destruction was complete. Something like three-quarters of the city's residents are, after all, native-born. New Orleans is home, period, often over many generations. And those who are not native tend to quickly feel a similar sense of belonging there.

So take it for granted that New Orleans will be rebuilt. If the economics look daunting, if the physical challenge seems staggering, if the news reports of the day speak of chaos and disaster, if the idea of rebuilding a city in a basin placed in between a huge lake and big river seems foolish, count on emotion and passion to overwhelm these counter-arguments. And the United States, as a nation, is not likely to allow a major city -- especially one so strategically placed -- to be abandoned.

Massive resources will be mobilized, first to care for the victims, then to clean up ... then repair and rebuild. Where to begin with such a gargantuan task? How can it be done in such a way that something like this never happens again ... and in a way that helps lead the world toward a generally better future?

What follows are very preliminary thoughts on principles for eventually creating a "New New Orleans," one that is more environmentally secure, more economically successful, and more socially healthy and equitable, while retaining the culture that made it world famous. As the news reports continue to create a picture of the city's horrible descent into hell, such an exercise feels a bit foolhardy; but there is so much dreaming to be done, to restore this great and wondrous city, that the dreaming must begin now.

These thoughts build on the earlier work of a consortium of regional leaders, which I and my colleagues had the privilege of supporting over the last few years. The results of that work seem, in many ways, even more relevant and urgent now...

Link to the full article:


September 6th, 2005, 02:38 PM
Time for a Tough Question: Why Rebuild?

By Klaus Jacob
Tuesday, September 6, 2005; Page A25


It is time to swim against the tide. The direction of public discourse in the wake of Katrina goes like this: First we save lives and provide some basic assistance to the victims. Then we clean up New Orleans. And then we rebuild the city. Most will rightly agree on the first two. But should we rebuild New Orleans, 10 feet below sea level, just so it can be wiped out again?

Some say we can raise and strengthen the levees to fully protect the city. Here is some unpleasant truth: The higher the defenses, the deeper the floods that will inevitably follow. The current political climate is not conducive to having scientific arguments heard before political decisions are made. But not doing so leads to the kind of chaos we are seeing now.

This is not a natural disaster. It is a social, political, human and -- to a lesser degree -- engineering disaster. To many experts, it is a disaster that was waiting to happen. In fact, Katrina is not even the worst-case scenario. Had the eye of the storm made landfall just west of the city (instead of to the east, as it did) the wind speeds and its associated coastal storm surge would have been higher in New Orleans (and lower in Gulfport, Miss.). The city would have flooded faster, and the loss of life would have been greater.
What scientific facts do we need before making fateful political, social and economic decisions about New Orleans's future? Here are just two:

First, all river deltas tend to subside as fresh sediment (supplied during floods) compacts and is transformed into rock. The Mississippi River delta is no exception. In the early to mid-20th century, the Army Corps of Engineers was charged with protecting New Orleans from recurring natural floods. At the same time, the Corps kept the river (and some related canals) along defined pathways. These well-intended defensive measures prevented the natural transport of fresh sediments into the geologically subsiding areas. The protected land and the growing city sank, some of it to the point that it is now 10 feet below sea level. Over time, some of the defenses were raised and strengthened to keep up with land subsidence and to protect against river floods and storm surges. But the defenses were never designed to safeguard the city against a direct hit by a Category 5 hurricane (on the Saffir-Simpson scale) or a Category 4 hurricane making landfall just west of the city.

Second, global sea levels have risen less than a foot in the past century, and will rise one to three feet by the end of this century. Yes, there is uncertainty. But there is no doubt in the scientific community that the rise in global sea levels will accelerate.

What does this mean for New Orleans's future? Government officials and academic experts have said for years that in about 100 years, New Orleans may no longer exist. Period.

It is time to face up to some geological realities and start a carefully planned deconstruction of New Orleans, assessing what can or needs to be preserved, or vertically raised and, if affordable, by how much. Some of New Orleans could be transformed into a "floating city" using platforms not unlike the oil platforms offshore, or, over the short term, into a city of boathouses, to allow floods to fill in the 'bowl' with fresh sediment.

If realized, this "American Venice" would still need protection from the worst of storms. Restoration of mangroves and wetlands between the coast and the city would need to be carefully planned and executed. Much engineering talent would have to go into anchoring the floating assets to prevent chaos during storms. As for oil production, refining and transshipment facilities, buffer zones would have to be established to protect them from the direct onslaught of coastal storm surges.

Many ancient coastal cities of great fame have disappeared or are now shells of their former grandeur. Parts of ancient Alexandria suffered from the subsidence of the Nile delta, and earthquakes and tsunamis toppled the city's famed lighthouse, one of the "Seven Wonders of the Ancient World."

It is time that quantitative, science-based risk assessment became a cornerstone of urban and coastal land-use planning to prevent such disasters from happening again. Politicians and others must not make hollow promises for a future, safe New Orleans. Ten feet below sea level and sinking is not safe. It is time to constructively deconstruct, not destructively reconstruct.

The writer, a geophysicist, is an adjunct professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. He teaches and does research on disaster risk management.

September 6th, 2005, 03:16 PM
I think they should not rebuild.

As sad as it is to see a place like this go by the wayside, it would be difficult to keep it up and running through what would be another diaster should another storm hit.

Thing is, rebuilding a city is not the same as the original in the first place. As nice as you want to say it will be, it will not BE the original NO. It was removed from its origins a long time ago and, ironically, that removal made it both grow faster and die harder (as the article states about the marshlands and subsidance).

I think, at the very least, if we do bring it back, that we should work to try to restore the natural pattern of things. Oyster farms be dammned. If these people want to keep the land they are on, it has got to be designed to take the spring floods without channeling them to where it is convenient.

They also need to close off all but the vital shipping channels, or find a better way to get these ships around. This is not a quesiton of saving the boobie-footed Egret, but the entire town and surrounding areas.

I am hoping they do things right, but I fear they will make the same mistakes in the name of charity/rememberabce.

September 6th, 2005, 05:56 PM
Much of the Netherlands is underwater, and no one is calling for it to be demolished. The best ports are flood prone. It's the nature of the geology of an ideal harbor. Given the value of land in 2005, I think that it is still economically viable, doomsayers and all.

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/misc/logoprinter.gif (http://www.nytimes.com/)
September 6, 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/06/science/06tech.html?pagewanted=print)
In Europe, High-Tech Flood Control, With Nature's Help

By WILLIAM J. BROAD (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=WILLIAM%20J.%20BROAD&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=WILLIAM%20J.%20BROAD&inline=nyt-per)
On a cold winter night in 1953, the Netherlands suffered a terrifying blow as old dikes and seawalls gave way during a violent storm.

Flooding killed nearly 2,000 people and forced the evacuation of 70,000 others. Icy waters turned villages and farm districts into lakes dotted with dead cows.

Ultimately, the waters destroyed more than 4,000 buildings.

Afterward, the Dutch - realizing that the disaster could have been much worse, since half the country, including Amsterdam and Rotterdam, lies below sea level - vowed never again.

After all, as Tjalle de Haan, a Dutch public works official, put it in an interview last week, "Here, if something goes wrong, 10 million people can be threatened."

So at a cost of some $8 billion over a quarter century, the nation erected a futuristic system of coastal defenses that is admired around the world today as one of the best barriers against the sea's fury - one that could withstand the kind of storm that happens only once in 10,000 years.

The Dutch case is one of many in which low-lying cities and countries with long histories of flooding have turned science, technology and raw determination into ways of forestalling disaster.

London has built floodgates on the Thames River. Venice is doing the same on the Adriatic.

Japan is erecting superlevees. Even Bangladesh has built concrete shelters on stilts as emergency havens for flood victims.

Experts in the United States say the foreign projects are worth studying for inspiration about how to rebuild New Orleans once the deadly waters of Hurricane Katrina recede into history.

"They have something to teach us," said George Z. Voyiadjis, head of civil and environmental engineering at Louisiana State University. "We should capitalize on them for building the future here."

Innovations are happening in the United States as well. California is experimenting with "smart" levees wired with nervous systems of electronic sensors that sound alarms if a weakening levee threatens to open a breach, giving crews time to make emergency repairs.

"It's catching on," said William F. Kane, president of Kane GeoTech Inc., a company in Stockton, Calif., that wires levees and other large structures with failure sensors. "There's a lot of potential for this kind of thing."

While scientists hail the power of technology to thwart destructive forces, they note that flood control is a job for nature at least as much as for engineers. Long before anyone built levees and floodgates, barrier islands were serving to block dangerous storm surges. Of course, those islands often fall victim to coastal development.

"You'll never be able to control nature," said Rafael L. Bras, an environmental engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who consults on the Venetian project. "The best way is to understand how nature works and make it work in our favor."

In humanity's long struggle against the sea, the Dutch experience in 1953 was a grim milestone. The North Sea flood produced the kind of havoc that became all too familiar on the Gulf Coast last week. When a crippled dike threatened to give way and let floodwaters spill into Rotterdam, a boat captain - like the brave little Dutch boy with the quick finger - steered his vessel into the breach, sinking his ship and saving the city.

"We were all called upon to collect clothes and food for the disaster victims," recalled Jelle de Boer, a Dutch high school student at the time who is now an emeritus professor of geology at Wesleyan University. "Cows were swimming around. They'd stand when they could, shivering and dying. It was a terrible mess."

The reaction was intense and manifold. Linking offshore islands with dams, seawalls and other structures, the Dutch erected a kind of forward defensive shield, drastically reducing the amount of vulnerable coastline. Mr. de Haan, director of the water branch of the Road and Hydraulic Engineering Institute of the Dutch Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management, said the project had the effect of shortening the coast by more than 400 miles.

For New Orleans, experts say, a similar forward defense would seal off Lake Pontchartrain from the Gulf of Mexico. That step would eliminate a major conduit by which hurricanes drive storm surges to the city's edge - or, as in the case of Katrina, through the barriers.

The Dutch also increased the height of their dikes, which now loom as much as 40 feet above the churning sea. (In New Orleans, the tallest flood walls are about half that size.) The government also erected vast complexes of floodgates that close when the weather turns violent but remain open at other times, so saltwater can flow into estuaries, preserving their ecosystems and the livelihoods that depend on them.

The Netherlands maintains large teams of inspectors and maintenance crews that safeguard the sprawling complex, which is known as Delta Works. The annual maintenance bill is about $500 million. "It's not cheap," Mr. de Haan said. "But it's not so much in relation to the gross national product. So it's a kind of insurance."

The 1953 storm also pounded Britain. Along the Thames, flooding killed more than 300 people, ruined farmland and frightened Londoners, whose central city narrowly escaped disaster.

The British responded with a plan to better regulate tidal surges sweeping up the Thames from the North Sea. Engineers designed an attractive barrier meant to minimize interference with the river's natural flow. It went into service in 1982 at Woolwich, about 10 miles east of central London.

Normally, its semicircular gates lie flush to the riverbed in concrete supporting sills, creating no obstacle to river traffic. When the need arises, the gates pivot up, rising as high as a five-story building to block rising waters. The authorities have raised the Thames barrier more than 80 times.

In Venice, the precipitating event was a 1966 flood that caused wide damage and economic loss. The upshot was an ambitious plan known as the Moses Project, named after the biblical parting of the Red Sea. Its 78 gargantuan gates would rest on the floor of the Adriatic Sea and rise when needed to block dangerous tidal surges.

Long debate over the project's merits repeatedly delayed the start of construction until May 2003. Opponents claim that the $4.5 billion effort will prove ineffective while threatening to kill the fragile lagoon in which Venice sits. In theory, the gates are to be completed by 2010.

"People fight doing things like this," said Dr. Bras, of M.I.T. "But when disaster strikes you realize how important it is to think ahead."

Planners did just that in Bangladesh after a 1991 hurricane created huge storm surges that killed more than 130,000 people. World charities helped build hundreds of concrete shelters on stilts, which in recent storms have saved thousands of lives.

In Japan, a continuous battle against flooding in dense urban areas has produced an effort to develop superlevees. Unlike the customary mounds of earth, sand and rock that hold back threatening waters, they are broad expanses of raised land meant to resist breaks and withstand overflows.

The approach being tried in California relies on a technology known as time-domain reflectometry. It works on the same principle as radar: a pulse of energy fired down a coaxial cable bounces back when it reaches the end or a distortion, like a bend or crimp.

Careful measurement of the echoes traveling back along the cable can disclose serious distortions and danger. Dr. Kane, of Kane GeoTech, has installed such a system in the Sacramento River delta, along a levee that is threatening to fail.

Could such a system have saved New Orleans? "It would have given them more information," said Charles H. Dowding, a top expert on the technology at Northwestern University. "The failure of a levee would have been detected." But experts say it is still unclear whether such a warning would have been enough to prevent the catastrophic breaches.

Dr. Bras says sensor technologies for detecting levee failure hold much promise. But he adds that less glamorous approaches, like regular maintenance, may be even more valuable, since prevention is always the best cure.

"We have to learn that things have to be reviewed, revised, maintained and repaired as needed," he said. "To see a city like New Orleans suffer such devastation - some of that was preventable."

He added that no matter how ambitious the coastal engineering, no matter how innovative and well maintained, the systems of levees, seawalls and floodgates were likely to suffer sporadic failures.

"Nature will throw big things at us once in a while," he said. "There's always the possibility that nature will trump us."

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

TLOZ Link5
September 6th, 2005, 06:39 PM
Rebuilding New Orleans may be impractical, but to not rebuild it is unthinkable. It is akin to Italy abandoning Venice: a crime against culture and history that would result in political suicide for the man or woman who arbited the wanton decision. The federal government has spent billions carefully restoring and replenishing the Everglades; why can we not do the same with the Mississippi Delta?

Many of the callous engineering mistakes of earlier times can be undone; if precautions can be made to save Venice, so can they help to save New Orleans.


September 6th, 2005, 06:47 PM
My sister lives in New Orleans - they evacuated prior to the storm and are okay, but homeless and jobless for now. They were eventually able to contact a friend who didn't leave the city, and were told that their house was not flooded nor was it looted. It had only minor roof damage. They live right in the heart of the city, just off Magazine Street near Louisiana Ave. Apparently this "80%" of New Orleans being submerged is a maximum estimate, and in fact most of Uptown and the French Quarter is still intact. Almost everything south of Claiborne is okay, which includes all of St. Charles, all of the Garden District (except for some fires), and all the way up to Audubon Park. Good news, to be sure. You never hear what's not destroyed on CNN.

The French Quarter, most prominently, is a very historic area - it's not going anywhere - and many of the best parts of town are thankfully still intact. It could be rebuilt with few outsiders noticing the difference. What they need is shored up levees and better pumps, as they should have had before. They also need to let the surrounding wetlands regain and take a harder stance with the oil companies that have their way with destroying them. Sure it will cost a lot, but it's one of our most historic cities, one of our major ports, and home to many people whether they lost their home or not - it's worth it. It would have been a wise investment to pay for it all before, obviously, so now it needs to be done right once and for all.

September 6th, 2005, 06:50 PM
This is going to raise a whole hornet's nest of issues regarding property ownership, etc.

I keep reading that almost any wooden houses that have been under water for one week are unsalvageable. That will mean a lot of houses coming down. Although probably not enough "salvaged" material there that can be used as fill to lift the level of the city. And I'm not an engineer so don't know how "fill" would work in someplace like NO, which I also read is slowly sinking (ala Venice).

To sort this out will definitely take better brains than I can offer.

September 6th, 2005, 06:58 PM
It's probably not practical to restore wetlands in New Orleans proper, but I would think that a more robust levee system would use land that is currently city (like the Japanese levees that are very wide for additional strenght). It seems more important to me to restore some of the barrier islands to wetlands - they absorb water from rain and storm surge and provide a physical barrier to wind as well. Bush Sr & Clinton protected some land that has recently been developed.

The reason the poor neighborhoods were disproportionately affected is because they were built in the least flood-protected areas. The oldest neighborhoods were built in the highest ground intentionally - some knowledge we've lost to sprawl mentality. Areas should be left natural for practical reasons in addition to ecology and recreation.

September 6th, 2005, 07:18 PM
^ That, of course, would require forethought and planning...

New Orleans to see Unprecedented Boom: US Labor Secretary

Tue Sep 6,12:09 PM ET

The flooded city of New Orleans will see an unparalleled building boom, US Labor Secretary Elaine Chao confidently predicted after ordering the creation of 25,000 temporary jobs for evacuees.

She said that while Hurricane Katrina was devastating to the immediate region, it was too early to gauge the storm's impact on the US economy.

But America's fabled jazz capital will bounce back, Chao insisted after some voiced doubts over whether the costs of rebuilding the flood-prone city would be worth it.

"Well, certainly in the short term, the regional devastation is very significant. But as for the national impact, we are not quite sure yet," she told the CNBC network.

"But what will happen -- and I have seen this in previous catastrophes and hurricanes -- there is a bright spot in that new jobs do get created," Chao said.

"And in the rebuilding: New Orleans, for example, is going to see one of the biggest construction booms that they have ever seen.

"So in the aftermath and the rebuilding of a devastated area, there will be a tremendous array of new jobs that are being created. And that is going to help the economic development."

Dennis Hastert, the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, sparked controversy last week by questioning the viability of spending billions to restore the Southern city, which lies largely below sea level.

Hastert was forced to backtrack and President George W. Bush promised Friday that out of the ruins of the coastal city, celebrated for its historic French Quarter and the Mardi Gras festival, "is going to become that great city again".

Chao on Monday signed a national emergency grant for more than 100 million dollars that will create 25,000 temporary jobs in the hurricane-hit zone, largely to assist in the clean-up and recovery effort.

Evacuees not normally eligible for unemployment insurance can apply for disaster unemployment assistance, and training for new jobs will also be made available, she told CNBC.

"Our great challenge at this time is to let people know that there is a source of income coming in and that there is, again, this tremendous array of government assistance that is available," she said.

Chao said it was also too early to determine what the impact will be on national unemployment figures. The numbers depend on weekly surveys of households, many of which in the South have been forced out by Katrina.

"So in the first two months, when the numbers come out, they may not be totally accurate," she said.

September 7th, 2005, 09:15 AM
This is going to raise a whole hornet's nest of issues regarding property ownership, etc.

I keep reading that almost any wooden houses that have been under water for one week are unsalvageable. That will mean a lot of houses coming down. Although probably not enough "salvaged" material there that can be used as fill to lift the level of the city. And I'm not an engineer so don't know how "fill" would work in someplace like NO, which I also read is slowly sinking (ala Venice).

To sort this out will definitely take better brains than I can offer.

Me engineer!

Landfill makes HORRIBLE building surfaces. ESPECIALLY ORGANIC!!!

Example: Palisades mall, where differential settlement due to partial building over landfilled areas have caused slab cracking and a closing of its entire underground parking.


As for the Netherlands and Venice, how old are those places? Thousands of years? We are seriously trying to compare a city in the US to a classic like Venice? I am sure all of those little wooden shacks by the river are absolutely irreplacable monuments to an era gone by... ;)

They need to focus on the small town that was and try to let the marshland come back in others. Restore NO to what it was, not what it was last month.

September 7th, 2005, 10:05 AM
It's easy to order the rebuilding of New Orleans from Washington, but having money to rebuild is not sufficient.

The question is - what percentage of people are going to return to New Orleans? What about the jobs? You cannot have entire city employed in cleaning up jobs and construction jobs. I doubt tourists would be in a hurry to return. What industries survived and would provide employment?

There is no point in rebuilding and then have people return and sit home on unemployment checks.

TLOZ Link5
September 7th, 2005, 05:51 PM
As for the Netherlands and Venice, how old are those places? Thousands of years? We are seriously trying to compare a city in the US to a classic like Venice? I am sure all of those little wooden shacks by the river are absolutely irreplacable monuments to an era gone by...

"Wooden shacks"?!? Surely you don't speak of the antebellum mansions of the Garden District (the largest urban collection of such buildings in the country), the lovely Spanish-inspired galleries of the French Quarter, or the venerable St. Louis Cathedral — which being built in 1794, need I remind you, is older than the Arc de Triomph, the Houses of Parliament, and the current Campanile of Saint Mark's?

September 7th, 2005, 07:35 PM
And many of the less grand neighborhoods throughout New Orleans had an unmistakeable beauty: lush & funky & irreplaceable.

The thought of what might be re-built in their place gives one pause.

September 8th, 2005, 02:57 AM
Maybe Daniel Liebskind can come up with some Masterplan - something with a sliver of "levee" that every August 31st can open up to let 100,000 gallons of sewage flow into the city at the precise moment the levess failed in 2005. Then, that winning design can be systematically dismantled until we have something that can be built....

....only to be let down when some ho-hum corporate schmo is given the contract to design it. After an initially, disappointing first draft - we will, in fact, get a plan to rebuild New Orleans - not as a vibrant city - but as an inpenetrable city, within a fort, behind a levee, protected by a dam, encased within a bomb-proof wall - 25 feet from the nearest street.

I predict the corner stone of the new city will be layed in four years, with construction to commence once we determine that a snowball does have a chance in hell.

Before that can happen we will have to determine if Lake Ponchartrain (that irascible and unpatriotic body of water) is, in fact, too close to the city. Victims families will call for the lake to be moved out of the state - while folks living on the lakefront will try to wrest control from the infidels and regain the high ground in the struggle to recast and recreate their community.

Until it is all settled, the government will fence it all in and Chinese people from near and far will be on the outskirts selling pictures of drowning victims. George Pataki will appear each year, coming out og his 364 days of hibernation, to make a rambling, bombastic speech that actually says nothing but alludes to a "soaring memorial" every other sentence.

Ultimately it will be rebuilt, and will be christened "New New Orleans" - which stuttering people everywhere will spell "N-E-W O-R-L-E-A-N-S".

September 8th, 2005, 10:29 AM
will be christened "New New Orleans" - which stuttering people everywhere will spell "N-E-W O-R-L-E-A-N-S".

haha - I love futurama.

September 8th, 2005, 01:00 PM
If this is the way things are going to go in New Orleans then maybe Hastert was right -- bull-doze the whole thing, Uptown included...

WSJ: White rich elude Orleans chaos, don't want poor blacks back

John Byrne
http://rawstory.com/news/2005/WSJ_White_rich_escape_New_Orleans_chaos_dont_want_ blacks_poor__0908.html

The Wall Street Journal front-page headline (http://online.wsj.com/home/us) reads, "Old-Line Families / Escape Worst of Flood / And Plot the Future / Mr. O'Dwyer, at His Mansion, / Enjoys Highball With Ice; / Meeting With the Mayor."

That is, however, just the beginning. According to the (paid-restricted) Journal, New Orleans' wealthy white neighborhoods emerged very much intact, while black neighborhoods are swimming in toxic sludge. The Journal piece, by Christopher Cooper, reads as something torn from the pages of Fitzgerald's iconic portrait of the roaring twenties--The Great Gatsby.

"NEW ORLEANS -- On a sultry morning earlier this week," Cooper writes, "Ashton O'Dwyer stepped out of his home on this city's grandest street and made a beeline for his neighbor's pool. Wearing nothing but a pair of blue swim trunks and carrying two milk jugs, he drew enough pool water to flush the toilet in his home."

He continues: "The mostly African-American neighborhoods of New Orleans are largely underwater, and the people who lived there have scattered across the country. But in many of the predominantly white and more affluent areas, streets are dry and passable. Gracious homes are mostly intact and powered by generators. Yesterday, officials reiterated that all residents must leave New Orleans, but it's still unclear how far they will go to enforce the order."
"The green expanse of Audubon Park, in the city's Uptown area, has doubled in recent days as a heliport for the city's rich -- and a terminus for the small armies of private security guards who have been dispatched to keep the homes there safe and habitable. Mr. O'Dwyer has cellphone service and ice cubes to cool off his highballs in the evening. By yesterday, the city water service even sprang to life, making the daily trips to his neighbor's pool unnecessary. A pair of oil-company engineers, dispatched by his son-in-law, delivered four cases of water, a box of delicacies including herring with mustard sauce and 15 gallons of generator gasoline."

How do they want the city rebuilt?

"The power elite of New Orleans -- whether they are still in the city or have moved temporarily to enclaves such as Destin, Fla., and Vail, Colo. -- insist the remade city won't simply restore the old order. New Orleans before the flood was burdened by a teeming underclass, substandard schools and a high crime rate. The city has few corporate headquarters.

"The new city must be something very different, Mr. Reiss says, with better services and fewer poor people. "Those who want to see this city rebuilt want to see it done in a completely different way: demographically, geographically and politically," he says. "I'm not just speaking for myself here. The way we've been living is not going to happen again, or we're out."

Not every white business leader agrees, Cooper notes.

"Some black leaders and their allies in New Orleans fear that it boils down to preventing large numbers of blacks from returning to the city and eliminating the African-American voting majority. Rep. William Jefferson, a sharecropper's son who was educated at Harvard and is currently serving his eighth term in Congress, says, "This is an example of poor people forced to make choices because they don't have the money to do otherwise," Mr. Jefferson says.

September 8th, 2005, 06:29 PM
ROTFALMAO!!!! BTW, what about those who want to see the city rebuilt block by block as it was before the flood? Or those who argue that we need to "reimagine" the city and hold "Listening to the Bayou" meetings and come up with wacky ideas that residents don't want, like a tunneling I-10. Also, the French Quarter will be closed and Marti Gras will be canceled because nothing that does not affirm death can be done on hallowed ground

Maybe Daniel Liebskind can come up with some Masterplan -

September 8th, 2005, 06:31 PM
What does that mean? I see laughing my ass off, but I dont know the ROFTA.

rolling on the floor and laughing my ass off.

September 8th, 2005, 06:36 PM
Translating from the asshole language: Grentrify New Orleans so that its the Soho of the Bayou....and get those n***rs out.

[b][i]If this is the way things are going to go in New Orleans then maybe Hastert was right -

September 8th, 2005, 08:54 PM
Hmm, who's gonna clean Whitey's toilets? Maybe they expect their maids to commute by bus two hours each way every day (with Sunday evening off).

September 9th, 2005, 12:50 PM
This would be a very smart move, considering Carter's extensive work with Habitat for Humanity...

Dem 9/11 Commissioner Calls For Jimmy Carter To Head Rebuilding Of New Orleans
Fri Sep 09 2005 12:01:20 ET

This morning on Fox's "Fox and Friends," former Indiana Democrat congressman and 9/11 commissioner Tim Roemer called on President Bush to name former President Jimmy Carter to the head of efforts to rebuild New Orleans.

Roemer told the stunned hosts: "The second thing we should do is put somebody like former President Jimmy Carter in charge of rebuilding New Orleans."

September 9th, 2005, 01:21 PM
I think that putting Carter in charge would be a great idea, as long as Bush doesn't try to micrcomanage the rebuilding.

September 9th, 2005, 02:52 PM
How insulting is it that Carter has not been asked by George the Retard not to assist. I'll take Carter's perceived weaknesses from back in his days in the White House to any strength this administration professes to have.

September 10th, 2005, 09:00 AM
From the Christian Science Monitor (9.09.05):

http://news.yahoo.com/s/csm/20050909/ts_csm/anyc1&printer=1;_ylt=Aj7exvL0p.r3ysdAX5D_kKOOe8UF;_ylu=X 3oDMTA3MXN1bHE0BHNlYwN0bWE-

The rebuilding lessons at ground zero may prove instructive to the Gulf Coast - inspiring hope that reconstruction can be done, but also providing a reality check. These things take time. Gulf Coast planners, to their credit, are moving quickly. They've already contacted the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. (LMDC), created to oversee the rebuilding of ground zero.

"We plan to continue assisting in any way that will be useful in terms of the precedents established here, the lessons learned, and ... to offer encouragement that there is a better future ahead," says Stefan Pryor, LMDC president. "We have every confidence that Louisiana and the Gulf states will recover better than ever, just as lower Manhattan is doing."

Part of that confidence comes from the rebuilding process itself, despite the setbacks and slow pace.

September 10th, 2005, 09:51 AM
Make It an Island

NY Times
Op-Ed Contributor

Published: September 10, 2005



AFTER the victims are interred and public officials held to account for the destruction of a great American city, Congress must determine what to rebuild and what to abandon to the encroaching waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

New Orleans will survive only as an island surrounded by miles of open water. It will take a national effort, led by our best scientists, engineers and city planners, to achieve even this reduced vision of an American Venice. We must take the time to redesign the city to function as an island, with an island infrastructure, including relocated streets, highways and utilities. The island will need higher, stronger seawalls and levees sufficient to withstand new threats, including the rising sea levels and bigger hurricanes spawned in warming Atlantic waters.

Sea levels are likely to rise two to three feet in this century. Coastal maps drawn from consensus estimates show that virtually all of the delta lands south of Baton Rouge and below Interstate 10 - some 5,000 square miles - will be submerged by the end of this century.

State and local officials are understandably in denial about the impending loss of so much Louisiana land and heritage. The depth of their paralysis is underlined by a recent program to collect discarded Christmas trees from New Orleans to stack on barrier islands against the tides.

In recent years state agencies assembled a $14 billion project called Coastal 2050. One of its proposals was to cut gaps in the Mississippi River levees, which would provide outlets for the river to deposit some of its sediment onshore to help rebuild the delta. This idea may help in a few areas, but it will do little to offset the vastly larger forces of a rising sea.

Other proposals in the package include building coastal barriers, plugging delta channels dredged by oil companies and re-vegetating barrier islands. But overall the Coastal 2050 projects have as much chance of success as King Canute commanding the tides to recede.

Congress should resist the urge to appropriate huge sums for piecemeal reconstruction efforts. Restoration of the city and the delta will be a national effort, and it should be guided by a national plan. Congress should charge a commission of our best scientists, engineers and planners to asses the alternatives, draw up a regional land plan and recommend a realistic course of action.

Bruce Babbitt, a former secretary of the interior, is the author of the forthcoming "Cities in the Wilderness."

September 10th, 2005, 08:46 PM
NOOOOOO! Nothing has happened here worth merit to help people in New Orleans. If they do things down there LMDC-style, we'll see a series of public hearings like Listening to the City (Listening to the Bayou?) coming up with all sorts of pie in the sky ideas and warring interests will fight to carve up the city (think Pro-Rebuilders, vs. Memorialists, vs. Urban Planning Dreamers who wanted more pork in the WTC battle.) In the case of New Orleans, it will be developers who want to make New Orleans like Disneyland while ignoring the poor of the city, versus fundamentalist "abandon ship" types who would leave most of the city as a wasteland.

From the Christian Science Monitor (9.09.05):

September 11th, 2005, 07:26 AM
Cover-up: toxic waters 'will make New Orleans unsafe for a decade'

By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Correspondent
Published: 11 September 2005

Toxic chemicals in the New Orleans flood waters will make the city unsafe for full human habitation for a decade, a US government official has told The Independent on Sunday. And, he added, the Bush administration is covering up the danger.

In an exclusive interview, Hugh Kaufman, an expert on toxic waste and responses to environmental disasters at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said the way the polluted water was being pumped out was increasing the danger to health.

The pollution was far worse than had been admitted, he said, because his agency was failing to take enough samples and was refusing to make public the results of those it had analysed. "Inept political hacks" running the clean-up will imperil the health of low-income migrant workers by getting them to do the work.

His intervention came as President Bush's approval ratings fell below 40 per cent for the first time. Yesterday, Britain's Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, turned the screw by criticising the US President's opposition to the Kyoto protocol on global warming. He compared New Orleans to island nations such as the Maldives, which are threatened by rising sea levels. Other US sources spelt out the extent of the danger from one of America's most polluted industrial areas, known locally as "Cancer Alley". The 66 chemical plants, refineries and petroleum storage depots churn out 600m lb of toxic waste each year. Other dangerous substances are in site storage tanks or at the port of New Orleans. No one knows how much pollution has escaped through damaged plants and leaking pipes into the "toxic gumbo" now drowning the city. Mr Kaufman says no one is trying to find out.

Few people are better qualified to judge the extent of the problem. Mr Kaufman, who has been with the EPA since it was founded 35 years ago, helped to set up its hazardous waste programme. After serving as chief investigator to the EPA's ombudsman, he is now senior policy analyst in its Office of Solid Wastes and Emergency Response. He said the clean-up needed to be "the most massive public works exercise ever done", adding: "It will take 10 years to get everything up and running and safe."

Mr Kaufman claimed the Bush administration was playing down the need for a clean-up: the EPA has not been included in the core White House group tackling the crisis. "Its budget has been cut and inept political hacks have been put in key positions," Mr Kaufman said. "All the money for emergency response has gone to buy guns and cowboys - which don't do anything when a hurricane hits. We were less prepared for this than we would have been on 10 September 2001."

He said the water being pumped out of the city was not being tested for pollution and would damage Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi river, and endanger people using it downstream.

September 11th, 2005, 09:44 AM
Bush has signed an order saying contractors will not have to pay the prevailing wage, which means most of the work will be performed by illegals. Regardless of who does the construction, I can understand not wanting to leave the area and have your residence looted by the repair crew.

September 12th, 2005, 03:39 AM
All that filthy, toxic water is being pumped from the city's lowlands into Lake Pontchartrain. That really bothers me. First we channel out the river, disrupting the wetlands. Then we build homes in the low-lying flood plains. And when the levees we make to keep the water out fail, water pours into that newly inhabited land and becomes heavily polluted. So we scramble to shore up levee breaks in order to pump infested waters from the overly populated coastal lowlands into an already struggling estuary ecosystem. Smart?

September 15th, 2005, 09:48 AM
Reviving a City: The Design Perspective

By ROBIN POGREBIN (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=ROBIN POGREBIN&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=ROBIN POGREBIN&inline=nyt-per)
NY Times
September 14, 2005


Even as the federal government and local developers push to resurrect New Orleans as quickly as possible in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, some architects and urban planners are contemplating the larger question of what form the city should take - whether restored, reimagined or something in between.

"I hesitate to say there is a silver lining," said Michael Sorkin, director of the City College of New York's graduate urban design program. "But it would be a wasted opportunity if one didn't think in a systematic way about the 21st-century city."

Among the questions facing architects are whether the city's footprint should be irrelevant, given that so many residents may not return; whether surviving industries should be pivotal to what is built; whether preservation should trump other priorities; and whether bold new architecture can or should rise from the muck and devastation.

Many experts also warned against moving too quickly, arguing that being away from the city could help residents clarify what was most valued and should be reclaimed.

"This is one of the few moments in time in which the entire population of a city can tell you what they miss about it," said Mark Wigley, dean of Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. "It's like when people sit around a room wearing black talking about the person who's gone. The French Quarter is probably one of the smallest elements of what people treasure."

"Any city that only tries to preserve itself is already dead," Mr. Wigley added. "The great tragedy would be to embalm New Orleans by simply rebuilding it the way it was."

Alexander Garvin, an urban planning professor at Yale University, said: "Here we have a chance to look at the street system, public open space, to ask ourselves what are the things there we want to keep of great historic and cultural significance."

"If you start with what you want to retain," he added, "you have a framework."

Most architects and planners say preservation should be a priority. "There was a very unique vernacular," said Angela O'Byrne, president of the New Orleans chapter of the American Institute of Architects. She pointed to the city's mix of Greek Revival, Italianate and Creole styles, and to its cottages and bungalows with porches suited to the climate, adding, "As much as possible, all of it needs to come back."

Steve Dumez, another New Orleans architect, agreed: "We fundamentally believe New Orleans is too important a city to be a throwaway. We intend to work hard to make certain that it does come back."

The French Quarter, with its mix of Spanish and French influences, wrought-iron balconies and ornate cornices, is on high ground and was therefore largely spared from the flooding. Damage to the historic Garden District was similarly limited.

But some architects cautioned that the historic quarters should not be the only focus. "New Orleans - along with San Francisco - is the greatest collection of 18th-, 19th- and early-20th-century residential architecture in the United States," said Reed Kroloff, the dean of the School of Architecture at Tulane University in New Orleans. "You're talking about miles and miles of historic properties.

"But saving the historic context does not mean necessarily rebuilding everything in it," he added. "I don't think you build a bad 21st-century copy of a brilliant 19th-century building."

Architects and planners worry that developers might try to recreate some fairy-tale version of the city, compromising its 300-year-old character. "My big concern is that it will become a Disneyland," said Raymond G. Post Jr., a Baton Rouge architect. "If we come up with a plastic New Orleans, then you've got a plastic New Orleans. You lose the charm and the quaintness and the crooked walls and the old shutters."

Without the rejuvenation of the city's varied industries, and with too much reliance on tourism, the city could become something of a stage set where people work but do not live, some experts said. "That's a recipe for a Venice," said Terence Riley, chief curator of the Museum of Modern Art's architecture and design department, who described that city as being "on life support."

Trula Remson, president of the Louisiana chapter of the American Institute of Architects, pleaded for deliberation and care. "I'm concerned that particularly residentially, it may be built back cheaply and quickly," she said. "You don't want to build something that's not going to stand the test of time."

At the same time, the sense of a clean slate offers an opportunity to improve on what was poorly conceived or constructed, and to aim for some contemporary architectural distinction. "I hope we see some progressive design," Ms. Remson said.

Some architects and planners urged a rethinking of New Orleans's sprawl, arguing that the city should be consolidated. Indeed, given that New Orleans may be uninhabitable for six months to a year, many residents are likely to put down roots elsewhere, planning experts say, greatly reducing what was a population of nearly 500,000.

"The most difficult thing to do might be the planning of the shrinking of the city," said Mr. Riley, the MoMA architecture curator.

If the population contracts sharply, he said, any effort to duplicate the city's former footprint will leave some areas largely deserted, robbing the metropolis of its overall texture and vitality.

Others emphasize that the city's low-income housing was due for an overhaul long before the hurricane. "I think this is an opportunity to rethink some of the urban planning," Ms. O'Byrne said. "Some of the blighted areas probably needed to be bulldozed anyway."

If there is any social dividend from the hurricane, some architects and planners said, it is the view the storm afforded of how the other half lives, the areas that are not in the guidebooks. "We have to get past the standardized image," Mr. Wigley said. "It didn't include any of the poor people - any of those neighborhoods that we only know now because they're filled with water."

Any discussion of aesthetics, experts agree, must come second to improving the city's infrastructure. New regulations may be established, for example, about building higher and about where a building's first habitable floor should be.

"The city needs to be understood as a wetlands that's been drained, with new elevations that move people out of harm's way," said Dan Williams, an urban and regional planner who helped rebuild South Florida after Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

"At what point do you decide, like San Francisco did, like Seattle in the early 1900's, to build up and over an existing structure?" Mr. Williams asked. "It's important to talk right now about strategies in terms of long-term planning."

Ms. Remson of the architectural institute said: "We're going to try to educate our architects about the technology available now for making things flood-proof. So much will have to be torn down, we're going to want to build better."

September 15th, 2005, 03:54 PM
Karl Rove In Charge Of New Orleans Rebuilding Effort… (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/15/politics/15bush.html?ex=1284436800&en=7c5d31d9ba8e0ec4&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss)

Bush to Focus on Vision for Reconstruction in Speech

September 15, 2005

By ELISABETH BUMILLER (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=ELISABETH BUMILLER&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=ELISABETH BUMILLER&inline=nyt-per)
and RICHARD W. STEVENSON (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=RICHARD W. STEVENSON&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=RICHARD W. STEVENSON&inline=nyt-per)


WASHINGTON, Sept. 14 - President Bush is to pledge in an address to the nation from New Orleans on Thursday night that the federal government will provide housing assistance to victims of Hurricane Katrina and also help reimburse the states for costs they have absorbed in taking in evacuees, a White House official said Wednesday.

The commitments are part of a series of initiatives that the president is expected to announce as he tries to recover from the political fallout over the government's handling of the storm.

The initiatives will encompass education, health care and other social services, with specific housing and job assistance for people who return to New Orleans to live. White House officials said the president would not call for any set-asides or quotas for minorities in reconstruction contracts.

The proposals were still in the planning stages on Wednesday night, and officials said the 9 p.m. address, the president's first major speech on the hurricane, would not be a State of the Union "laundry list" of proposals. Instead, they said, it would focus more generally on Mr. Bush's vision for the reconstruction of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, with the federal government playing a supportive role to what White House officials are calling a "home-grown" plan that must be created by city and state authorities.

"We're in the beginning of the rebuilding at this point, and there are a lot of ideas that people are expressing," Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, told reporters on Air Force One on Wednesday. "The president wants people to think big."

Mr. McClellan indicated that Mr. Bush would not use the speech to name a "reconstruction czar" to oversee the effort. A number of White House officials have advised the president to name such a czar, with Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of forces in the 2001 war in Afghanistan (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/afghanistan/index.html?inline=nyt-geo), being a favorite of Republicans who are pushing the idea.

White House officials also played down the notion that Mr. Bush would offer a "Marshall Plan" for New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, as the Senate Republican leadership called for in a letter to the president on Wednesday. "We stand ready to work with you to lay out a comprehensive approach to the coordination of relief and development efforts through a 'Marshall Plan' for the Gulf Coast as soon as possible," said the letter, signed by Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, and others.

Instead, administration officials and a Republican close to the White House said Mr. Bush would offer some general principles about "building a better New Orleans" with stricter construction standards to try to avoid a replay of the recent catastrophe. Republicans said Mr. Bush would not mention a price tag, in large part because of budget and political pressures from House Republicans and other supporters angry about administration spending.

Republicans said Karl Rove, the White House deputy chief of staff and Mr. Bush's chief political adviser, was in charge of the reconstruction effort, which reaches across many agencies of government and includes the direct involvement of Alphonso R. Jackson, secretary of housing and urban development.

As of Wednesday, few if any members of Congress had been informed by the administration of the president's plans. But Congressional leaders nonetheless offered Mr. Bush advice on his speech.

"I want him to reassure the people that the big part of this fight is ahead of us, and he's going to make sure that the federal government does a better job, does its part," Senator Trent Lott, Republican of Mississippi (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/national/usstatesterritoriesandpossessions/mississippi/index.html?inline=nyt-geo), said in an interview on MSNBC on Wednesday night. "We're all to blame to a degree." Mr. Lott added that Congress should never have passed legislation, as the White House wanted, that made the Federal Emergency Management Agency part of the Department of Homeland Security.

"We went along with that, and I guess we'll have to go back and try to rewrite the history, but that should be an independent agency reporting only to the president of the United States (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/unitedstates/index.html?inline=nyt-geo)," Mr. Lott said.

TLOZ Link5
September 15th, 2005, 04:59 PM
I actually like Tommy Franks. He would be far from the worst choice for the reconstruction effort.

September 15th, 2005, 06:02 PM
Alexander Garvin, an urban planning professor at Yale University, said: "Here we have a chance to look at the street system, public open space, to ask ourselves what are the things there we want to keep of great historic and cultural significance."

Hmmmmm, we've heard this before. I remember we ended up with a creative straightjacket at the WTC because of the obsession over new streets and the security problems it caused with the FT. Unless if Garvin is talking about making New Orleans denser (which is a good idea) I will take what he says with a grain of salt.

September 16th, 2005, 12:09 AM
Yes, that's the reason they decided for the most part to keep the old street boundaries in blitzed Europe. Property rights issues would have taken much longer to clear up, and people wanted to get back to what they found familiar.

September 17th, 2005, 08:29 PM
Amid the Muck, a Man With a Plan

By STEVE LOHR (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=STEVE LOHR&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=STEVE LOHR&inline=nyt-per)
NY Times
September 17, 2005


NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 15 - The Palmetto Apartments, a cluster of two-story buildings where 120 low-income families lived before Hurricane Katrina, is a grim sight. By now, the water, which had been more than six feet deep in the buildings, has retreated. Left behind are battered walls, mud-caked rooms, warped wood floors and mold climbing toward the ceilings. The grounds, still swampy, smell like a fetid barnyard.

The term dead loss comes to mind. But to Quentin Dastugue, the chief executive of a large New Orleans real estate company that owns, manages or leases more than a dozen major properties in the city - including pricey condominiums at the edge of the French Quarter and downtown luxury real estate space - reviving this badly damaged affordable housing project is a priority.

Mr. Dastugue (pronounced DAS-toog) led a group of investors, lured by federal tax credits for renovating low-income housing, that bought the property last fall. They had been halfway through a major renovation - new walls, new windows, new bathrooms and new appliances. Now they have to start over. But even as residents are just beginning to be allowed to return, Mr. Dastugue has already arranged for a construction trailer to be set up next week, powered by its own generator, to begin the reconstruction effort.

"It's a terrible shame; we had made so much progress," he said, surveying the damage this week. "But if we in New Orleans can't provide housing for lower-wage working folks who work in the hotels, restaurants and small service businesses, the tourism and conventions and all that will not come back. We've got to hit the ground running."

Business leaders like Mr. Dastague are not waiting for politicians, government officials, engineers and city planners to take charge of rebuilding New Orleans. They are starting to do it themselves.

They certainly are counting on plenty of help from the federal government, as President Bush promised in his speech Thursday. But even before the money for reconstruction flows in, local land owners and business executives are pressing their case that a fast start is crucial if the economy of southern Louisiana is to recover. The first 100 days or so, they say, must be used to build a sense of momentum and optimism that New Orleans and the surrounding region will come back, not just as it was but as a rebuilt and improved place.

Attention now is understandably focused on the immediate recovery, but big questions loom about what path a "new New Orleans" should take and what it might look like. And that path will be shaped in many ways by business leaders and civic leaders like Mr. Dastugue, a former Louisiana state representative who is also co-chairman of an initiative by business, government and community leaders to try to make the New Orleans metropolitan area a more attractive place to live, work and invest, called "Top 10 by 2010."

It is a daunting, and some would say, an all but impossible goal. An estimated 70,000 businesses across the 10 parishes of southern Louisiana have been displaced or severely disrupted by the hurricane, according to Michael Olivier, Louisiana's secretary for economic development.

More than 90 percent of those companies are small businesses, Mr. Olivier said in an interview, and many may not survive the wait for their insurance claims or loans from the Small Business Administration. So, Mr. Olivier went to Washington for a four-day trip that began Tuesday seeking help.

"Our greatest worry is that we need to get businesses back up and running and we need to get the work force back," Mr. Olivier said. "And you need at least something for everyone, not only businesses but the worker bees as well."

That view seems to be shared in Washington. The measures in the aid plan presented by President Bush on Thursday included tax relief, loans and loan guarantees for small businesses, as well as funds for workers of up to $5,000 each.

The surest bet in the recovery, local economists say, will be the big companies in oil production and refining, shipbuilding, ports and petrochemicals.

"These companies will make herculean efforts to get back up and running because they have a lot of money invested and a lot of money on the line every day," said Loren Scott, an economist at Louisiana State University. "The big question is the tourism and convention industry, and small service businesses. How much of the diaspora of people and businesses who left will come back?"

By nature, Mr. Dastugue is an outgoing, glass-is-half-full optimist. At each of four security checkpoints he drives past in New Orleans, operated by out-of-state Army and National Guard troops, he offers friendly thanks and encouragement. "Where you from?" he greets them. "Thanks for coming, guys."

Despite the destruction, Mr. Dastugue recognizes the opportunity of a clean slate to work from in rebuilding - "an urban planner's dream," he noted.

His vision of a rebuilt New Orleans is not a smaller city built primarily around tourism, as some have suggested, but more of a huge refurbishing project. It is an opportunity, as he sees it, to rebuild and overhaul the roads and transit system for better traffic handling; build new levees and water control systems to ease flood dangers; put in new state-of-the-art fiber optic telecommunications to attract high-technology companies; rebuild schools and rethink urban education.

"We have a chance to correct some things here and use a lot of federal money to do it, and legitimately so," he said.

His wife, Penny, also sees opportunity behind the disaster, and as a member of the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, she will have a voice in planning the course for rehabilitating damaged schools. The New Orleans school system is deeply troubled.

"If we rebuild what we had, shame on us," said Mrs. Dastugue, who regards the post-hurricane situation as an opening for changes like charter schools, smaller schools and career academies.

She hopes that teachers' unions and some local politicians who have resisted experiments in the past will endorse such programs with the prospect of more money and a fresh start. Will they? "I don't know," Mrs. Dastugue replied.

Indeed. And whose ideas prevail in any "new New Orleans" initiatives will probably be a matter of intense political debate.

For now, though, the focus is mainly on bringing the New Orleans region back to life and getting businesses up and running - tasks that pose huge challenges but also a lot of business opportunities.

Mr. Dastugue's company, Property One, which he founded two decades ago with his brother, Paul, provides a glimpse of the economic crosscurrents already emerging in the area.

Property One's headquarters, now shut, is in a high-rise office building across the street from the Superdome. It has branch offices in the New Orleans suburb of Mandeville, along with Lafayette and Baton Rouge elsewhere in Louisiana. The company also has projects in Mississippi, Texas, Alabama and Florida.

Property One could easily move its headquarters, as some companies already have. But the 49-year-old Mr. Dastugue, whose great-grandfather emigrated from France to become a butcher in the French Quarter, is a sentimental opportunist where New Orleans is concerned.

"For every person who leaves, that creates a tremendous opportunity for everyone who stays because there's less competition," he said.

The fear, of course, is that if the recovery staggers early then the local market will be far smaller. The ones who left, then, could be the smart money.

All Property One's business in the city of New Orleans is in hiatus or is gone. But just across Lake Pontchartrain in the suburb of Mandeville, it has a development of 64 condominiums. Until Katrina, sales had been sluggish.

Except for losing two roofs, the development, on high ground, escaped damage. In two days last week, 44 condominiums were sold to displaced families and companies seeking housing for their employees.

Mr. Dastugue said he held the pre-hurricane price of about $90,000. "To be honest, we debated that and decided we were not going to charge whatever the market would bear," he said.

In a Baton Rouge office complex, Property One leased more than 400,000 square feet of space last week to displaced companies and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "It's a checkerboard: in some places, there is a frenzy of business, and elsewhere properties look like they should be bulldozed," Mr. Dastugue said. "We don't really know how it will sort out for us."

Nearly all his company's 70 employees evacuated. Mr. Dastugue stayed behind to look after the properties, but sent his wife and three daughters to Dallas. A falling pine tree split the roof of his home in Mandeville, but he patched it up a few days later. His brother's home in nearby Metairie is still under water.

Mr. Dastugue is continuing to pay his employees, and found housing for some of them in his properties. He has already heard, though, from a few who are not coming back. Often, the leasing or brokerage deals they worked on were in New Orleans, and they have decided to move on rather than wait for business to recover while not receiving commissions, which is a big part of their income.

At Property One, payrolls are every two weeks. "We'll start to get a better idea of who's going and who's staying by the next payroll," he said.

At the Palmetto Apartments, despite the devastation, Mr. Dastugue hopes to get some of the least damaged units ready for occupancy in a few months and all of them rebuilt by next April.

For the city of New Orleans, Mr. Dastugue said that one goal should be to have the city rebuilt enough by late February for Mardi Gras, probably with shortened parade routes. The city should aim to be ready for conventions, he added, by the second quarter of 2006.

Those may prove to be demanding targets, Mr. Dastugue conceded. After all, one of the truisms of construction projects - even a simple kitchen renovation - is that they take longer and cost more than originally planned.

But ambitious goals, he said, are needed to get things moving with a real sense of urgency and political will.

"Part of the recovery is an engineering feat," Mr. Dastugue said. "But there is also the confidence issue that business and government are going to have to deal with - that this recovery is really moving forward quickly. How that confidence issue turns will determine the future of New Orleans."

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html)The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

TLOZ Link5
September 18th, 2005, 05:02 PM
New Orleans Mayor Defends Return Plan
Relief Chief Says It's Still 'Very, Very Soon to Try and Do That'

NEW ORLEANS (Sept. 18) - New Orleans' mayor has the authority to let residents return to his hurricane-damaged city, but the Coast Guard official in charge of the federal disaster response said Sunday that all the information from health and environmental experts recommends against it.

Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad Allen plans to meet with Mayor Ray Nagin on Monday and develop what he called a logical plan to repopulate the city.

If Allen gets his way, that repopulation won't start on Monday, as the mayor planned, but it will be soon.

"I wouldn't want to attach a time limit to it, but it includes things like making sure there's potable water, making sure there's a 911 system in place, telephone, a means to notify people there is an approaching storm so you can evacuate it with the weakened levee situation," Allen said on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday.

"We can do that, and we can do that fairly soon, but it's very, very soon to try and do that this week," he said.

Nagin didn't appear ready to back down Saturday as he defended his plan to return up to 180,000 people to the city within a week and a half despite concerns about the short supply of drinking water and heavily polluted floodwaters.

"We must offer the people of New Orleans every chance for a sense of closure and the opportunity for a new beginning," he said.

He wants the Algiers, Garden District and French Quarter sections to reopen over the next week and a half, bringing back more than one-third of the city's half-million inhabitants, though city officials have backed off a specific date for reopening the famous French Quarter. The areas were spared the worst of Hurricane Katrina's flooding.

Nagin said his plan was developed in cooperation with the federal government and balances safety concerns and the needs of citizens to begin rebuilding.

But Allen said he had spoken personally with the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and the director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and returning now wouldn't be advised. A prime public health concern is the tap water, which in most of the city remains unfit for drinking and bathing, he said.

"We really support his plan to restart New Orleans," Allen said. "We are right in sticking with his vision. It's a matter of timing and creating the, enabling the structures that will allow us to do this safely."

Those structures would include an evacuation plan if another storm hits the region and threatens an already delicate levee system, he said.

There are also still bodies to be recovered. Allen said over 90 percent of the primary house-to-house sweep was complete, but some homes are still under water and searchers will have to return.

On Sunday, the death toll in Louisiana increased by more than 60 to 646, according to the state Department of Health and Hospitals. That raised the total Gulf Coast deaths linked to the hurricane to 883.

Despite floodwater remaining in some areas and a lack of residents in the city, business owners were allowed back in to some sections of the city to begin the long process of cleaning up and rebuilding, part of Nagin's plan to begin reviving the city by resuming a limited amount of commerce.

But confronted with damage that could take months to repair, many said hopes for a quick recovery may be little more than a political dream.

"I don't know why they said people could come back and open their businesses," said Margaret Richmond, owner of an antiques shop on the edge of the city's upscale Garden District that was looted. "You can't reopen this. And even if you could, there are no customers here."

The Wal-Mart store in uptown New Orleans, built within the last year, survived the storm but was destroyed by looters.

"They took everything -- all the electronics, the food, the bikes," said John Stonaker, a Wal-Mart security officer. "The only thing left are the country-and-western CDs."

If the store had not been looted, it could be open in two weeks, Stonaker said. Now he doubts it will be open by January.

In the French Quarter, the hum of generators, the thumping of hammers and the whir of power tools cut through the air Saturday as business owners were allowed in to survey the damage and begin cleaning up. Some threw an impromptu street party, complete with a traditional feast of red beans and rice.

At the famous French Quarter restaurant, The Court of Two Sisters, director of food and beverages Andrew Orth was removing plywood from the windows on Saturday morning. The coolers lost power and the food was rotting. Orth estimated it would take several weeks to get the restaurant ready to serve diners again.

"We couldn't open even if the electricity was on," he said.

Associated Press Writer Doug Simpson contributed to this report from Baton Rouge.

9/18/2005 13:34:36

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.

September 30th, 2005, 08:23 AM
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October 4th, 2005, 06:27 AM
October 4, 2005

Some Experts Say It's Time to Evacuate the Coast (for Good)


Scientists are trying to determine the most vulnerable coastal communities. Many point to Dauphin Island, Ala., which was heavily damaged in Hurricane Katrina.

By CORNELIA DEAN (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=CORNELIA DEAN&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=CORNELIA DEAN&inline=nyt-per)

PENSACOLA, Fla. - As the Gulf Coast reels from two catastrophic storms in a month, and the Carolinas and Florida deal with damage and debris from hurricanes this year and last, even some supporters of coastal development are starting to ask a previously unthinkable question: is it time to consider retreat from the coast?

Yes, said Howard Marlowe, president of Marlowe & Company, a lobbying firm that represents counties and local governments, often in seeking support for coastal infrastructure, like roads, sewers and beach replenishment. "I think we need to be asking that and discussing that, and the federal government needs to provide leadership," Mr. Marlowe said.

He added, "I have never been an advocate for the federal government telling people that they have to move out, but it's important to have a discussion at all levels of government about what can be done to make sure more people do not put themselves in harm's way. It will not be an easy dialogue."

The idea that much of the coast is dangerous and getting more so is not new. Coastal scientists have been saying for years that global warming will threaten coastal areas with higher seas and more powerful storms, and that a hurricane lull that began in the mid-1960's will eventually give way to the far more dangerous pattern of storms that prevailed in the 1930's, 40's and 50's. Since then, though, development has transformed the nation's shoreline, especially on the east and gulf coasts.

By last year, when four hurricanes crossed the state of Florida in a matter of weeks, it was clear the lull had ended. This year, Hurricanes Katrina, Ophelia and Rita drove the hazard lesson home.
A. R. Schwartz, a Democrat who for decades represented Galveston and much of the Texas coast in the State Legislature, said he now regretted some of the legislation he had pushed that subsidized development on the coast, particularly a measure that provides tax relief to insurance companies faced with wind damage claims.

Mr. Schwartz, whose constituents knew him as Babe, said that measure was "a terrible mistake - in my mind, as opposed to my heart, because the people need the insurance - because it has been an invitation for people to build homes on barrier islands and on peninsulas that are exposed to storms, at public expense."

"We are facing a crisis now because of that law I passed," said Mr. Schwartz, who now lives in Austin where he works as a lobbyist and lawyer.

Daniel P. Schrag, director of the Harvard University Center for the Environment, said that as coastal areas, and islands, recover "there has to be a discussion of what responsibility we have not to encourage people to rebuild their houses in the same way."

Even the fate of New Orleans should be open to discussion, Dr. Schrag said. "Spending hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild a city that puts it in harm's way once again and relying on technology such as higher dikes and levees seems to me a very dangerous strategy," the more so in an era of global warming.

Erosion already threatens 70 percent of the nation's coastline, and is especially severe on the east and gulf coasts. In a report to Congress in 2000, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said that more than a quarter of the houses within 500 feet of the coast might be lost to the sea by 2060. The report said these losses would put an intolerable burden on the federal government, which insures many of the structures through its flood insurance program.

"We are getting these lifetime storms every couple of years," said Riley G. Hoggard, a resource management specialist at the Gulf Islands National Seashore, where the road to Fort Pickens, on Santa Rosa Island here, has been washed out and rebuilt three times in the last year. "Maybe we need to get into a program of orderly retreat."

In recent decades, people have been doing just the opposite. According to the Census Bureau, 87 million people, nearly a third of the nation's population, live on or near the Atlantic or gulf coasts.

Harry Simmons, president of the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association, which advocates for beach replenishment and other infrastructure support for coastal communities, said that 3,600 Americans moved to the coast every day.

"You cannot draw up a worse case scenario for increased property damage, risk to human life and cost to taxpayers," said Robert S. Young of Western Carolina University, who studies coastal development.

Just as a commission was formed to identify military bases for closing, he said, a commission should be formed to identify "those sections of shoreline that are clearly so vulnerable to storm damage that they should no longer receive any federal subsidy of infrastructure rebuilding, they should be yanked out of the flood insurance program, those sorts of things."

Mr. Young said the commission should be made up of representatives from FEMA, the United States Geological Survey, the Army Corps of Engineers and university researchers. "It could not have politicians on it because coastal politicians, even if they are fiscal conservatives, would want to defend their coastal turf," he said.

He said he would propose the idea this month, when he has been asked to testify before a subcommittee of the House Resources Committee. "We need to just make a start," he said.

Meanwhile, scientists from the geological survey have been making detailed observations of the coastal landscape, before and after storms, to try to identify characteristics, not always obvious, that make areas more or less vulnerable to storm damage.

The geological survey is not in the business of defining where people should or should not live, said Abby Sallenger, a scientist with the agency who has been leading data collection efforts on the gulf coast. But, he said, "There are sections of the east and gulf coasts that are extremely hazardous and the scientific community could come to agreement on where they are" so that policy makers could act on the information.

Like others who study this issue, he said two good candidates for retreat were Dauphin Island in Alabama, much of it wiped out by Hurricane Katrina, and North Topsail Island, N.C., which, he said, "gets wiped out routinely."

But plenty of people reject the idea that those who live on the coast are any more at risk than those who live in areas prone to tornadoes, earthquakes or forest fires, even in an era of increased storms.

"There are engineering solutions to almost any problem we face," said Mr. Simmons of the beach association, who is mayor of Caswell Beach, N.C., near Cape Fear. He said the problem with places like North Topsail Island is too little infrastructure support, not too much. "We are not doing a good enough job maintaining things" like beaches, he said.

In the past, the promise of engineering has prevailed against efforts to get the federal government out of the coastal development business.

More than a decade ago, for example, FEMA scientists suggested imposing new limits on federally subsidized flood insurance and government support for roads, sewers and other infrastructure in erosion hazard areas. But advocates for development denounced the move as undue federal interference, and it was defeated.

Setback requirements have been successfully challenged as unconstitutionally limiting people's use of their property.

But Mr. Marlowe, the lobbying firm president, said: "What I am looking for is a national commitment to a plan that says: 'O.K., we have people in these areas, how are we going to protect them? We have other people in these areas where we are going to discourage future development because we cannot protect things that are there.' "

Mr. Simmons said this kind of planning would be a good thing. But he said the beach preservation association "has always taken the position that sound development is the way to go," with zoning and building codes determined locally. "What I hear some people saying is you should just bulldoze the place and leave it to the birds and the turtles, and I don't agree with that," he said.

Mr. Hoggard of the Park Service said he would not consign even Fort Pickens to that fate. But, he said, it is time to consider replacing the road, possibly, for example, with a ferry service from the mainland. But, as is the case on all the developed shoreline, abandoning infrastructure means lost revenue, in this case fees from a year-round campground. So Mr. Hoggard said there would be pressure to maintain the road, flooded yet again by pounding surf churned up by Hurricane Rita. "We can do that with our technology," he said. "But only for so long, and at a great price."

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

October 4th, 2005, 08:50 AM
"What I hear some people saying is you should just bulldoze the place and leave it to the birds and the turtles, and I don't agree with that,"

I wonder what the birds and turtles have to say..... :p

October 12th, 2005, 01:16 PM

Dutch Answer to Flooding: Build Houses that Swim

The Dutch are gearing up for climate change with amphibious houses. If rivers rise above their banks, the houses simply rise upwards as well. Such innovation could be good news for hurricane and flood-stunned America. But are water lovers prepared to live on swimming family arks?

Looking out from the terrace, heaven and earth merge into a grey blur. Heavy rain pours so incessantly that one would expect Anne van der Molen to be getting just a little nervous.

"Tomorrow does not look any better, according to the weather forecast," she says, calmly sipping her coffee. She does so in spite of the fact that her house stands directly on the Maas dyke - on the side facing the river, to be exact. Yet the nurse, sitting on her garden chair under the awning, feels as cozy and safe as if she were "snowed in up in a mountain hut, with a log fire glowing and the pantry full." The Maas can go on rising as much as it likes, for all she cares. Her house can swim. As the water level climbs, the house itself can move up five meters, if necessary. "The elements don't bother me," she says.

There are 37 houses strung along this branch of the Maas like a row of beads. At first glance, they seem quite unremarkable. Two storeys high, semicircular metal roofs and yellow, green or blue facades - hardly any clues let on that these are The Netherlands' first amphibious houses. The cellar, in this case, is not built into the earth. Instead, it is on a platform - and is much more than a mere storage room. The hollow foundation of each house works in the same way as the hull of a ship, buoying the structure up above water. To prevent the swimming houses from floating away, they slide up two broad steel posts - and as the water level sinks, so they sink back down again.

"The columns have been driven deep into solid ground," explains Dick van Gooswilligen from the Dura Vermeer construction company. "They are even strong enough to withstand currents you would find on the open seas." Gooswilligen is currently busy guiding dozens of journalists from the United States through the watertight settlement in the Maasbommel district, close to Nijmegen. "As global warming causes the sea level to rise, this is the solution," he explains into a microphone. "Housing of this type is the future for the delta regions of the world, the ones which face the greatest danger."

Soundbites like these are just what Americans want to hear these days. Hurricane Katrina and her lesser cousin Hurricane Rita have sparked interest in the low lying Netherlands. Hordes of hydraulic engineers from Louisiana or Texas are making the pilgrimage to the North Sea coastline to look at the fortifications. The inland river dykes are also considered exemplary models.

The Netherlands Sinks a little Lower Every Year

German catastrophe management teams are just as curious. Climate patterns today suggest that torrential rainfall is something we can expect plenty more of in the future. This year's floods in the Alps or those along the River Elbe three years ago could well be warning signs of what awaits us. Climatologists predict that precipitation in The Netherlands could increase as much as 25 percent. At the same time, because of the small kingdom's dense population, there is increasing pressure to build in areas prone to flooding. Already, though, the country defies the laws of physics simply by existing: More than a quarter of its land lies below sea level. And, year by year, the land is sinking a little bit lower. The Dutch protect themselves from going under through a network of canals and pumps. It is not only the sea which threatens the mighty barrage on the coast. On the other side lies the Rhine River, which branches out and forms a wide-reaching delta with the Maas. To prevent such huge swaths of land from flooding in summer and winter storms, the Dutch are designating more and more land along their rivers as flood zones. Within the next few decades, the area will compose close to 500,000 hectares -- or about twice the size of the German state of Saarland.

This will only be possible if people, industry and agriculture can be successfully relocated to safe territory - which is hard to imagine, given the resistance mounted by some of those affected. Officials have, therefore, decided to demonstrate first of all that it is possible to live in the so-called flood zones. In early October, 15 test areas were announced. A stringent ban on construction in these areas has now been lifted - provided buildings constructed are amphibious houses and nothing else. This means that, in a worst case scenario, excess water from flooded rivers can still be diverted this way.

"You cannot fight water, you have to learn how to live with it", states Sybilla Dekker, the minister in charge. Her department has arranged a competition for engineers, urban planners and architects to design living accommodation, greenhouses, parking lots and factories which would float and could grow into "waterproof" towns.

One of the leading architects in this relatively new discipline of maritime architecture is Koen Olthuis. His aptly named Waterstudio.nl office has already designed a number of contemporary houseboats with a parking deck for the car and lower deck storage for a motorboat. Now, his team is even coming up with plans for office buildings a hundred meters in height that "swim." The key to making this idea a reality is a patented technique whereby the foundation of the construction can be transformed into a float. A foam core is encased in concrete, with steel cables securing it against the pull of potential currents. Individual pontoons, whether for residential blocks or chicken coops, can be joined to one another like Lego blocks. As a result, a maritime settlement is born.

"This construction model is built to last at least one hundred years," Olthuis says. If anything should happen to the foundation, there is no need to call in the construction company. Instead, the whole thing can be taken to the dockyard.

Family "arks" of the future

The architect from Rijswijk hopes to tap into a worldwide trend. Increasing numbers of people are gravitating towards the water, out of necessity, for financial gain or, in some cases, quite simply for the wonderful view. "Thanks to watertight buildings, this impulse need not be fateful," he says. His bobbing buildings have not only found favor in the Polder lands, he has also prepared concepts for Dubai.

The first town based on this model, numbering 12,000 houses, might conceivably be built close to Amsterdam's Schiphol airport. The Netherlands are particularly low in this area. When planes come in for a landing here, one can see countless rectangular islets amid a picturesque, watery landscape. Canals weave their way like veins through the swaying reeds of green land which invariably opens out into ponds or lakes. By the year 2010, amphibious houses like those in Maasbommel may well form the first residential area here - or perhaps greenhouses will dominate the landscape, like the one opened earlier this month by the minister of agriculture in The Hague.

At this stage, such model houses cost more than conventional housing. The amphibious buildings in Maasbommel cost approximately €250,000 to €300,000 for a 120 square meter home. This is due in part to the flexible nature of the construction which also plays a role in creating feed lines for gas, electricity, drinking water and drainage. Like the foundation, they, too, have to be able to adapt to the changes in height of the premises.

But, when the floating construction model goes more mainstream, the price of a one family "ark" should drop dramatically. "At the end of the day, we will save on a lot of the costs conventional building methods incur doing things like securing foundations in soft ground. We won't have to contend with that," Olthuis points out. It remains an utter mystery to him why water-proofed construction is not yet common practice.

He can only watch and shake his head as his television broadcasts fresh pictures of floods in one part of the world or another. "Those people, breaking their backs piling sandbags on their doorsteps, I feel really sorry for them."

Translated from the German by Gareth Davies (http://service.spiegel.de/cache/international/spiegel/0,1518,377050,00.html)

November 8th, 2005, 06:31 AM
November 8, 2005

New Orleans Is Still Grappling With the Basics of Rebuilding


This article was reported by Adam Nossiter, Gary Rivlin, John Schwartz, Eric Lipton and Jennifer Steinhauer and was written by Ms. Steinhauer.

NEW ORLEANS, Nov. 7 - Something once unimaginable has begun to happen here: the United Parcel Service is delivering again downtown. At Langenstein's grocery, celery and pork chops are moving out the door, and revelers spill out of the Magazine Street bars on Friday nights.

But just a mile away, workers are struggling to restore some flood protection to the city, which would barely stay dry in even a modest tropical storm. Tens of thousands of homeowners, facing six-figure repair bills for their rotting houses, are unlikely to get more than a fraction of that from the government. As phones ring in empty offices, even the shrimp business can barely find customers, and the economy remains comatose.

More than two months after Hurricane Katrina incapacitated this peerless, sultry American city, New Orleans has shaken off the shock of its collapse and has slowly begun to draw breath again. But as it moves from recovery into the more crucial rebuilding phase, it is only beginning to grapple with the elemental questions that will shape its future, many of which have arisen at the special session of the Louisiana (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/national/usstatesterritoriesandpossessions/louisiana/index.html?inline=nyt-geo) State Legislature that began Sunday night.

Will New Orleans be granted a vastly strengthened flood protection system - at a cost of up to $20 billion - or will it be told to allow low-lying residential neighborhoods to return to marshland? Will the city have to take control of thousands of houses to restore them - at a cost that no one has calculated - or will it have to tell thousands of evacuated residents not to return?

Every major decision seems to rely on another decision that has to be made first, and no one has stepped in to announce what the city will do and break the cycle of uncertainty. Many residents and business owners will not return and invest without an assurance of flood protection, for example. But workers who could rebuild the levees and much of the rest of the city are hampered by the lack of housing.

"We can't ask somebody to work for us if they have nowhere to live," said Robert Boh, president of Boh Brothers, a New Orleans construction company.

And construction of new houses, or the rebuilding of the old damaged ones, has been stymied by the high cost, the empty treasury of local government, and the debate over how to maintain the city's political and demographic base.

While some experts have warned that it makes little economic or environmental sense to rebuild low-lying areas like the Lower Ninth Ward, Mayor C. Ray Nagin and many other city officials have stated emphatically that the neighborhood will be rebuilt and protected, whatever the cost.

Developers have not yet received the kind of tax incentives that Washington provided to New York after Sept. 11, and local officials are preparing for the loss of up to half the city's 115,000 small businesses.
In rebuilding, timing and proportion are everything. Unlike New York officials, who seized their moment of national sympathy to nail down $20 billion in specific appropriations from Congress after Sept. 11, Louisiana delegates asked for a hefty $200 billion. After that amount was shot down, there was little clarity in the state's request, and two-thirds of the $60 billion approved by Congress for the Gulf Coast has not been spent.

"Louisiana lost its credibility by asking for everything," said Walter Isaacson, the former chairman of CNN, who serves as vice chairman of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, a new state entity appointed by the governor to coordinate the reconstruction effort. "Now it is our job to say, we have some reasonable priorities for spending and we are going to be sensible and frugal about it."

Keeping the City Dry

Amid the city's divisions, there is one area of consensus: its levees and floodwalls must once again be able to protect New Orleans from swirling gulf waters before the city can fully recover. To date, however, the Army Corps of Engineers has performed only the most rudimentary of repairs, plugging holes and driving steel pilings to create a quick-and-dirty version of protection against Category 3 hurricanes.

That will not be enough to restore confidence in the city's future among traumatized residents. Virtually all city and state officials agree that flood protection must be increased to withstand a Category 5 storm.

"The comprehensive coastal restoration and Category 5 hurricane protection system is our top federal priority," said Andy Kopplin, the executive director of the recovery authority. "And having Category 5 hurricane protection in New Orleans is essential for its long-term recovery."

But that commitment, according to the state, would cost $10 billion to $20 billion and take up to 10 years to meet. Restoring the coastline would cost $14 billion. There is no sign yet that the administration is willing to write checks of this size.

Last week, President Bush submitted a spending request to Congress that included $1.6 billion for repair of levees and wetlands, and an additional $4.6 million to study the possibility of a levee upgrade. The proposal was immediately criticized as wholly inadequate by members of the state's Congressional delegation.

Even the immediate reconstruction work is moving slowly. The corps has advertised 49 contracts for engineering and construction work in the area, but so far only a dozen have been awarded, said Lewis F. Setliff III, who leads the corps' restoration task force.

Then there is the dirt. Even the most basic repairs will require about three million cubic yards of soil, the equivalent of a football field on which dirt is stacked 1,575 feet high, Mr. Setliff said. The corps has yet to find enough sites for the so-called "borrow pits" for the soil, which ideally need to be close to the construction sites.

Given these concerns, it is not clear that the corps will meet its self-imposed deadline of June 1 to return the city's flood control system to its pre-Hurricane Katrina strength, though that remains its intent.
"It may very well be in some areas it won't be what you call final protection," said Donald L. Basham, the chief of engineering and construction for the corps. "We may still be affording interim protection measures that if you want to walk away and leave that system for the next 20 years that's not the way you want to leave it. It won't be pretty."

A Roof Overhead

Thousands of New Orleans residents want to come home. But for many of them, there remains nothing to return to.

In Lakeview and Mid-City, middle-class enclaves in the western half of town, street after street of empty houses sit browned with mud six feet up. Throughout the impoverished Ninth Ward and in neighboring St. Bernard Parish to the east, hundreds of homes have been virtually leveled, and blue tarps stretch over roof after roof throughout the city. All told, roughly 40 percent of the city's homes were flooded, and up to 50,000 homes are likely to be demolished.

"Housing is probably our most pressing issue right now," Mayor Nagin said in an interview. "Temporary housing for workers, housing that was damaged or flooded, the quick repair of that. There's just not enough footprint to accommodate the people who want to move back into the city right now."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has begun to give tens of thousands of city homeowners financial assistance for rebuilding, but the grants are capped at $26,200 per household, not enough in most cases for major reconstruction. Tax incentives for developers and other forms of bailout money - all doled out in Lower Manhattan in 2001 - have been discussed in Congress but not passed. As a result, several ideas that might once have been considered outlandish are being considered to resuscitate the city's housing stock.

Under one notion that is being discussed by a leading member of Mr. Nagin's rebuilding commission, the city could take control of a house, fix it up and then lease it out. The original owner would have the right to come back eventually and re-establish ownership claims. The idea, based on an old Louisiana legal concept known as usufruct, has already encountered some political opposition, but proponents say that local government may have no choice but to step in.

Joseph C. Canizaro, a wealthy developer who sits on the mayor's commission, has proposed building new housing in City Park, the beloved New Orleans equivalent of Central Park, and letting some low-lying neighborhoods revert to marshland. Though the idea is politically hard to imagine, it is remarkable for being discussed at all.

Fear of political consequences, though, have begun to undermine the process of actually getting anything done. Many of the destroyed homes sat in areas that were blighted before a drop of rain from the hurricane fell, and plenty were located in areas that will be vulnerable in the next storm.

While the politics become untangled, the futures of thousands of people hang in a terrible balance. "We need to know what the city is going to do," said Oliver Thomas, the president of the New Orleans City Council, "so we can start planning our lives."

Looking for Work

As the city struggles to regain its physical shape, the spine of its economy is cracking.

Last week, Chase Bank reopened its main branch in a high-rise one block off Canal Street. Four tellers stood at their stations, and three other bank employees sat behind desks, in a branch devoid of a single customer at 2 p.m. on a Wednesday.

New Orleans has lost $1.5 million in tourist revenues every day since the levees broke, according to the Louisiana Office of Tourism, and only 25 percent of its 3,400 restaurants have reopened. In September, the unemployment rate hit 14.8 percent.

The loss of tourism to New Orleans reverberates throughout the region. For example, the fish and shrimp industries, hurting from damage to boats and infrastructure, need mouths to feed in the city.

"We moved 8.2 million pounds of shrimp last year, and 5 million of it went to the New Orleans area," said Dean Blanchard, vice president of the Louisiana Shrimp Association. The volume of ships using the city's port - the nation's fifth largest - is still 70 percent off its normal capacity, said John Kallenborn, the Port of New Orleans's board chairman.

Small businesses are struggling to survive because of the paucity of residents and the lack of tourists, and many large companies have yet to return. Before the hurricane, New Orleans was home to roughly 115,000 small businesses. "Losing half those businesses is not out of the question," said W. Anthony Patton, a member of the reconstruction commission.

The Recovery Authority is considering asking for $10 billion in grants to help small businesses, and Congress is now considering a proposal that would immediately set aside $450 million in small business loans.

The city has already lost 29 of the 70 conventions that had been scheduled in 2006. Its convention center, has yet to reopen, and will probably not do so until early next year.

Seen from the perspective of the French Quarter and select neighborhoods such as the Garden District and Algiers, the city can seem in surprisingly robust shape. Grocery stores are open on the West Bank, as are bank branches, many restaurants and movie theaters.

"It seems as if the city is breathing again," Mayor Nagin said, although he conceded he had no clue as to how many of those exhaling were people who actually live in the City of New Orleans.

But some of the city's largest high-rises, including One Shell Plaza and Dominion Towers, are still shuttered. Rubenstein Brothers, a clothing store on Canal Street for 81 years, opened to great fanfare last month, yet by midafternoon that day its clerks, well dressed and standing smartly at attention, had nothing to do.

When will the rest of the world sip the city's coffee, take in free concerts by Rebirth Brass Band, nibble on po' boys and roam the French Quarter talking about something other than storm surge and FEMA? It could be many years.

"We've bottomed out and now we're beginning to claw our way out," said Scott Cowen, the president of Tulane University. "It may take three to five years to really build the model city we all aspire for New Orleans to be."

Adam Nossiter and Gary Rivlin reported from New Orleans for this article, Eric Lipton from Washington, and John Schwartz and Jennifer Steinhauer from New York.

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

November 15th, 2005, 12:04 AM
November 15, 2005

Louisiana's Marshes Fight for Their Lives

By CORNELIA DEAN (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=CORNELIA DEAN&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=CORNELIA DEAN&inline=nyt-per)

Shea Penland nosed his truck along a mud-covered street, past uprooted trees, cars leaning crazily on fences, torn-off roofs, and piles of ruined furniture, wallboard and shingles - the waterlogged evidence that Hurricane Katrina had been through the New Orleans suburb of Chalmette.

Twice, he turned to avoid streets blocked by brick houses apparently torn from their slab foundations and dumped blocks away. Finally, he spotted what he was seeking. "Look at that," he said, pointing to what looked like misshaped bowling balls tufted with long strands of yellow grass, seemingly thrown onto the porch and through the gaping doorway of a wrecked brick ranch house. "Marshballs."

For Dr. Penland, director of the Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of New Orleans, these clumps of black mud knitted with roots and fronds are an alarming sight. The marshballs, some as large as a sofa, others as small as a shoebox, had floated from wetlands to the east. Dr. Penland says they are more evidence that after decades of human interference, the marshes of Louisiana are in deep, deep trouble.

"A healthy marsh is pretty resilient," he said. "A stressed marsh - storms will physically break the marsh down."

Now, as Louisiana struggles to recover from the storm, scientists like Dr. Penland are studying this marsh wreckage and the marshes themselves for clues to what ails them and how they might recover.

The questions are complicated, and the answers turn on a number of factors, including the region's geology, the ways people have engineered the flow of the Mississippi River, and the marsh-killing activities of the oil and gas industry. These issues inevitably lead to a far more difficult question: whether some marshlands, even inhabited marshlands, must be given up to the encroaching Gulf of Mexico.

Louisiana marshes are a nursery for many fish caught in the gulf, and they support the state's rich Cajun culture. Much of the nation's oil and gas passes through them. And though hurricane damage to New Orleans and other towns drew more attention, the storms "have caused a significant loss of wetlands and marshes and massive coastal erosion throughout the entire region," S. Jeffress Williams, a coastal scientist with the United States Geological Survey, told a Congressional hearing last month.

He said some marshy areas east of the Mississippi River lost 25 percent of their land areas in Hurricane Katrina, which came ashore more than 100 miles east of New Orleans. A strong hurricane that approached New Orleans from the south, along the path of the river, would do even more damage, he said.

Over the years, scores of scientists have struggled to determine the best way to approach Louisiana's vanishing wetlands. Last week, experts convened by the National Academy of Sciences reported their recommendations in an evaluation of the state's major marsh-restoration proposal.

Though they praised most of the plan's major components as scientifically sound, they said that it would reduce annual wetland loss only about 20 percent and that it was time to consider what areas could be preserved and what areas could not.

That attitude is anathema to much of the state's business and political establishment, according to Oliver Houck, a professor at the Tulane University School of Law who specializes in environmental issues.

He said a large obstacle to confronting wetland loss was what he called the "destroy and restore" philosophy, the longstanding practice of interfering with the marsh - for flood control, navigation, agriculture, oil or other gain - in hopes that engineering could restore it.

That, more or less, has been the history of this coastal region since Europeans made their homes here more than 300 years ago.

Coastal Louisiana is constructed of millenniums of mud, sediment carried by the Mississippi and deposited in its delta. The mud under the west side of New Orleans is about 200 feet thick; it compacts and sinks under its own weight. But when the river flowed naturally, regular floods carried silt from the heartland into the marshes, maintaining their elevation.

Levees and other flood-control and navigational efforts changed all that. Deprived of nourishing infusions of silt, the marshes began to sink, and this subsidence was accelerated when the petroleum industry began pumping out oil. According to the Geological Survey, since the 1930's Louisiana has lost more than 1,900 square miles of wetland, an area as large as Delaware.

Though the loss has slowed since the early 1980's, when a binge of canal-cutting and pipeline construction by the oil industry accelerated it to 40 square miles a year, it has not stopped. Dr. Penland, who has spent almost all of his career studying the coastal islands and marshes of Louisiana, estimates the annual loss at 12 square miles or so; others say 20 or more. The Geological Survey estimates that if things continue as they are, 700 square miles more will vanish by 2050.

"The whole surface is sinking," said Abby Sallenger, another coastal scientist with the agency. "It's almost changing before your eyes. It's grassland turning into open water, the ponds turn into lakes."

In theory, sea level rise from global climate change will only make things worse, although things in Louisiana are already so bad, Dr. Penland said, that "for us that's insignificant."

Many hope controlled diversions of river water into the marshes, one remedy included in the state plan, will help restore the natural balance. Others are doubtful.

Mr. Houck cited a project at Caernarvon, on a bend in the river south of Chalmette, where water is diverted into the marsh. After Hurricane Katrina, "half of that marsh was destroyed outright and half of what remains is iffy," he said. "A lot of it came off like hair ripped from someone's head" and probably ended up in Chalmette, he continued.
Also, Dr. Penland said, diversion projects small enough to be feasible and locally acceptable are dwarfed by the magnitude of the problem. For example, when scientists at Louisiana State used computer models to study a diversion proposal for Maurepas Swamp, between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, they said it would take 50 years to restore 5,000 to 10,000 acres to sustainability.

Efforts like that, however valuable, will not be enough, Dr. Penland said.

"We have to not just mirror nature, we have to accelerate the way nature works. The solutions have to be proportional to the problem."

Much of the sediment that enters Mississippi River tributaries never makes it to Louisiana. By some estimates, 80 percent is trapped behind Missouri River dams. Plus, over the years the Louisiana economy has come to depend on the river's being constrained in its channel. Large infusions of fresh water would flood some homes and businesses and alter salt marsh habitats, with potentially harmful effects on commercially important species like oysters.

"We want the dirt without the water," Dr. Penland said. The only way to get it, he said, is dredging and then transporting the dredged material to the marsh that needs it, possibly through the kind of slurry technology used to move coal.

This technology has been in use for decades, but it remains to be seen if these kinds of measures can or will be applied in time. "There should be bolder, long-term projects for sediment delivery in areas in need than were put forth in the near-term plan," Robert G. Dean, a coastal engineer at the University of Florida who led the academy panel, said Wednesday at a news conference.

The panel also discussed making major changes in the state's coastal geography by diverting enough water flow to cause the river's Birdfoot Delta area to disintegrate, a process that would end up redistributing its sediment along the coast to the west. Or engineers could construct a "third delta" (the second being the delta of the Atchafalaya River), by diverting it at Donaldsonville, between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, and sending it toward the gulf.

Though large-scale projects like these offer potentially large benefits, the panel said, they also come with engineering challenges and likely opposition from property owners.

As Dr. Dean said Wednesday, progress will require "tiptoeing through the potential minefield of stakeholders." They should be involved in decisions as early as possible, scientists involved with the report said.
That will particularly be the case, they say, when it comes to deciding which settled areas can be preserved and which must be abandoned, an approach the academy implicitly endorsed even in the title of its report, "Drawing Louisiana's New Map."

Mr. Houck said it might be possible to "take major towns and ring them - Houma, Morgan City, Thibodaux, places like that." But, he went on, "if we aren't going to draw a line and try to protect every little town, we would have to do some serious people relocation, and that would humanely require compensation."

The alternative, he said, "is to build the largest levee system in the world" around the entire southern part of the state. "We'd cut right through the marsh, a Maginot Line - and about as effective, too," he said, referring to a French line of defense that infamously failed in World War II.

Where does this leave Louisiana? "Doing the things we can do now," said Dr. Penland, once again behind the wheel of his truck, but this time en route to Port Fourchon, a major oil installation on the coast. "What was proposed 20 years ago in the beginning of my career is coming around now."

He was heading south on Route 308, a two-lane strip that barely rises above the acres of salt-marsh grass and open water glimmering in the sun. Here and there, the leafless trunk of a dead oak tree rose from the grass. Dr. Penland said these gray skeletons signaled that this wetland was once a freshwater marsh dry enough for a tree to grow.

Every now and then, the truck would pass a house or trailer on stilts, marshballs lodged against its steps or under its porch. In places, piles of them had been pushed off the pavement onto the narrow shoulder. The beach at Port Fourchon, or what remains of it, is part of one of the major projects in the state plan. It lost what little remained of its sand in the hurricane, leaving a row of giant plasticized sandbags, perhaps 3 or 4 feet in diameter and 12 feet long, called "boudin" bags after the local sausage. Behind them, a sharp scarp marked the edge of a marsh, broken and buried under tons of grass and other plant debris.

Dr. Penland got out of the truck and looked around. "I have never seen such an extent of marsh wreckage," he said.

The Port Fourchon effort, which Dr. Penland is leading, involves pumping replacement sand onto the beach and pumping in additional sediment to restore the marsh behind. Similar sediment-pumping efforts in 2004 restored 50 acres of nearby wetland at a cost of about $300,000, Dr. Penland said. "That's cheap marsh."

But this kind of restoration works only when a marsh "just needs to be enhanced a bit," he said, and results are temporary. "There is no way you are going to fix any piece of coastal real estate forever," Dr. Penland said. "That's the hard fact you just have to face."

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

November 21st, 2005, 08:26 AM
State asks '60 Minutes' to hold report on sinking

11/20/2005, 4:38 p.m. CT
The Associated Press


BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — State officials have asked the CBS television show "60 Minutes" to postpone Sunday's scheduled segment highlighting a scientist's allegations that New Orleans is sinking and that residents should be induced to leave the city.

Tim Kusky, a professor in the earth sciences department at St. Louis University, asserts on the show that New Orleans residents should "face the fact that their city will be below sea level in 90 years."

He also recommends a "gradual pullout from the city, whose slow, steady slide into the sea was sped up enormously by Hurricane Katrina," according to a preview of the program.

In a letter to CBS, Andy Kopplin, executive director of Louisiana Recovery Authority, asked the network to reconsider airing it.

"We are very concerned about the preview of your story on New Orleans' future posted on the '60 Minutes' website and hope it is not an accurate reflection of your work," Kopplin wrote.

"We know of many scientists and engineers who have spent considerable parts of their careers becoming experts in addressing coastal land loss in Louisiana and who disagree fundamentally with Prof. Kusky's purported comments."

According to Kusky, "New Orleans is going to be 15 to 18 feet below sea level, sitting off the coast of North America surrounded by a 50- to 100-foot tall levee system to protect the city." He estimates this will happen in 90 years.

"That's the projection, because we are losing land on the Mississippi Delta at a rate of 25 to 30 square miles per year. That's two acres per hour that are sinking below sea level," according to the segment.

Kopplin's letter was attached to a letter from Donald Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, who strongly disputes Kusky's conclusions and questions Kusky's credentials.

"I am dismayed by the advance report on the scheduled story on sinking of New Orleans which apparently is based on the perspectives of 'a natural disaster expert,'" he wrote. He also noted he's spent his career working on coastal environmental issues around the country and "until now, I have never heard of Prof. Kusky."

Boesch's letter indicates that Kusky's expertise is in ophiolites — rock sequences that formed on the oceanic edge of tectonic plates in the Archean eon about three billion years ago. He questioned an op-ed piece written for the Boston Globe in September suggesting it's time for New Orleanians to move out of the city, which Boesch said was "replete with serious errors of fact and logic."

"The op-ed reads like an undergraduate paper — a little bit of truth but with a lot of important information missing and not much deep thinking," Boesch wrote.

"I am extremely disappointed that the widely viewed and well regarded '60 Minutes' would base a story on such an incredibly important issue on an 'expert' with so little standing on the subject and not seek the best scientific perspectives available," Boesch wrote.

A telephone call Sunday to CBS seeking comment was not returned.

November 21st, 2005, 02:01 PM
OK, instead of arguing the credentials of the person making the arguement, lets look at the FACTS of the matter:

1. Most of NO is already under sea level.
2. NO Is, has, and will be sinking gradually as time passes.
3. There is a distinct possibility that Globla warming, whether caused by a natural cycle or by manmade means, will raise sea level by noticible ammounts.
4. The warmer Gulf waters are another contributing factor to more storms and stronger individual storm systems.

But we, the american people, in our own egocentric "this is my land" attitude (present in varying degrees by all humans) will fight to get all these poor people back inthe giant sinkhole so we can rescue them again when a cat5 splits the uprights and breaks an area of the levee not yet fortified or repaired.

We need to repair the areas that will sustain the least ammount of damage, and try to reconvert the rest of it back to the Delta that it came from.

November 21st, 2005, 07:08 PM
The images that were shown on "60 minutes" of the amount of barrier island land lost during Katrina was pretty astonishing.

Photos from before and after showed about 90 % loss.

November 22nd, 2005, 08:50 AM
November 22, 2005

Louisiana Sees Faded Urgency in Relief Effort

By JAMES DAO (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=JAMES DAO&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=JAMES DAO&inline=nyt-per)

BATON ROUGE, La., Nov. 18 - Less than three months after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, relief legislation remains dormant in Washington and despair is growing among officials here who fear that Congress and the Bush administration are losing interest in their plight.

As evidence, the state and local officials cite an array of stalled bills and policy changes they say are crucial to rebuilding the city and persuading some of its hundreds of thousands of evacuated residents to return, including measures to finance long-term hurricane protection, revive small businesses and compensate the uninsured.

"There is a real concern that we will lose the nation's attention the longer this takes," said Representative Bobby Jindal, a Republican from Metairie, just west of New Orleans. "People are making decisions now about whether to come back. And every day that passes, it will be a little harder to get things done."

Officials from both parties say the bottlenecks have occurred in large part because of a leadership vacuum in Washington, where President Bush and Congress have been preoccupied for weeks with Iraq, deficit reduction, the C.I.A. leak investigation and the Supreme Court.

Congressional leaders have been scrambling to rein in spending, and many in Washington have grumbled that Louisiana's (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/national/usstatesterritoriesandpossessions/louisiana/index.html?inline=nyt-geo) leaders have asked for too much, while failing to guarantee that the money will be spent efficiently and honestly.

By contrast, many say, Washington's response to the Sept. 11 attacks seemed more focused and sustained.

Now, with the holiday season days away and the 2006 midterm elections just around the bend, many Louisiana officials say they fear the sense of urgency that spurred action in September is swiftly draining away.

Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, a Democrat, said recently on CNN, "We feel like we are citizens of the United States who are nearly forgotten."

Walter Isaacson, vice chairman of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, drew a parallel between the governmental dithering in the immediate aftermath of the flood and the current situation, saying a lack of action now would be devastating to New Orleans's economy.

"It's like when FEMA wasn't really that creative, and the water was rising and people were stranded," Mr. Isaacson said, referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "Once again, people are being stranded and businesses are starting to die."

But Donald Powell, who began work this week as President Bush's liaison for the reconstruction effort, said that while the sense of urgency might have faded somewhat, "The president is committed to rebuilding the Gulf Coast."

Few people in Congress are openly threatening to block money for reconstruction. More typical are sotto voce mumblings about whether federal money will be squandered through incompetence or graft by Louisiana officials. And some lawmakers have openly wondered whether each neighborhood in New Orleans needs to be rebuilt and protected with expensive floodwalls.

Senator Ted Stevens, Republican of Alaska, raised concerns about Congressional commitment to New Orleans when he said during a tour of the city that Alaskan towns damaged by storms were often relocated. Mr. Stevens also warned that the spate of recent natural disasters meant that Louisiana might not receive money as swiftly as it would like.
He said later that his words had been misunderstood, and colleagues said he had spoken movingly to Republican Senators about the devastation he had witnessed. Still, such comments prompted The Times-Picayune of New Orleans to publish an editorial on Nov. 13 titled "Forgotten Already."

"There was an emergency window of opportunity in September that is basically closed," said Ron Faucheux, a vice president of the American Institute of Architects, who is lobbying for reconstruction measures in Washington. "What's needed is to pry open that window again."

Louisiana officials credit Mr. Bush with pushing bills through Congress after the hurricane that provided $62 billion for storm recovery, much of which has not been spent. And they applauded his appointment of Mr. Powell, a former banker and chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

[On Saturday, Governor Blanco also announced that the Bush administration had agreed to continue paying 100 percent for certain storm relief services, including debris removal, until Jan. 15.]

But in recent weeks, Louisiana officials say, the administration has been less forceful on recovery measures. "We're still relying on the president's promise to help New Orleans rebuild," said Mr. Isaacson, referring to Mr. Bush's Sept. 15 pledge that the federal government "will stay as long as it takes to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives."

Mr. Isaacson added, "I think we need a push from the president himself" to get federal financing for major projects.

In some cases the administration is even blocking action sought by Louisiana officials, those officials assert. The most significant of those measures, lawmakers from both parties say, is a bipartisan Senate bill that would authorize $450 million in bridge loans and grants to hurricane-damaged businesses.

The bill, whose sponsors include Senator Olympia J. Snowe, Republican of Maine, would also allow businesses to defer payments on federal loans and would increase the size of disaster loans.

Though a similar package of benefits was approved after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Small Business Administration has opposed the new Senate bill as too costly. Mr. Isaacson said the bill would not pass without White House intervention. "The winds have shifted against us," he said.

Ms. Snowe, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, has also chastised the S.B.A. for the slow processing of 250,000 disaster loan applications, which has created a four-month backlog. The agency said it was trying to hire 1,000 new processors, but Ms. Snowe called its response "sluggish" and "confused."

"They'll tell you it is an unprecedented disaster, but they won't muster an unprecedented response," she said. "We should have moved heaven and earth to get this done."

Louisiana officials have also complained about opposition from the Bush administration to proposals to dedicate a stream of money for restoring coastal wetlands and constructing levees capable of withstanding Category 5 hurricanes.

Though that work will take years to complete, a federal commitment to provide money - more than $20 billion - is needed soon to encourage insurance companies, businesses and homeowners to invest in the region, state officials say.

But the Bush administration has objected to a bipartisan proposal that would give the state up to 40 percent of the more than $5 billion in annual federal revenues generated by Louisiana's offshore oil and gas industries. The state now receives only a small portion of those royalties.

"The political will is there in Congress to do this," said Senator Mary L. Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana and a strong advocate of the oil revenue plan. "We have to get leadership from the White House. Their tight-fisted policies are cutting off their nose to spite their face."

Mr. Powell said that the administration was committed to flood protection and that a compromise on the royalties issue was possible. "It's very important that people feel like the region is safe when they move back," he said.

Many Louisiana officials acknowledge that some problems in Washington stem from the widespread perception that state and local governments here are rife with inefficiency and corruption.

Governor Blanco has tried to counter that image by pushing measures in the Legislature that would allow the state to take over failing schools in New Orleans, oversee levee construction now handled by patronage-filled levee boards, and cut state spending by nearly $600 million.

The state has hired the large accounting firm Deloitte & Touche to oversee the spending of federal relief money, and has promised to crack down on any cases of corruption. Another accounting group, UHY, was hired to monitor Deloitte.

Louisiana officials also acknowledge that some problems have been self-inflicted, starting with a $250 billion relief package introduced by Senator Landrieu and Senator David Vitter, a Republican, in September. The package was ridiculed by many in Congress as unrealistically expensive.

Representative Jindal said House Republicans had taken a more "rifle-shot" approach of trying to pass bills addressing specific issues.

For example, Representative Richard H. Baker, a Republican from Baton Rouge, has introduced legislation to create a corporation authorized to issue bonds to buy destroyed properties. The corporation would sell the properties to developers. Former owners would then have the first right to buy refurbished properties. Governor Blanco and Mayor C. Ray Nagin of New Orleans have endorsed the bill.

But many people in Louisiana remain concerned that there are too many voices in Washington pushing different proposals, while fundamental issues remain unresolved.

"People want government to speak with one voice," said Keith Villere, a town planner from St. Tammany Parish, just north of New Orleans. "If they don't unite, the federal government will forget about St. Tammany. They'll forget about New Orleans. And they'll forget about Katrina, just like they forgot about the tsunami."

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

November 26th, 2005, 01:09 AM
November 26, 2005

Mardi Gras to the Rescue? Doubts Grow.

By JERE LONGMAN (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=JERE LONGMAN&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=JERE LONGMAN&inline=nyt-per)

NEW ORLEANS, Nov. 24 - After Hurricane Katrina floored this city, there was widespread hope that Mardi Gras would yank New Orleans back to its feet, helping to reclaim its spirit, its tourists and its economy.

The two weeks of Mardi Gras parades and parties have for decades been the city's binding cord, bringing together all segments of society and thousands of outsiders for a mix of the sacred and the profane. But with planning for the February Carnival season now under way, Mardi Gras has been plagued by harsh financial realities, indecision, lowered expectations and the possibility that this year's parade lineup could be absent some of its most popular krewes, or social clubs.

After the city announced plans for smaller and fewer Mardi Gras parades, dissatisfied krewes protested. Responding to the pressure, an advisory panel to Mayor C. Ray Nagin recommended Wednesday that an additional weekend be included in an abbreviated Mardi Gras parade season. The mayor is expected to agree to a pre-Lenten Carnival season of eight days, instead of the customary 12, culminating Feb. 28 on Mardi Gras Day (known in English as Fat Tuesday).

Yet while city officials and merchants are desperate for symbols of recovery and renewal, some residents are concerned about the message that will be projected when New Orleans holds a giant party in a hurricane's catastrophic wake.

The coming Mardi Gras will celebrate 150 years of New Orleans's parade tradition and, officials hope, provide a fiscal bloody mary for a hung-over economy that has suffered a shutdown of vital tourism and a layoff of half of the municipal work force.

Mardi Gras pumps $1 billion directly and indirectly into the local economy each year, the equivalent of several Super Bowls, city officials say.

While Carnival is intended to signal that New Orleans is open for business again, residents say they also need the celebration for themselves, to affirm the city's essence - a piquant improvisation evident in the food, music, irreverence and self-indulgence.

"If not one tourist comes to town, Mardi Gras will still serve its initial purpose - entertaining local people," said Ed Muniz, founder and captain of the Krewe of Endymion, which holds one of the largest and most lavish Mardi Gras parades. "I think the locals need a celebration of life.

The funeral has got to end, and the recovery has got to begin."
City and Mardi Gras officials say they are confident that the 2006 Carnival season can be of high quality. But several issues, mostly financial, remain unresolved.

At a tense planning meeting on Monday, Warren J. Riley, the acting police superintendent, said his department welcomed Mardi Gras, understood its social and financial importance and could provide adequate protection for paradegoers. But Superintendent Riley also said there was no money budgeted to pay overtime to New Orleans's 1,442 police officers. All parades will have to follow one route, down St. Charles Avenue, and each day's parading can last no longer than eight hours, he said.

"We do not have $5 for overtime," Superintendent Riley said, explaining that such costs ran as high as $300,000 to $400,000 on weekends during Mardi Gras.

The city reconsidered that position on Wednesday, saying it was seeking to raise an additional $1.5 million to extend Mardi Gras over two weekends and to pay for overtime on several days. Krewes have agreed to relax a prohibition on corporate sponsorship of Mardi Gras, but say they will not allow corporate logos on floats.

Wednesday's recommendation came after warnings by krewes that 10 parades might be canceled or moved. Mr. Muniz, the Endymion captain, said Monday that plans to trim Mardi Gras were sending a message to tourists "not to come." He threatened to move his parade to adjacent Jefferson Parish.

"I want to be in New Orleans, but if I've got to cut my parade in half, I'm not going to parade in New Orleans," said Mr. Muniz, whose krewe has 2,300 members.

On Wednesday, Mr. Muniz said he felt assured that overtime money would be raised to accommodate his parade in full.

The Krewe of Zulu, established in 1909 and representing a cross section of African-American society, will decide on Dec. 4 whether to participate in the coming Mardi Gras. Many of the krewe's 500-plus members lived in the heavily damaged New Orleans East section and remain out of town and out of contact, said Andrew Pete Sanchez, the club's chairman of Carnival activities.

"The feeling is mixed," Mr. Sanchez said. "Those who have returned home support participation. Those in opposition want to be able to come home first."

The decorated coconuts thrown by Zulu's members are among the most distinctive and sought-after Mardi Gras trinkets. "There's no Mardi Gras without Zulu," said Arthur Hardy, a Carnival historian and publisher of a definitive Mardi Gras guide. "They're just too much part of the celebration."

Among other possible casualties are the Mardi Gras Indians, African-Americans who dress in elaborately feathered costumes in honor of Indians who helped runaway slaves. The Mardi Gras Indians celebrate with theatrical confrontations among "tribes," but some find themselves short of the material and thousands of dollars needed to make their costumes, said Alfred Doucette, big chief of the Flaming Arrows tribe.

"I don't have no more supplies," Mr. Doucette said. "I need feathers and stuff."

His costumes require 10 pounds of ostrich feathers that cost about $5 apiece, Mr. Doucette, a singer, said, explaining that it had been difficult to find work as a musician since Hurricane Katrina struck in August.

Speaking of other chieftains, he said, "They would like to come, but they're short on money this year."

If African-American participation is severely curtailed, Mardi Gras may run the risk of further delineating the class and racial divide exposed after the hurricane.

No one seriously considered canceling Mardi Gras in 2006. That would have been "a big blow to the psychology of New Orleanians," said Wayne Phillips, curator of costumes and textiles at the Louisiana State Museum here. "It is not just a frivolous celebration of costumes and beads, but an ingrained part of our psyche."

Still, locals acknowledge, the approaching Mardi Gras will require a delicate balance that validates a city's spirit without minimizing the devastation and dislocation wrought by Hurricane Katrina.

Some said they worried that outsiders might receive conflicting signals from scenes of partying and drinking in a disaster area at a time when New Orleans has its hand out for billions in federal money.

"I have mixed feelings," said Barry Barth, a float builder. "I want my business to go on, but I don't think the rest of the country understands Mardi Gras. I'm concerned they're going to see it as a waste of money instead of New Orleans coming back. Or they may say, 'These guys don't look like they're that bad off.' "

City and Mardi Gras officials point to a study indicating that the 2000 Carnival season generated $55 million in tax revenue for local, parish and state governments, including $21 million for New Orleans itself, a nearly fivefold return on the $4.5 million spent on police, sanitation and emergency services.

New Orleans expects to have 22,000 hotel rooms available for tourists in February. Even with a scaled-down Mardi Gras, "we can't afford not to do it," said Blaine Kern, the city's largest float builder, who is known as Mr. Mardi Gras.

If only half of the usual tax revenue is generated, Mr. Kern said, "that's still something."

The more satirical krewes are certain to skewer politicians who have been widely criticized for the government response to Hurricane Katrina. According to sketches of the Krewe of Muses parade, its television theme will lampoon Mayor Nagin, who faces re-election in February, as a star in "The Ex Files" and "Sixty Feet Under."

The canine Krewe of Barkus will celebrate animals rescued after the hurricane and is exploring the theme of "A Street Dog Named Desire." About 700 dogs are expected in the parade, along with a tabby cat, several ferrets and a goat. As usual, the queen will arrive by riverboat to be greeted by a king awaiting with Champagne and a gift, perhaps a rhinestone-encrusted paw-print brooch.

"All this will be forgotten when the first float rolls," Mr. Hardy, the Mardi Gras historian, said of the current crisis. "The story is not that New Orleans will have a smaller Mardi Gras, but that it can do Mardi Gras at all."

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

November 29th, 2005, 12:28 AM
November 29, 2005

For Category 5 Safety, Levees Are Piece of a $32 Billion Pie


Erik S. Lesser for The New York Times

Sand still covered an area last week where the London Avenue levee was breached by Hurricane Katrina.

By JOHN SCHWARTZ (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=JOHN SCHWARTZ&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=JOHN SCHWARTZ&inline=nyt-per)

NEW ORLEANS, Nov. 22 - Amid all the arguments over how to rebuild this pummeled city, there is one universally held article of faith here: New Orleans must have a flood protection system strong enough to withstand Category 5 storms, the worst that nature can spawn.

It is a rallying cry heard on radio broadcasts and in a front-page editorial in The Times-Picayune, in ruined neighborhoods and in corporate boardrooms.

Strong protection is the linchpin that everything else depends on, said Joe Veninata, the owner of a shopping center and rental homes in the Gentilly neighborhood, "for people to come to the city and invest, for the people to feel secure."

"Without that," Mr. Veninata said, "we can't build New Orleans anymore."

Building Category 5 protection, however, is proving to be an astronomically expensive and technically complex proposition. It would involve far more than just higher levees: there would have to be extensive changes to the city's system of drainage canals and pumps, environmental restoration on a vast scale to replenish buffering wetlands and barrier islands, and even sea gates far out of town near the Gulf of Mexico.

The cost estimates are still fuzzy, but the work would easily cost more than $32 billion, state officials say, and could take decades to complete.
The current levee system around the city was designed to withstand the equivalent of a Category 3 storm, and the Army Corps of Engineers is spending $1 billion to bring the damaged sections to their original design strength. They plan to complete that effort before next year's hurricane season, which begins on June 1.

But a sense of how much more extensive Category 5 protection would be can be found 23 miles east of downtown New Orleans at a strait called the Rigolets, which connects the gulf and Lake Pontchartrain. For nearly 200 years, the brick bastion of Fort Pike has looked down on the two-thirds-mile gap, which the fort was built to protect against military threats from land or sea.

These days, however, the threat is from the sea itself. A surge from storms like Hurricane Katrina can push water through the gap and send floods deep into the city. So engineers and other experts say that the Corps of Engineers should build a gate across the Rigolets (pronounced RIG-uh-lees) that could be shut in the face of a storm.

From a viewpoint by the remains of Fort Pike looking across the sparkling water, the project seems enormously daunting, on a scale of the flood systems that protect cities like London and Amsterdam. And it is only one step toward the goal of fortifying New Orleans to the highest level. Congress only recently agreed to give $8 million to the corps for a study about providing increased protection for South Louisiana, with a preliminary report due in six months. The final plan is two years away.

While every expert has a list of things that would upgrade the city's flood controls, Category 5 protection is not easy to define, experts say. Dan Hitchings, director of Task Force Hope, the corps's Hurricane Katrina relief effort, noted that Category 3 hurricanes were specifically defined while Category 5 includes any hurricanes with winds greater than 155 miles an hour and a storm surge greater than 18 feet.

"What's the top end for a Cat 5 hurricane?" Mr. Hitchings said. "There isn't one."

Herbert Saffir, a co-creator of the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale, said he would not recommend designing a Category 5 protection system because such a storm would be unlikely to hit any particular spot more than once in 500 years. Only three Category 5 storms in recorded history have made landfall in the United States, Mr. Saffir said; Hurricane Katrina had been a Category 5 in the gulf but was at Category 4 at most when it landed east of New Orleans near Buras, La.

Others disagree. Maarten van der Vlist, an engineer with Rijkswaterstaat, the Dutch equivalent of the Corps of Engineers, said that after a disastrous flood in 1953, the Netherlands chose to protect against flooding that occurs once every 10,000 years.

Most Category 5 proposals for New Orleans include devices to close seaward passageways like the Rigolets and gates at the mouths of today's drainage and navigation canals. Jurjen Battjes, a professor of civil engineering at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands and an expert on levee systems, said that approach had worked well in his country. "You don't want to let your enemy invade deeply into your territory," Professor Battjes said. "Close your fence at the outside."

Current levees can be made higher and stronger, and any new system might also include internal levees that would prevent a breach in one spot from swamping large stretches of the city, said Thomas F. Wolff, an associate professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering at Michigan State University. Levees, Professor Wolff said, are known as "series systems," which he compared to "Christmas tree lights from the 1950's - when one goes out, they all go out."

That levee work must be coupled with the restoration of coastal marshes and barrier islands that can blunt the progress of a storm, said Ivor van Heerden, a professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering at Louisiana State University and deputy director of the university's hurricane center.

"Where you had wetland, the levees were not eroded," Professor van Heerden said of Hurricane Katrina's damage, "and where you did not have wetlands, the levees were annihilated."

But local efforts are only part of the challenge. Many experts say it is no less important to reorganize the nation's method of designing and building flood systems.

The current patchwork of local, state and federal agencies responsible for flood protection must be unified and streamlined, said Robert G. Bea, a professor of engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. The Corps of Engineers should manage the project, as it has done historically, Professor Bea said, but it has to avoid the piecemeal approach that has made the system more vulnerable over time. (The Louisiana Legislature recently voted down a proposal, however, that would have merged the levee boards that maintain the region's flood systems.)

Experts say that New Orleans also needs restrictions on where people can build, and a new, independent organization that has the power to set standards for levee strength around the nation and to inspect them. Greater emphasis on evacuation and safety plans, too, would be necessary.

But corps officials say that it is impossible to predict the next storm. Lt. Gen. Carl A. Strock, the chief of engineers for the corps, said in an interview in Washington that focusing too tightly on what went wrong about Hurricane Katrina could lead to less effective plans for the future.

"We don't need to be fighting the last war all the time," General Strock said. The next storm could come up through the center of the city, or along the west side, swamping the western river basins and overflowing the levees along the Mississippi River that held during Hurricane Katrina.

Even if many of the current proposals can be accomplished, Mr. van der Vlist said, it remains hard to know whether they would really be able to withstand a Category 5 storm. "In the Netherlands, we don't have hurricanes like you have," he said. The low-lying nation is protected against the forces of water, but does not experience the crushing power of hurricane winds.

New Orleans may be able to get by with a protection level less than that required to resist a Category 5 storm, if it is robustly designed and built, said Robert A. Dalrymple, a professor of civil engineering at Johns Hopkins University and a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers team that investigated the levee breaches.

"If you have a Category 3 protection system and a Category 4 storm hits it, there will be overtopping of the walls," Professor Dalrymple said. But if the walls can be built so that they can resist the scouring action of the overflowing water, and "if the walls stay there, there will only be flooding for several hours," he added. The street drains and pumping stations could then remove the water.

The cost of any significant upgrade, however, will be enormous - more than the $21 billion spent on New York City after 9/11, but less than the $57 billion to be spent on highway construction and maintenance in the recent federal transportation bill. Washington and state governments spend about $160 billion a year on infrastructure, including roads, transit and utilities, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Given a large federal deficit and other demands for money, however, there is still no indication that Washington will pay the $32 billion or more for full protection.

Scott A. Angelle, the secretary of the Department of Natural Resources for Louisiana, said that fortifying New Orleans to the highest level could be accomplished by giving Louisiana half of revenues from federal leasing for offshore oil and gas drilling beyond the three-mile territorial limit in the gulf. The plan, which has been proposed in legislation by Louisiana's United States senators, Mary L. Landrieu and David Vitter, would produce as much as $2.5 billion a year. The state currently receives no money for drilling beyond the limit.

The work ahead, Mr. Angelle said, is daunting but certainly possible. "We can fix anything that we focus on," he said. "We, as a people, and we, as Americans."

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

December 8th, 2005, 05:37 PM
It seems as though a lot of local property owners will be getting the short end of the stick ...

Gulf Planning Roils Residents

NY Times
December 8, 2005

James Edward Bates for The New York Times

In Biloxi, Richard Fredrickson stops by the house of his friend Martha Bryant,
who said she will rebuild despite proposed plans to turn the area into a resort.



EVER since the water rose over Andrea Harris's white bungalow on Elmer Street during Hurricane Katrina, Ms. Harris has been keeping a scrapbook. It holds three daily prayers, news clippings, the business cards of people who have helped her and angry letters to those who have not - including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which she said took two months to deliver trailers. Until then, she and her neighbors lived in tents.

Now her scrapbook is filling with new worries. At a town meeting Nov. 30, Ms. Harris, 43, and her neighbors had gotten their first glimpse of new plans for Biloxi, developed by a state commission organized by Gov. Haley Barbour and a group of architects known as the Congress for the New Urbanism.

The plans made passing references to restoring sleepy older neighborhoods like hers, but focused heavily on remaking Biloxi as a more polished tourist magnet to rival Paradise Island. The plans proposed changing Highway 90 along Biloxi's coast, home to several of its casinos, into a new "Beach Boulevard." They also envisioned recreating a fishing harbor as a "seafood village," with clusters of condominiums, stores and restaurants. And it envisioned a streetcar running through town to shuttle people to new resorts and casinos.

"We want to see the casino activity here go beyond gaming," said Elizabeth Moule, an architect in Pasadena, Calif., and a founder of the New Urbanist group. "You're really competing with Myrtle Beach."


A blueprint for proposed rebuilding.

But for homeowners like Ms. Harris, golf courses and shopping promenades are not a priority. "It's like they're making it for Casino Row," she said last week. Her hair was pulled back in a loose braid, and her eyes flashed from exhaustion to fury. "Are you trying to turn this into a Sin City, or what?"

The Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewal, established in late September, is charged with planning the reconstruction of 11 coastal towns, including Biloxi, along with issuing a broader set of recovery guidelines due at the end of December. The town plans, drawn up in about six weeks, are meant to serve as blueprints for state and local leaders.

The New Urbanists, who organized in 1993, have become controversial for opposing suburban sprawl, instead designing old-fashioned town centers with picturesque streets lined by traditional parks, dense housing and stores. New Urbanism's critics, mostly modernist architects and academics, consider its designs a form of nostalgia catering to developers and rich homeowners, too rigid and retrograde for contemporary needs.

But politicians in the hurricane zone are finding New Urbanism's formulas for rebuilding persuasive. Last week, following Governor Barbour's lead in inviting New Urbanists to develop plans, the Louisiana Recovery Authority said it had hired three firms to develop "a comprehensive regional vision," for areas outside New Orleans hit by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The firms include those of the leading New Urbanists, Andrés Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk of Miami and Peter Calthorpe of Berkeley, Calif.

This week, KB Home, one of the nation's largest homebuilding companies, announced plans to build up to 20,000 houses across the Mississippi River from New Orleans, near Avondale. KB Home specializes in the type of suburban tract development that the New Urbanist movement opposes.

Ms. Harris knew nothing of the New Urbanists. She went to the meeting hoping for answers to basic questions, such as what the new building codes and flood elevations for Biloxi will be, so she and her neighbors can begin rebuilding their houses.

She found the town meetings had more to do with plans for replacing her neighborhood than restoring it. Lately, she and several neighbors said, surveyors have started showing up daily on her ruined street, some taking pictures of their houses and one bearing a plan that would place a resort on her property. "We were told by the surveyors that a golf course was going to run through my yard," Ms. Harris said.

Like other people in the neighborhood, called Point Cadet, she said she wonders whether city officials will encourage her and her neighbors to stay put and rebuild the houses they own, or whether they will be run off to make the town a tourist playground. Before the storm, Point Cadet was home to several floating casinos. In October, Governor Barbour signed a law that allows casinos to be built on land within 800 feet of the water, rather than restricting them to floating barges. At least one is planned for Point Cadet.

With their hold on Gulf Coast planning, the New Urbanists face their biggest task to date. In the past, many of their developments have been built on virgin sites, or were made to replace run-down public housing in cities. Now they have large areas of 11 badly damaged towns, from Waveland eastward to Pascagoula, to serve as blank slates.

"They're approaching it as if it's raw land," said William Morrish, a professor of architecture at the University of Virginia. In 1993, Mr. Morrish was a founding member of the New Urbanist group but later broke away over what he believed was intolerance toward new eclectic forms of architecture and urban design. "On the issues of transportation and transit, they've done an excellent job," Mr. Morrish said. But he objected to what he said was the New Urbanists' imposing particular architectural styles - namely "neotraditional" styles - in a place like Mississippi (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/national/usstatesterritoriesandpossessions/mississippi/index.html?inline=nyt-geo).

"A particular style does not promote a certain kind of sustainability or democracy," Mr. Morrish added. "You can't approach building a city like it's a 30-acre development."

Ms. Harris left the meeting unsatisfied. "It's like they just push us away," she said. She found the plans mostly "worried about the beachfront, condominiums, the fishing harbor." She did not like what she heard about plans for housing. "They said 'affordable low-income housing,' " she recalled. "We already own our homes."

Her concerns, she said, have not been alleviated by her mayor, A. J. Holloway, or by William Stallworth, her city council member, both of whom, she said, had turned away from her questions in public meetings.

Mr. Holloway disputed her account. "I never turned my back on anybody," he said. He said he did not know the precise location of Elmer Street. "I do know that Elmer Street won't be a casino," Mr. Holloway said. "But somebody might be surveying. It's not anything the city is doing." Mr. Stallworth was traveling and could not be reached.

Ms. Harris's fears are resounding through Point Cadet's shattered streets as wholesale land clearing by the government rolls slowly westward from the point's eastern tip. Three blocks from the water on Oak Street, Martha Bryant, 44, a licensed contractor, said she is rebuilding her house with her friend, Richard Fredrickson, despite what she sees as resistance from the city.

"They've made my life a living hell since they found out I'm going to move back there," Ms. Bryant said, requiring permits that she found excessive.

She noted that plans for a $400 million Golden Nugget resort with a 60,000-square-foot casino near her home were announced in late November.

"They want to put up an amusement park, a golf course," she said. "I'm east of Oak Street. They're saying everything east of Oak is going to go."

Ms. Bryant, who owns a painting business, erected a multicolored plywood sign on the front of her house that reads: "Hell No I Won't Go."

Her neighbor Elaine Parker, 61, with whom Ms. Bryant made a pact not to sell their houses, hung a protest sign as well. It read: "Now Recruiting Point Cadet Militia People vs. City."

Soon after she hung the sign behind her front fence, a city code enforcement officer came and took it down, she said, for being on city property.

"Of course, you had to be born and raised on Point Cadet to understand the humor in it," Ms. Parker said. Point Cadet has historically been a tough part of town. "We've lost everything, and now are you going to take my sense of humor away from me?"

Ms. Parker asked the enforcement officer whether she could hang the sign on her house, well within her property line. "He said a citation will be issued and you will be put in jail for up to two days," she recalled.

"Can I get 30 days?" she said she asked him. "Because three hots and a cot is more than I got."

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December 10th, 2005, 09:23 AM
Wealthy Blacks Oppose Plans for Their Property

By GARY RIVLIN (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=GARY RIVLIN&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=GARY RIVLIN&inline=nyt-per)
New York Times
December 10, 2005


Cheryl Gerber for The New York Times

Seven former residents of New Orleans East, where many elite blacks lived,
organize weekly meetings in Baton Rouge, La., for their ex-neighbors.

BATON ROUGE, La., Dec. 9 - True Light Baptist Church is located in a down-and-out part of town here, but on Monday nights its parking lot fills with BMW's, Mercedes-Benzes and other late-model sedans that shine with a new-car sparkle.

Since September, hundreds of displaced residents from New Orleans East, the neighborhood that was home to the largest concentration of the city's black elite, gather there for a small taste of the camaraderie and community that they sorely miss. But the residents - whose ranks include lawyers, judges and a few elected officials - are also anxiously mobilizing to save their low-lying corner of the city, which some planners argue should revert to marshland.

So far, the group has used its clout to extract a promise that electricity will be turned on in the neighborhood next month, instead of waiting until June. It has also speeded the return of water service. Without either, many residents say, they must wait in Baton Rouge longer even if their neighborhood is open.

Misty Keasler for The New York Times

About 1,000 displaced residents of New Orleans East gather each week
for a forum at True Light Baptist Church in Baton Rouge.

New Orleans's mayor, C. Ray Nagin, spent an evening at one of the group's meetings recently, hearing of the residents' longing to return home. But despite the group's considerable resources, the plan taking shape to remake the city lumps New Orleans East and its 90,000 residents with the Lower Ninth Ward and other deluged neighborhoods as the last priority of the city as it struggles to rebuild. The Urban Land Institute, a planning group advising the city, recommended that the city begin rebuilding less damaged neighborhoods first, provoking outrage from residents of the flood zones.

"It would kill the black psyche if New Orleans East wasn't rebuilt," said Talmadge Wall, an interior designer who for 15 years has lived with her husband and children in New Orleans East. "Think of what it would mean if the city successfully chased off so many African-Americans who had money, its doctors and successful businesspeople and lawyers and such. People who were aspiring to attain that kind of success would no longer feel like they have a chance."

At last Monday's meeting, organizers handed out black, white and green lawn signs that read, "I am coming home! I will rebuild!"

The meetings, which date to mid-September, have drawn upward of 1,000 people. Organizers say they have helped inspire the formation of similar support groups for displaced New Orleans residents in cities throughout the South.

"There's a real lonesomeness, a real yearning to connect with the familiar that I think everybody feels," said Tangeyon Wall, who with her sister Talmadge and their two other sisters and a cousin formed this neighborhood organization in exile.

Other, poorer neighborhoods have received more attention since the storm.

The Seventh, Eighth and Ninth Wards, for example, have for decades been home to a majority of the city's blue-collar African-Americans: waiters, construction workers and custodians. New Orleans East, which barely existed in the 1970's, has been the site of most of the city's development over the past 30 years. It has become the next stop for children of blue-collar workers who moved up after securing better-paying professional jobs.

That has been the trajectory of Alden J. McDonald Jr.'s life. Mr. McDonald, the chief executive of Liberty Bank and Trust, New Orleans's largest black-owned bank, is the son of a waiter and grew up in the Seventh Ward. In 1974, the younger Mr. McDonald was a trailblazer when he moved his family into New Orleans East. A dozen years later, he bought a larger home there, complete with a swimming pool and an exercise room.

"New Orleans East represents the first time in New Orleans history that the African-American community has seen significant wealth creation that they can hand down to the next generation," said Mr. McDonald, who has attended several meetings at True Light.

The Wall family took a path similar to the McDonalds'. The sisters' father was a contractor, and their mother was a schoolteacher. The first two Wall sisters moved to New Orleans East in the mid-1980's, the last at the start of the 90's. In the days after Hurricane Katrina, the Wall sisters hunkered down in a set of rooms at their temporary new home, a Microtel Inn and Suites along Interstate 12 on the outskirts of Baton Rouge, surfing television news in a vain search for information about New Orleans East.

A predominantly black community that was also prosperous, it seemed, did not fit the broad-brush story as it played out on the television. "Our neighborhood was never talked about," Tangeyon Wall said. "Never, ever, ever. We'd hear about the Ninth Ward, we'd hear about Algiers and the Quarter and Uptown, but it was as if our community didn't exist."

At the Wal-Mart, Walgreens and other stores around Baton Rouge, the sisters ran into neighbors who all expressed the same frustrations. That prompted them and their cousin Robyn Braggs to post fliers at local motels proposing a meeting for Sept. 20, an event that drew 700, they said. Most, but not all, were from New Orleans East.

"That first meeting was more like a reunion," Tangeyon Wall said.

The second meeting was more like a rallying cry. At that point, New Orleans East was still off limits even to residents. But a group of neighborhood residents decided to defy the restrictions, and shortly thereafter, in late September, they drove a caravan of 75 cars to their neighborhood. City officials allowed them to pass through police blockades.

"It was all very civil rights and spirit of the 60's-like," said Ms. Braggs, prompting giggles among her four cousins. The five of them, along with Wayne Johnson and Mack Slan, two other longtime New Orleans East residents marooned in Baton Rouge, make up a seven-member steering committee that meets every Wednesday to set the next week's agenda.

"We didn't know what we were getting into when we started," said Mr. Slan, a contractor with a barrel chest and preacher's voice who has emerged as the group's de facto master of ceremonies. "But we're growing into it."

The focus each Monday shifts as new frustrations and worries take center stage in the lives of evacuees. Last Monday those included complaints about insurance adjusters and the foreclosure notices some are receiving three months after the storm.

"Let me encourage you not to panic," said Patricia G. Woods, who runs a real estate and mortgage company in New Orleans East.

Ms. Woods advised the people at the meeting to respond with a hardship letter spelling out the reasons they could not make their payments. "Make them cry," Ms. Woods told the group.

Much of Monday's meeting focused on the Urban Land Institute's draft report, released on the Monday after Thanksgiving. "It places less value on our neighborhood than other areas," said Terrel J. Broussard, a lawyer who took a turn at the lectern to criticize the report. "If we don't stand up to fight this, I don't know what we would stand up for."

Organizers passed out stacks of preprinted postcards that they hope homeowners in New Orleans East will send to the mayor, respectfully requesting that he reject the institute's recommendation. They also urged those in attendance to spread the word about a march on New Orleans City Hall scheduled for Saturday morning.

"We can't allow ourselves to be the last ones back in the city," one resident, Margaret Richard, said.

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html)The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

December 10th, 2005, 09:45 AM
Gulf Planning Roils Residents

..new plans for Biloxi, developed by a state commission organized by Gov. Haley Barbour and a group of architects known as the Congress for the New Urbanism.

The New Urbanists, who organized in 1993, have become controversial for opposing suburban sprawl, instead designing old-fashioned town centers with picturesque streets lined by traditional parks, dense housing and stores. New Urbanism's critics, mostly modernist architects and academics, consider its designs a form of nostalgia catering to developers and rich homeowners, too rigid and retrograde for contemporary needs.

But politicians in the hurricane zone are finding New Urbanism's formulas for rebuilding persuasive.
Seaside at 25: Troubles in Paradise

By FRED A. BERNSTEIN (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=FRED A. BERNSTEIN&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=FRED A. BERNSTEIN&inline=nyt-per)
New York Times
December 9, 2005


Phil Sears for The New York Times

BEACHFRONT Seaside is installing new
aluminum stairs to replace wooden ones
lost in July to Hurricane Dennis.
A good bit of beach was also lost.

SEASIDE, Fla., which will be 25 years old in 2006, is America's most imitated town. With its pastel-colored houses and front porches overlooking narrow, brick-paved streets, it has influenced hundreds of communities, which combine a nostalgia for small-town life with a serious effort to reduce suburban sprawl - and dependence on the auto - by putting buildings close together.

So popular are the "New Urbanist" ideas spawned at Seaside a quarter century ago that the town's designers, the Miami-based team of Andrés Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, have been called in by Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi to apply their principles to communities destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. An organization founded by the couple, the Congress for the New Urbanism, is taking the lead in making plans for rebuilding the coast.

But for all its influence, Seaside has problems that other towns would hardly want to imitate.

The town that in the film "The Truman Show" signified a perfect, self-contained world has to deal with an influx of tourists who have overloaded its streets with cars. It's even gotten to the point where Seaside's founder, Robert Davis, is considering valet parking.

Plus, detractors say, Seaside has never really proved anything about how Americans want to live, because the majority of its homeowners reside in places like Mobile and Atlanta and visit only a few weeks each summer.

In October, when many of those homeowners arrived for the annual owners' weekend - a convivial get-together and a chance to discuss issues facing the town - they were greeted by a shocking sight.

Seaside's stately white beach pavilions overlooking the Gulf of Mexico were boarded up and festooned with "keep out" signs. Wooden stairways connecting the pavilions to beaches 40 feet below were missing.

The damage occurred when Hurricane Dennis made landfall near Seaside in July, washing away about 10 feet of the dunes along the gulf. The damage to houses was minimal, a vindication of a master plan in which most buildings were kept hundreds of feet from the water.

Still, Mr. Davis, Seaside's developer, who now lives much of the year in San Francisco, called the sight "a bit unnerving." He added, "We thought we had set the buildings back far enough that we had a huge dune system to absorb the shock of storms."

Dennis left the beach far narrower than it had been, and grayer, too; much of the beach's white sand was carried off by the storm. Since the summer, two of the white-painted wooden stairways to the beach have been replaced by far less attractive metal steps that can be dismantled and stored when storms threaten the coast.

BUT Seaside's problems aren't just aesthetic. For the first time, the loss of so much of the dunes has left houses closest to the ocean - one of which is on the market for nearly $6 million - vulnerable to erosion.

"Something has to be done," said Mark DuPuis, a pathologist from Atlanta and a Seaside homeowner.

But what has to be done isn't exactly clear. Adding jetties and seawalls, as some have proposed, may only lead to further beach erosion. "Everything that someone says will help, someone else believes will make things worse," Mr. DuPuis observed.

Dave Schmit, a Georgia developer who built a house in Seaside in 2002, said: "We've got to find a way to protect our most valuable asset. These are second homes, and people go there for the beach."

Mr. Davis said, "We're talking to some of the best scientists and coastal engineers we can find, and we'll get second or third opinions." But, he said, "There's no perfect solution."

Owners have rallied around Mr. Davis. Jacky Barker, who has sold real estate at Seaside for 25 years, said, "People here haven't just bought into Seaside financially; they've bought into it emotionally." Owners post their names - and the punning names of their houses - on hand-lettered signs out front.

They have been handsomely rewarded for their loyalty to Seaside. Houses that sold for $100,000 in the 1980's are now valued in the millions. The least expensive property on the market, a one-bedroom, 825-square-foot condo above a commercial building, is being offered for $825,000, about as much as a similar apartment in Manhattan. The unit is called Cork the Whine.

Lee Crum, a commercial photographer who has been vacationing in Seaside for more than 20 years, said that he could not believe prices would continue to increase. Then again, he acknowledged, he has been saying the same thing since the 1980's, when lots were selling for $15,000. "Every year," he said, "I stand amazed."

But there is evidence that prices have peaked. The town's official Web site, www.seasidefl.com (http://www.seasidefl.com/), lists 22 houses - and two building lots - for sale. In the past, there were usually only 10 or 12 properties on the market, Ms. Barker said.

Seaside houses command a steep premium over houses in the surrounding areas. Stephen Robbins, a sales agent at Seagrove on the Beach Realty, said that before the summer, houses in Old Seagrove, an enclave immediately east of Seaside, were selling for about $700 a square foot, and houses in Seaside for about $1,300 - practically double.

But, he said: "There are no buyers in the area right now. Nothing is selling."

Mr. Schmit, the Seaside homeowner, called the lack of sales activity "a knee-jerk reaction to the hurricanes." But he added, "I'm guessing that by next spring, buyers will return."

At the same time, Seaside's rental program - a source of income for a large majority of Seaside's 350 owners - has suffered its own hurricane damage. Mr. Schmit said that there were cancellations because of the storms. The Seaside Web site now offers last-minute getaways "starting at $199 with a next-day arrival."

Online calendars indicated that many houses are hardly booked (though winter, when northern Florida is anything but tropical, is not Seaside's high season). Still, with the beach less appealing, Mr. DuPuis said, "it's going to be harder for owners to earn the rental income they've come to expect."

Hurricane damage is far from Seaside's only problem. In many ways, the town is struggling against its own success.

Twenty-five years ago, Seaside occupied an otherwise deserted stretch of the Florida Panhandle (so far west it's in the Central time zone). The designers, Mr. Duany and Ms. Plater-Zyberk, didn't do anything to separate the town from the road that runs through it; after all, there was almost no traffic.

Now thousands of people pass through Seaside every summer day. And many of them stop to visit its shops and restaurants. The result: cars are parked everywhere, and S.U.V.'s clog streets designed for bicycles and feet.

The traffic and parking problems mean that Seaside's gulf-front homes - one of which is on the market at $5,985,000 - are stranded between a badly diminished beach on one side and, at peak times, a knot of traffic on the other. But Mr. Davis said congestion is a sign that Seaside has succeeded.
"All of the places in the world we want to visit - New York, London, Paris, Rome - they all have parking problems."

He added, "What we're going to have to move toward is parking management, getting people to park on the far side of town, which you can do with valet parking and better signage."

Twenty years ago, Seaside's creators were determined to banish the auto by letting people work and shop near home. They planned to bring rich and poor together - a possibility defeated by the dizzying appreciation in real estate prices.

"We failed miserably at maintaining affordable housing stock," Mr. Davis said. "And we have no industry to speak of, except for tourism."

But Mr. Davis sees a bright side to the town's transitory nature: "Architects come to Seaside from all over to study town planning. They couldn't do it as effectively if we didn't have the rentals." Earlier this month, the Seaside Institute, founded by Mr. Davis, brought hundreds of planners and developers together to discuss, as the official program put it, "the principles of New Urbanism and their application in the marketplace today." Mr. Duany was a featured speaker.

The town Mr. Duany designed at the start of his career has reached an age where preservation of buildings and landscapes is an issue. Henry F. Bissell, a Key Bank executive from Atlanta who owns a house in Seaside, said that about 18 months ago, homeowners began to notice that "the common areas, the landscaping and lighting, had started to look run-down in some areas."
The homeowners' representatives on the town council, he said, faced the issue "head on," and "things have improved."

Mr. Bissell said that Seaside homeowners are committed to maintaining the community - even if the $1,600 each contributed to beach renourishment last year was washed away by Dennis. Robert Davis, he said, "is as patient as any developer you'll ever find, and we give him the benefit of the doubt."

The days when Seaside was the only game around are over. It now competes for rental income with numerous other communities in the area.
Immediately to the west of Seaside is WaterColor, which adapted much of Seaside's aesthetic while diluting its New Urbanist principles. WaterColor covers 499 acres, to Seaside's 80. Houses at WaterColor are larger than at Seaside. They are farther apart, and most have carports.

Seaside owners are counting on Mr. Davis to find ways to bring the first New Urbanist town into the 21st century.

"Seaside's got competition, and it has to keep up with the Joneses," Mr. DuPuis said.

"It would help," he added, "if we get a couple of years without bad storms."

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html)The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

December 11th, 2005, 02:45 PM
Death of an American City

New York Times
December 11, 2005


We are about to lose New Orleans. Whether it is a conscious plan to let the city rot until no one is willing to move back or honest paralysis over difficult questions, the moment is upon us when a major American city will die, leaving nothing but a few shells for tourists to visit like a museum.

We said this wouldn't happen. President Bush said it wouldn't happen. He stood in Jackson Square and said, "There is no way to imagine America without New Orleans." But it has been over three months since Hurricane Katrina struck and the city is in complete shambles.

There are many unanswered questions that will take years to work out, but one is make-or-break and needs to be dealt with immediately. It all boils down to the levee system. People will clear garbage, live in tents, work their fingers to the bone to reclaim homes and lives, but not if they don't believe they will be protected by more than patches to the same old system that failed during the deadly storm. Homeowners, businesses and insurance companies all need a commitment before they will stake their futures on the city.

At this moment the reconstruction is a rudderless ship. There is no effective leadership that we can identify. How many people could even name the president's liaison for the reconstruction effort, Donald Powell? Lawmakers need to understand that for New Orleans the words "pending in Congress" are a death warrant requiring no signature.

The rumbling from Washington that the proposed cost of better levees is too much has grown louder. Pretending we are going to do the necessary work eventually, while stalling until the next hurricane season is upon us, is dishonest and cowardly. Unless some clear, quick commitments are made, the displaced will have no choice but to sink roots in the alien communities where they landed.

The price tag for protection against a Category 5 hurricane, which would involve not just stronger and higher levees but also new drainage canals and environmental restoration, would very likely run to well over $32 billion. That is a lot of money. But that starting point represents just 1.2 percent of this year's estimated $2.6 trillion in federal spending, which actually overstates the case, since the cost would be spread over many years. And it is barely one-third the cost of the $95 billion in tax cuts passed just last week by the House of Representatives.

Total allocations for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the war on terror have topped $300 billion. All that money has been appropriated as the cost of protecting the nation from terrorist attacks. But what was the worst possible case we fought to prevent?

Losing a major American city.

"We'll not just rebuild, we'll build higher and better," President Bush said that night in September. Our feeling, strongly, is that he was right and should keep to his word. We in New York remember well what it was like for the country to rally around our city in a desperate hour. New York survived and has flourished. New Orleans can too.

Of course, New Orleans's local and state officials must do their part as well, and demonstrate the political and practical will to rebuild the city efficiently and responsibly. They must, as quickly as possible, produce a comprehensive plan for putting New Orleans back together. Which schools will be rebuilt and which will be absorbed? Which neighborhoods will be shored up? Where will the roads go? What about electricity and water lines? So far, local and state officials have been derelict at producing anything that comes close to a coherent plan. That is unacceptable.

The city must rise to the occasion. But it will not have that opportunity without the levees, and only the office of the president is strong enough to goad Congress to take swift action. Only his voice is loud enough to call people home and convince them that commitments will be met.

Maybe America does not want to rebuild New Orleans. Maybe we have decided that the deficits are too large and the money too scarce, and that it is better just to look the other way until the city withers and disappears. If that is truly the case, then it is incumbent on President Bush and Congress to admit it, and organize a real plan to help the dislocated residents resettle into new homes. The communities that opened their hearts to the Katrina refugees need to know that their short-term act of charity has turned into a permanent commitment.

If the rest of the nation has decided it is too expensive to give the people of New Orleans a chance at renewal, we have to tell them so. We must tell them we spent our rainy-day fund on a costly stalemate in Iraq, that we gave it away in tax cuts for wealthy families and shareholders. We must tell them America is too broke and too weak to rebuild one of its great cities.

Our nation would then look like a feeble giant indeed. But whether we admit it or not, this is our choice to make. We decide whether New Orleans lives or dies.

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html)The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

December 11th, 2005, 02:53 PM
New Orleans Is Not Ready to Think Small, or Even Medium

New York Times
Dec. 11, 2005


Vincent Laforet for The New York Times

Salvage Plan The question of whether to rebuild low-lying areas of New Orleans
like the Ninth Ward has divided local and federal officials.

NEW ORLEANS -- THREE more bodies were found here last week, hidden away in forsaken homes where mold had crawled over the walls in a Jackson Pollock splatter.

One hundred days after the hurricane, these belated discoveries seem to be one more sign of how far New Orleans has fallen. Even the dead are not yet at peace.

But if the listless recovery has raised doubts about whether the city can reclaim its former self anytime soon, the political culture here won't listen to them. It has become almost taboo to discuss any proposal more modest than an immediate and total rebuilding: for example, directing the money and energy toward getting less-damaged neighborhoods up and running.

Suggest that New Orleans needs to consider repopulating only elevated areas, leaving especially flood-prone ones to lie fallow, and you will be shouted down. Gingerly point out that Hurricane Katrina was probably more than a meteorological fluke, and you will be scolded that it is un-American to bar people from returning to their homes.

Perhaps it is unfair to say that a kind of denial has taken root. After all, the city has not shaken off its shock at the catastrophe's scope, and it is only natural that politicians and residents alike would react with ardent vows that the city's landscape, not to mention its rollicking spirit, will be made whole. "I want you all to come back, and we can work this out," Mayor C. Ray Nagin told evacuees the other day.

Still, the city's difficulties in coming to terms with a dismal situation may at a minimum be hindering the chances of winning approval of a sweeping federal aid package, which has been bogged down for weeks. Some members of Congress are questioning whether money should be used for rebuilding neighborhoods that might be wiped out in a future hurricane. The city and state already faced credibility problems in Washington because of their reputation, deserved or not, for corruption.

"The local administration has sort of blinders on, saying, 'Let's just charge ahead with redevelopment,' without really thinking about how to maneuver within this precarious site to minimize risk in the future," said Craig E. Colten, a professor at Louisiana State University and author of "An Unnatural Metropolis: Wresting New Orleans From Nature," published this year before the hurricane.

The facts on the ground are sobering. Power and other utilities have not been restored in many places. The city government has laid off much of its work force, and nearly all the public schools remain closed. On Thursday, Tulane University, the city's largest employer, announced major budget cuts.

It is unclear when the levees will be repaired, and it will probably take years and tens of billions of dollars to fortify them. Without assurances about the levees, many exiles do not want to move back. The longer the uncertainty lasts, the more likely it is that they will put down roots elsewhere.

More than 75 percent of the city's population of 460,000 is gone, by some estimates, and it would appear to make little sense to spend enormous sums revitalizing areas if they are to be sparsely populated.

Elected officials are often not candid even in the best of times, obviously, but natural disasters create their own warped politics. Leaders in New Orleans may fear that highlighting problems will worsen them. They do not want to touch off a new round of flight by spooking the people and businesses that remain. They desperately want exiles to return to bolster the tax base.

The city could also be caught in a trap in its dealings with Congress. If it acknowledges that it must pare its ambitions, as some in Washington suggest it do, lawmakers might respond that it does not need as much aid.

And so the city recoils at the idea of retrenchment. Soon after the flooding, Mayor Nagin's Bring New Orleans Back commission asked the Urban Land Institute, a prominent research group in Washington, to put together a report on the recovery. It was thought that the mayor might use the report as political cover to push through unpopular plans.

The institute called on the city to phase in rebuilding, starting with less-damaged areas. It warned that haphazard redevelopment would lead to what it termed a jack-o'-lantern effect - patches of homes in abandoned areas - that would be ruinous.

Some local officials and residents said the recommendation was a stake through the heart of the Lower Ninth Ward, Gentilly and other devastated areas. Mr. Nagin, who is facing re-election next year, all but disavowed it.

Carl Weisbrod, who worked on the Urban Land report and led a business improvement group in Lower Manhattan before and after the Sept. 11 attacks, said, "There is always for politicians or leaders a fine line to be walked between what the reality is, and how do you mobilize public opinion."

He added: "It's especially hard when you are putting yourself up to the approval of voters. The most votes win, not necessarily the right answer."

Officials here and in Baton Rouge also seem reluctant to acknowledge that their image is impeding efforts to obtain aid.

Despite the crisis, the Louisiana Legislature has refused to overhaul the local boards managing the levees, which have been criticized as inept. That fueled suspicion in Congress that state and local officials would mishandle the rebuilding, and the federal aid that goes with it.

"There are two levels of denial going on here," said Philip Hart, a real estate executive in California who worked on the Urban Land report. "One is related to the effects of the natural disaster. The other is denying the fact that the negative perception of Louisiana and New Orleans is hindering the rebuilding process."

One danger is that residents, already skeptical about all levels of government because of the response to the hurricane, might come to believe that politicians are not being straight with them about the fate of the city, and grow even more cynical.

"There is a part of me that wants to trust them," said Michael Grosch, who was standing last week in his gutted home in the Lakeview neighborhood, which he wants to rebuild, though it is not far from a ruptured levee. "But I don't anymore."

Asked, then, why he was rebuilding, he threw up his hands and said, "No one knows what is going to happen next."

In the 1880's, Currier & Ives, the printmaking company that was the Google Maps of its day, dispatched an artist to record a panoramic vista of New Orleans. The drawing shows a thriving port city - steamboats, church spires and all - whose populace clung to the elevated areas near the Mississippi.

There were few settlements in the flood-prone lowlands to the north. The swamps to the east were not deemed worthy of illustrating.

It is not easy to broach the idea of such a smaller-scale city. The people here have long defied the perils of this place, whether that meant the yellow fever outbreaks of the 1800's or Hurricane Betsy in 1965.

"New Orleans has survived for 300 years," said Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.

But for much of that time, wasn't the city settled largely on the elevated areas?

"You are underestimating the intelligence of the people of New Orleans," Ms. Hedge-Morrell replied. "They know what they are doing."

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html)The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

December 11th, 2005, 08:45 PM
Drowned city cuts its poor adrift

The waters have receded but the mainly black, low-income citizens of New Orleans are now the victims of rising rents, forced evictions and plans that favour the better off, reports Peter Beaumont

Sunday December 11, 2005
The Observer (http://www.observer.co.uk/)
http://observer.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,6903,1664630,00.html?gusrc=rss (http://observer.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,6903,1664630,00.html?gusrc=rss)

Miss Mildred's piano lies where the water knocked it down three months ago, amid ruined photographs and clothes. Her favourite chair is jammed in a corner; the wooden tiles of her tiny clapboard house muddy and peeled loose. There is nothing to salvage from a thrifty, industrious life, so she has come to see her home in New Orleans' devastated Ninth Ward for one last time.

'I don't have anything to come home to. No food, no water or electricity,' said the 74-year-old, whose family has been scattered. 'I can't afford to live in the French Quarter and there is nowhere else to rent. I have three more years on the mortgage to pay for this.' She will not sell the property, she says, but she also will not return. And Mildred W Franklin is angry. In a city where the wealthy areas are buzzing with reconstruction, her neighbourhood, one of the worst affected, is silent and ghostly. 'They want us to be disgusted. They don't want us to return.'

She is not alone in thinking this. When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans it was the city's poor - almost exclusively African Americans - who were left to fend for themselves as the city drowned in a lake of toxic sludge. Now, three months on, the same people have been abandoned once again by a reconstruction effort that seems determined to prevent them from returning. They are the victims of a devastating combination of forced evictions, a failure to reopen the city's public house projects, rent gouging and - as in the case of Mildred - a decision to write off whole neighbourhoods.

They are victims too of a reconstruction effort that, while its funding remains stalled in Congress, and lacking proper leadership, has been left to the care of the private sector with little interest in the city's poor. As a rapacious free market has come to dominate the rebuilding of the Louisiana city, it has seen spiralling prices and the influx of property speculators keen to cash in on the disaster. The result is one of the most shocking pieces of urban planning that black and poor America has seen: reconstruction as survival of the wealthiest.

Sitting in the back of the pick-up truck of union activist Jim Prickett, Aaron is on fire with anger. A young black man in his twenties in dreadlocks and a Veterans for Peace T-shirt, he flares out at all around him. 'My grandpa died at the airport [during the evacuation]. Now me and my mama can't get into our home. There is a notice on the door. If we try, we are looting. Do you understand how that must feel?' he shouts. 'Do you understand? I live how I can. It has jumbled me up here,' he points to his head. 'It is genocide and ethnic cleansing. It's the return of Jim Crow.'

Aaron's anger is not unique, although a crushed sense of depression is more common. It is fuelled by the suspicion among the city's dispersed poor that what is happening is nothing short of an attempt to redraw the city's demographics and gentrify it. It is a suspicion fuelled by widely reported comments from senior administration and city officials that in the future New Orleans, which once had a population that was 65 per cent black, will no longer look that way. Alphonso Jackson, President George Bush's Housing and Urban Development Secretary, is one of those who has predicted a change in the ethnic mix of the Big Easy. 'Whether we like it or not,' he told the Houston Chronicle, 'New Orleans is not going to be 500,000 people for a long time ... New Orleans is not going to be as black as it was for a long time, if ever again.'

Jackson is not alone in holding that view.'As a practical matter, these poor folks don't have the resources to go back to our city, just like they didn't have the resources to get out of our city,' said Joseph Canizaro, once one of the city's biggest developers and a member of New Orleans' rebuilding commission. 'So we won't get all those folks back. That's just a fact. It's not what I want, it's just a fact.'

While some in the city are overtly racist, what is happening in New Orleans is only racist by default. The discrimination is against the poor, who once made up an unusually high percentage of the population for a US city. It just happens that the vast majority of them are African Americans.

One who is not is Sonia Fabiola, 54, a house cleaner from Guatemala whose story is typical in a city where thousands are being evicted by private landlords keen to cash in on doubled monthly rentals after the loss of 200,000 homes to the storm. And it is being fuelled by a property boom. 'We were one of the 25 most underpriced markets in the United States,' Arthur Sterbcow, president of the region's Latter & Blum estate agents, told Reuters recently. 'We were as far away from what they called a housing bubble as you get. Now we've had three record-breaking months in a row.'

It is a boom that has fuelled unscrupulous practices of which Sonia has been a victim. A resident in a low cost private complex in the Terrytown district, Ms Fabiola, who was evicted from her apartment last Wednesday after a struggle to remain, had been the victim of constant harassment since her return home, allegedly with the connivance of some members of the police. It is a story of pure Rachmanism. She had been threatened, had her rent cheque refused, her electricity cut off and seen her absent neighbours' flats cleared of all their possessions, while rubbish was dumped outside her door.

But in a state with some of the poorest tenants' protection laws in the US, her fight to remain was hopeless. And that is likely to be a massive problem in a city whose rents have doubled and trebled in some instances. 'I came here from my own country to get away from corruption and this kind of behaviour,' said Ms Fabiola, 'and now I am treated like this in the United States. It is terrible. No one sees how the poor people here are being treated. I have never missed my rent in the 20 years I have lived here, and now I am being treated like this.'

'The racial issues are real,' said Miles Granderson, an activist lawyer who grew up in New Orleans and returned after the storm to campaign on housing issues. He adds a caveat: 'It is socio-economic more than anything, but in many cases black and poor and black and criminal are seen as the same thing - consciously or subconsciously. The main issue here is housing - and it is utterly incomprehensible that we don't have large numbers of emergency trailers here, or that we haven't finished or significantly progressed in rehabilitating the areas with only modest damage, or opened more public housing units.'

A case in point is the Iberville Project on the edge of the French Quarter, an area now bustling with out-of-state contractors spending their money in the restaurants and bars off Bourbon Street. Despite the project suffering minimal damage, like the vast majority of the city's projects its residents remain shut out. Public housing campaigners in the city believe that 3,750, or about half of the public housing units, are either ready for occupation now or can easily be made so. Yet only a few dozen have been reopened.

The net effect is a city that is not only too expensive for its low-income families to return to, but a city that many are not sure they want to reclaim.

And as a consequence, the longer that people are kept away the less likely they are to return. 'There is a real concern that we will lose the nation's attention the longer this takes,' Bobby Jindal, a Republican from Metairie, just west of New Orleans, recently told the New York Times. 'People are making decisions now about whether to come back. And every day that passes, it will be a little harder to get things done.'

They are all problems that are unlikely to have been noticed by the former Presidents George Bush Snr and Bill Clinton when they came to New Orleans last week. The places that they visited were a bustle of activity, including one city worker set pointlessly to work with a tree pruner neatly clipping the branch ends of a tree.

It was a different story just 15 minutes' drive across the city in the flood-devastated neighbourhoods of the Ninth and Lower Ninth and in the city's east. For if there is busy reconstruction work in New Orleans, it has largely been following the money to households that can afford thousands of dollars to put them right.

On an official level there appears too to be a danger that the same assumptions are emerging. A report commissioned from the Urban Land Institute by New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has been equally controversial in suggesting that resources be focused on rebuilding New Orleans' less damaged neighbourhoods first - which also happen to be the wealthier ones - while studying whether it makes sense to repopulate areas that saw the worst flooding. And while Nagin has sought to calm critics by stressing that 'every section of the city will be rebuilt', the long delays in the poorest and worst-affected districts have effectively condemned vast areas of largely wooden housing to rapid disintegration.

Which makes such men as Newell Jack doubly courageous in trying to come back. Last week he had returned to his flood-damaged house on Abundance Street in the Ninth Ward to clear the debris prior to renovation. Mr Jack is fortunate in one sense: his house, like several in his street, is made of brick.

For those few like him who have returned and are trying to rebuild it is a massive gamble. If no one else comes back, the inheritance of their effort will be a house in a blighted ghost town.

'I was lucky,' he says amid the acrid smell of 200lb of rotting shrimps the restaurateur was forced to abandon to Katrina. 'I was well insured. But a lot of people are going to have problems coming back. I own four chicken places. I lost two of them. Another is open and I'm working on the fourth. I can't leave what I had here. But the authorities have left it too long to come in and clear up this neighbourhood. They picked up some trash, but not much else. Now the mould has got into all the houses.'

For all his anger at the way he feels his neighbourhood has been abandoned, Newell Jack, however, is an optimist. 'New Orleans'll come back,' he says. 'It might take a while, but it will come back.'
The Legacy of disaster

Population of New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina: 500,000
Present population: 60-70,000
Black population pre-Katrina: 65 per cent; post-Katrina it is predicted by the US Secretary for Housing and Urban Development to be 35-40 per cent
Concentration of poverty pre-Katrina: 18.4 per cent, making it the second highest concentration in a US metropolitan area. For African-Americans, the rate pre-Katrina was 35 per cent
Car ownership pre-Katrina: 75 per cent
Number of people who have applied for federal aid following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita: 2.5 million
People in New Orleans suffering 'significant distress or dysfunction' 45 per cent; 25 per cent have an even 'higher degree of dysfunction'
There were 15,800 subsidised homes for poorer families before the storm. Now only a few score are occupied
The sum needed to rebuild homes in New Orleans: more than $20 billion
114,000 buildings have been inspected - around half of those in the city. Only 28 per cent of them are deemed to be habitable
The number of houses now receiving electricity from New Orleans power company Entergy: 55,000 out of 190,000
Estimated cost of repairing damaged levees: from $4bn to more than $30bn

December 12th, 2005, 07:43 AM
December 12, 2005
On Gulf Coast, a Conflict Over How to Rebuild

By ERIC LIPTON (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=ERIC%20LIPTON&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=ERIC%20LIPTON&inline=nyt-per)

LONG BEACH, Miss., Dec. 11 - Standing on the slab that was once her Gulf Coast retirement home, Jocelyn Turnbough has a clear vision of her own Hurricane Katrina counterpunch: a new seaside estate, with a wraparound veranda, a sunroom and a small wading pool out front.

Central to this rebuilding plan is Ms. Turnbough's intention to ignore a plea from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that her new home be elevated on stilts.

"At my age, I don't want to have to go up steps," said Ms. Turnbough, 69, a retired middle school teacher. "I want to be able to walk in at ground level."

The conflict between FEMA's request and Ms. Turnbough's desires demonstrates a broad clash here along the Gulf Coast over whether to cede large swaths of land to nature, to rebuild much as it was, or to rebuild homes, at a higher price, with more robust foundations and on structures that raise them above the ground.

The debate is playing out on the Mississippi (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/national/usstatesterritoriesandpossessions/mississippi/index.html?inline=nyt-geo) Gulf Coast, with a cast that includes storm victims, coastal engineers, mortgage lenders, the insurance industry, and local, state and federal government officials.
FEMA ignited the discussion by issuing late last month a jigsaw puzzle of 228 new maps that, when pieced together, make up the entire 80 miles of Mississippi coast and reach as much as 22 miles inland. These maps represent the biggest simultaneous proposed expansion of federally defined flood zones in the history of the 37-year-old National Flood Insurance Program. The maps for the Louisiana coast will be published early next year.

The maps for the two states, based on damage caused by Katrina and other hurricanes in the past 20 years, are advisory for now because it will take FEMA at least a year to confirm their accuracy. During this critical rebuilding period, it is up to the local governments to decide if they will honor the agency's request to adopt the more conservative and more costly standards.

But when the maps become final, the federal agency will have the power to force the hands of local governments, since it can ban cities and their residents from the flood insurance program if they do not respect the official maps.

"These are very hard decisions," said Todd Davison, FEMA's regional director of mitigation. "There is no denying that. The local officials have to balance the need to allow people to fix up houses that can be repaired and to take some hardship off of the crisis they are in, and at the same time not knowingly put people in harm's way."

The looming changes are already causing divisions along the coast.
In Mississippi, elected officials from Long Beach, Pass Christian and unincorporated sections of Hancock County have decided to allow residents to rebuild, at least for now, according to the existing flood maps. In Jackson County and communities including Waveland, D'Iberville and Bay St. Louis, local officials have agreed to add about four feet to the required minimum elevations in existing flood zones, but have declined, so far, to expand the flood zones according to FEMA's recommended boundaries.

The biggest cities on Mississippi's coast, Biloxi, Gulfport and Pascagoula, have not yet taken a formal position, but at least some elected leaders in these communities have made it clear they have objections. Only unincorporated Harrison County and Moss Point, a small city, have voted to adopt entirely the new FEMA standards.

In communities that have resisted, elected officials say they fear now is the worst time to radically increase land-use standards, forcing residents who have already lost almost everything to dig deeper into their pockets to rebuild.

"For us to hit them with an additional burden after what they have been through - to me, that is ludicrous," said Richard Notter, a Long Beach alderman and electrical engineer, who voted to reject the FEMA maps. "No one who has a heart and soul would ever vote to do that."

Many of the homes wiped out by Hurricane Katrina were built on lots that were swept clear in 1969 when Hurricane Camille hit.

Yet even with that knowledge, Chip McDermott, alderman at large in Pass Christian, said that in a community where only about 900 of 6,000 residents remain - and many of those are in trailers or a tent city - trying to plan now for the next catastrophe is hard.

"Survival right now is the main thing," Mr. McDermott said. "We are not going to have a town unless we get some people back here. We are going to be a town in name only."

Raising a new house off the ground to comply with the proposed FEMA standards would cost $2,000 to $30,000 depending on the value of the house and the type of foundation required to meet the potential flood intensity. The work could be as simple as an elevated foundation or as complex as reinforced, deep-set structural columns that would support a house entirely on tall stilts. How high the house would be off the ground would depend on its location, but the heights would be from a few feet to 20 feet, with more typical range being 8 to 14 feet, Mr. Davison said.

For years, geologists and flood plain engineers said that the rush to

build along the fragile coasts of the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico was the brick-and-mortar version of irrational exuberance. And with the recent surge in the frequency and violence of hurricanes, the stakes have never been so devastatingly laid bare.

More than 1,075 people have been confirmed dead in Louisiana and 230 in Mississippi, with dozens of others still missing. More than $23 billion in flood insurance claims are expected from along the Gulf Coast, from more than 200,000 property owners. The single biggest previous payout was Hurricane Ivan last year, which cost the federally backed program $1.45 billion in claims. A federal bailout of the insurance program, which is supposed to be supported by premiums, will most likely be required.

Some engineers say the only rational solution, in some sections of the Gulf Coast, is to cede these fragile areas, and not rebuild.

"It is time to cut our ties with the most vulnerable of our nation's coastal areas," said Robert S. Young, an associate professor of geology at Western Carolina University, in testimony last month before Congress.

More than $1 billion in federal disaster aid will be available in Mississippi to help buy out homeowners who live in extremely flood-prone spots, elevate whole neighborhoods in some cases or rebuild schools or community centers more robustly or in safer locations. People like Ms. Turnbough who choose to rebuild soon in areas that do not comply with the new proposals will still be eligible for flood insurance if construction predates the adoption of the FEMA mandates by their local governments.

But here along the coast, FEMA officials said, they realize they must do more. They are trying, they said, to strike a balance between protecting life and property and allowing coastal communities like Long Beach to rise again.

"There are proven techniques for building housing in these flood-prone areas that can withstand these flood forces and significantly reduce damage," Mr. Davison said.

The last time large flood zones along the Mississippi coast were comprehensively remapped was in the mid-1980's, at the end of a relatively quiet hurricane period, Mr. Davison said.

With major hurricanes like Elena in 1985, Andrew in 1992, Georges in 1998, Ivan in 2004 and Katrina in 2005, the area vulnerable to flooding in a so-called "100-year storm" is much bigger, and the projected flood depths along the coast are much deeper.

Some local officials say that the new FEMA advisory maps call for unreasonable standards that will drive up housing prices and threaten whole neighborhoods.

"This is not realistic. It's not practical. It is overkill, and we can start a push back," Mayor Brent Warr of Gulfport told the City Council at a workshop last week at City Hall, in Gulfport's devastated downtown.

Mr. Warr says he recognizes that the maps will need to change to expand the flood zone. The question, he said, is by how much. FEMA's redrawn maps would put 6,233 houses and other structures in Gulfport in the flood zone, more than twice the current number. That, he said, is just too many.

"We are going to be more conservative," Mr. Warr said in an interview. "But we have to come up with a plan that still offers an opportunity for neighborhoods to exist."

Officials at FEMA said they recognized that Hurricane Katrina was an extraordinary storm, creating a wall of water as high as 30 feet in some communities. So the flood zones in the new FEMA maps, in certain areas, are smaller than the area inundated by water from Katrina.

The conflict between the agency's advice and the stand taken by many of the local governments has left many residents confused.

James Kirby lives on 39th Street in Gulfport, about a mile and a half from the coast. After a neighborhood bayou overflowed with waters forced inland by Hurricane Katrina, the floors of his small house collapsed, his brick walls cracked and everything inside was destroyed. On FEMA's proposed flood map, his neighborhood is a tiny yellow square surrounded by blue, indicating that it was flooded and will now be included in the flood zone. Residents in these areas are generally required to get flood insurance, and those outside them typically are not.

The Gulfport City Council has not yet acted on FEMA's recommendations, and Mr. Kirby said he had not decided whether to move elsewhere, stay put and rebuild higher, or repair his home where it is.

"It's a sad situation," Mr. Kirby, 74, said. "There are no good choices."

If homeowners were insured for flood damage before the storm, they were eligible to get as much as $30,000 in extra assistance to comply with new, more demanding flood requirements. But like thousands of Gulf Coast residents who did not previously live in a designated flood zone, Mr. Kirby did not have flood insurance.

In Long Beach, where Ms. Turnbough lives, little new construction is under way. The scene is postapocalyptic, with smashed cars in living rooms and household items strewn about. Yet with the many American flags placed, after the storm, at the edges of yards, as well as hand-painted signs with slogans like "We Can Do It, Y'All," there is a sense of defiance here, almost as if residents feel they must prove that they are stronger than the storm.

Mr. Davison and other FEMA officials said future builders should take note of the few homes along the coast where property owners, prior to Hurricane Katrina, chose to build houses that were higher off the ground than required.

One such elevated house in Pass Christian is built of concrete and stands 22 feet above sea level, compared with the current 14-foot requirement.

"It survived," said John Plisich, a civil engineer with FEMA, as he stood outside the fortresslike house, surveying the slabs of destroyed homes surrounding it. Yet even this house, which was built by a structural engineer, was flooded by Hurricane Katrina's extraordinary surge.

"The coastal environment is a harsh one," Mr. Plisich said, as the afternoon sky turned dark and a heavy downpour began. "People should understand that."

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html)The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

December 12th, 2005, 08:19 AM
Some of these areas have been wiped out twice in the past 40 years. It seems that stringent controls on re-building, if re-building is to take place, are necessary. Ultimately the cost of rebuilding yet again will be far higher than the costs involved in taking precautionary steps now. To expect that public money should be expended when the risks are well known is simply bad logic.

On Gulf Coast, a Conflict Over How to Rebuild

The conflict ... whether to cede large swaths of land to nature, to rebuild much as it was, or to rebuild homes, at a higher price, with more robust foundations and on structures that raise them above the ground.

... In communities that have resisted, elected officials say they fear now is the worst time to radically increase land-use standards, forcing residents who have already lost almost everything to dig deeper into their pockets to rebuild.

"For us to hit them with an additional burden after what they have been through - to me, that is ludicrous," said Richard Notter, a Long Beach alderman and electrical engineer, who voted to reject the FEMA maps. "No one who has a heart and soul would ever vote to do that."

Many of the homes wiped out by Hurricane Katrina were built on lots that were swept clear in 1969 when Hurricane Camille hit.

December 12th, 2005, 09:35 AM
If they reject increases in building codes to prevent possible future catastrophic damages, they should then be responsible for their own rebuilding and not be covered by government aid in doing so, or having to do so in the future.

They are in a BAD AREA. YES they lost everything, but you do not keep building straw houses in a hurricane zone and then expect someone else to help pay for a new one when it gets blown down again.

December 17th, 2005, 08:27 AM
Demolition of Thousands of Houses Is Set to Begin

New York Times
December 17, 2005


NEW ORLEANS, Dec. 16 - The city will begin demolishing several thousand of the most severely hurricane-damaged houses in the next few weeks, marking the completion of an arduous door-to-door inspection of more than 120,000 structures that began months ago.

Officials here have provisionally identified about 5,500 houses as being unsafe to enter or in imminent danger of collapse. Of those, they have marked about 2,500 for demolition in the coming weeks, said Greg Meffert, the New Orleans official heading the inspections. He did not supply a precise date, but suggested that it would be soon.

The highest concentration of these red-tagged houses - so called because of the bright orange-red stickers the city's building inspectors have slapped on them - are in the Lower Ninth Ward and Gentilly, neighborhoods ravaged by levee breaks from the storm. The water's force pushed houses in these areas off their foundations, into neighbors' yards, and sometimes collapsed them altogether.

The sensitivity of demolishing houses here, a subject city officials mostly avoid discussing, is reflected in the fact that all houses tagged red are subject to a reinspection, to make certain they qualify. Some are likely to lose the red designation, city officials said, meaning that the figure of 5,500 will drop.

The vast majority of the inspected houses fall into a middle, or yellow, category, meaning they have some damage - for example, a flooded first floor - but are still structurally sound. That so many of the city's houses sustained this degree of damage reflects the extent of the flooding, which affected 80 percent of New Orleans at its height. Lakeview, a middle-class neighborhood bordering Lake Pontchartrain, contains block after block of houses in this category and remains largely uninhabited.

Many of these yellow-tagged houses "still represent a headache for the city," said Bill Pioli, an official of the Army Corps of Engineers who helped manage the inspections. Salvaging them will be difficult, considering the limited resources that many homeowners and the local government have for repairs.
That quandary is captured in the cautious attitude New Orleans officials are adopting toward these dwellings, neither advocating their destruction nor suggesting that all can be saved.

"The city will not be making any unilateral demolition decisions," Mr. Meffert, an aide to Mayor C. Ray Nagin, said in an e-mail message on Thursday. "With the exception of those 5,000 homes that are collapsing and endangering others, the individual owner, in that yellow designation, will make the financial and personal decision of whether it makes sense to demolish or do a gut rehab."

Heaps of housing rubble, including Sheetrock and flooring, that line many blocks here suggest that some homeowners have already made that decision and are plunging ahead with rehabilitation, despite worrisome costs.

The swath of undamaged houses marked in green closely tracks the historic high ground of the city, along the Mississippi River. The elevation is imperceptible from the ground, consisting of only a few feet, and is the result of hundreds of years of silt deposited by the river. This slight rise was nonetheless just enough to keep these houses out of the "bowl," as it is known locally, referring to an area largely undeveloped in the 19th century.
Even before Hurricane Katrina, those areas were subject to periodic flooding during heavy rains.

Out of 180,000 houses in the city, 110,000 were flooded. Half of those sat for days or weeks in more than six feet of water.

The Corps of Engineers will have responsibility for the demolitions, using track excavators. But in many cases, these huge pieces of equipment will have to do little more than scoop up heaps of rubble, because wind and water have already taken care of the demolition.

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html)The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

January 5th, 2006, 02:14 PM
January 5, 2006

A Big Government Fix-It Plan for New Orleans


BATON ROUGE, La. - Into the void of the post-Katrina policy landscape, littered with half-ruined proposals, crumbling prescriptions and washed-out initiatives, an obscure and very conservative congressman has stepped in with the ultimate big government solution.

Representative Richard H. Baker, a Republican from suburban Baton Rouge who derides Democrats for not being sufficiently free-market, is the unlikely champion of a housing recovery plan that would make the federal government the biggest landowner in New Orleans - for a while, at least. Mr. Baker's proposed Louisiana Recovery Corporation would spend as much as $80 billion to pay off lenders, restore public works, buy huge ruined chunks of the city, clean them up and then sell them back to developers.

Desperate for a big-scale fix to the region's huge real estate problem, Louisiana officials and business leaders of all stripes - black and white, Republican and Democrat - have embraced this little-known congressman and his grandiose plan, calling its passage crucial. While the White House has yet to sign on, there are already signs that some Congressional leaders are interested in pursuing it; Mr. Baker said administration officials had not rejected it outright.

The passage of the bill has become increasingly important to Louisiana because the state lost out to the greater political power of Mississippi last month when Congress passed a $29 billion aid package for the Gulf states region. The package gave Mississippi about five times as much per household in housing aid as Louisiana received - a testimony to the clout of Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi, a former Republican National Committee chairman, and Senator Thad Cochran, chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

Louisiana officials say they were forced to go along with the appropriation, because they may not have received an aid package at all otherwise. But now they are focused even more intently on Mr. Baker's buyout bill; many economists here say there may be no alternative to buyouts for homeowners who cannot make mortgage payments on ruined properties.

"It's probably one of the few last best hopes out there for people whose homes were flooded, and had no flood insurance," said Loren C. Scott, an emeritus economist at Louisiana State University. "Without this kind of help, there's a very large number of people who are just sunk."

James A. Richardson, director of the university's Public Administration Institute, said, "It's the only game in town, to a certain extent."

Mr. Baker's ideological opposite in the Louisiana Congressional delegation, William J. Jefferson, a New Orleans Democrat, said passage of the bill was important.

"Without it," he said, "homeowners have very little chance of realizing any of the equity they've lost."

Under his plan, the Louisiana Recovery Corporation would step in to prevent defaults, similar in general nature to the Resolution Trust Corporation set up by Congress in 1989 to bail out the savings and loan industry. It would offer to buy out homeowners, at no less than 60 percent of their equity before Hurricane Katrina. Lenders would be offered up to 60 percent of what they are owed.

To finance these expenditures, the government would sell bonds and pay them off in part with the proceeds from the sale of land to developers.

Property owners would not have to sell, but those who did would have an option to buy property back from the corporation. The federal corporation would have nothing to do with the redevelopment of the land; those plans would be drawn up by local authorities and developers.

To succeed, the proposal will eventually require the support of the White House. And the signals, according to this staunch Republican who boasts of near-perfect rankings from conservative groups, have been distinctly mixed.

President Bush, riding in a car with Mr. Baker on a trip here in late September, "got it," Mr. Baker insisted in an interview at his office here, in the city he has unobtrusively represented in Washington for two decades. "He was very open to it. He said, 'Work on it and get back to Hubbard,' " referring to Mr. Bush's top economic adviser, Allan B. Hubbard.

With Congress set to adjourn last month and with the plan hanging in the balance, Mr. Baker received a visit on a Sunday morning from Donald E. Powell, the president's Gulf Coast recovery czar. Mr. Baker said Mr. Powell, was now "more comfortable" with the proposal, but was still not wholly convinced after an hour of discussion. The bill sank, despite a successful scramble to unite the disparate Louisiana delegation behind it and appeals from business leaders. Yet, with promises from senators to take up the bill quickly when Congress reconvenes and signs that the White House has not turned its back, the cautious Mr. Baker figures that his odds are better than even.

Sean Reilly, a member of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, said Mr. Powell had told him the White House was "on board" with the concept, but needed to tweak the idea a bit.

"It came very close," said Walter Isaacson, vice chairman of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, established by the governor to oversee reconstruction. Top White House advisers "basically like the principle," he said. And there were promises from them that "we'll work with you, and we'll get it on the fast track" for hearings in the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, Mr. Isaacson said.

Mr. Baker's fellow conservatives, in Congress and out, are worried about the huge scale of his proposed intervention. In the House Financial Services Committee, several members tried unsuccessfully to limit the proposal's spending and duration, or to require that it break even. "It is irresponsible for Congress to write a blank check, drawn on the account of American taxpayers, bound only by the imagination of politicians," said Representative Jeb Hensarling, Republican of Texas. "We need to ensure that taxpayers are not asked again two or three years from now to pay for the same disaster."

Mr. Baker says to his critics: "If not this, what? And the answers are not good."

A sobering early flyover of the ruined neighborhoods in New Orleans convinced him that ordinary solutions would not work. Here was a problem way beyond the capacity of private enterprise. "In this case, everything's gone," Mr. Baker said. "Total elimination. So I have argued that this does require a precedent-setting remedy. And if we don't do this, what do you foresee for the region two years from now?"

Soft-spoken, mild-mannered and with the choirboy demeanor of a minister's son, Mr. Baker has spent years toiling in arcane financial-services regulation. With the calm of a man used to consorting with bankers and poring over balance sheets, he lays it all out: tens of thousands of strapped homeowners, owing millions in mortgage payments on properties of dubious value, to multiple lending institutions.

His effort is filled with paradoxes. Mr. Baker has devoted much of his Congressional career to reining in the quasi-governmental lending giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, saying they have too much power. Now, "as free market as I am," he said, he wants the government to take action in a way it never has before.

Another oddity is that Mr. Baker is so invisible, even in his own district, that "most people in Baton Rouge wouldn't recognize him," said Wayne Parent, a political science professor at L.S.U. In a state that values flash in its politicians, "You don't hear much said about him," Mr. Parent said. Yet, Mr. Baker has suddenly stepped to the forefront of a Louisiana political class that has been notably bereft of ideas.

He was elected from a mostly white, suburban district, one relatively prosperous by Louisiana standards and historically resentful of the once-larger city to the east. Yet, his initiative could wind up largely benefiting African-Americans in New Orleans.

In the House, his idea was embraced by liberals - "I think it's a good idea," said Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts - and shunned by many conservatives. The proposal is about as "good as you get," Mr. Isaacson said. "My feeling is it's a test of how sincere the administration is in saying it wants a careful and smart rebuilding effort."

* Copyright 2006The New York Times Company

March 15th, 2006, 12:30 AM
March 15, 2006

Forecast on Shrunken New Orleans


NEW ORLEANS, March 14 (AP) — By the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans will have less than 60 percent of the population it had before the storm, according to a study prepared for the city.

The hurricane, which struck Aug. 29, emptied New Orleans of almost all its estimated 465,000 residents. The city's population has rebounded to an estimated 189,000, state officials said.

The new study, conducted by the RAND Corporation, projects that the population will be 272,000 by September 2008, 58 percent of the prehurricane level.

Sections of the city that suffered only wind damage or minor flooding are filling up now.

"But when you look at other parts of the city with serious flood damage, the amount of work needed to make those areas livable again is likely to take a lengthy time," said Narayan Sastry, project leader of the study.

Gregory C. Rigamer, president of GCR & Associates, a New Orleans consulting firm, said he expected the city to reach a population of 250,000 to 275,000 by the end of 2006. "Then, it's going to slow down because the efforts to recover the remaining areas are going to be difficult," Mr. Rigamer said.

The RAND report paints a bleak picture for the city's prestorm residents who lived in poverty, an overwhelming number of whom are black and many of whom did not have cars to leave the city before the hurricane.

"Lack of transportation will also make it difficult for poor evacuees to travel back to the city to evaluate the condition of their former residences and either to begin the process of repairing their homes or to find a new place to live," the study said.

In issuing the study, RAND warned that it had to work quickly, had limited data and was confronted with considerable uncertainties in New Orleans in drawing its conclusions. It said more study would be needed.

May 31st, 2006, 04:13 AM
New Orleans plans jazz district central park (http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20060530/music_nm/hurricanes_neworleans_dc)

http://us.news3.yimg.com/us.i2.yimg.com/p/nm/20060531/2006_05_30t171406_450x300_us_hurricanes_neworleans .jpg

By Peter Henderson
Tue May 30, 5:07 PM ET

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - New Orleans plans a new $700 million jazz district and central park, aiming to use the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina as an opportunity to rebuild the damaged core of the city.

Standing in front of the still-shuttered Superdome stadium, city and state officials on Tuesday described the 20-acre (8-hectare) National Jazz Center and Jazz Park, a performance center, museum complex and park that would provide a new cultural anchor for the city known as the home of jazz.

"This project will put New Orleans back on the map," said Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco.

Nine months after Katrina swept through the city, the area to be transformed is only partly functional and has little foot traffic. The Hyatt hotel, which served as a command center for Mayor Ray Nagin during the storm and will be redeveloped in the plan, is riddled with broken windows.

Workers still are repairing the roof of the Superdome, the stadium that served as the shelter of last resort for thousands in last year's storm.

Supporters hope their plan will attract more residential and mixed-use development by better promoting New Orleans' musical heritage, supporters said. Fewer than half the city's pre-storm residents have returned, nearly every main street has some closed businesses and tourism, the lifeblood of the local economy, has not fully revived since the hurricane.

The six-block-long park would link the Hyatt and the Superdome while an extended trolley line would run to the French Quarter's historic maze of shops and restaurants about half a mile away.


Nagin estimated the project would take two or three years and said it would be a year before construction would begin as tax breaks and additional funding were lined up.

While billed as a major commercial initiative started by Strategic Hotels & Resorts Inc., owner of the New Orleans Hyatt, most of the estimated $716 million investment would come from government agencies in the form of donated land, tax breaks and incentives.

Strategic Hotels plans to invest about $50 million, in addition to insurance settlements, said Strategic Chief Executive and Chairman Laurence Geller.

Jazz is part of the cultural life blood of New Orleans but it has been scattered throughout the Mississippi River city, found primarily in the streets of the French Quarter and on small stages crammed into smoky bars.

Trumpeter Irvin Mayfield, artistic director of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra which will be based in a new performance hall designed by modernist architect Thom Mayne, described the park and center as a homecoming for the music.

"I am grateful to be alive at this time to witness such wonderful cultural triumphs," said Mayfield, whose father was killed in the storm.

Planners would demolish some court and city buildings to make way for the park. It would aim to offer room for picnics, green space and access to jazz.

The area is deserted at night now but will become a 24-hour draw and anchor urban residential and other development, if all goes as planned.

The concept designed by Mayne includes a new civil court building with a silvery wave emerging from the side. The performance center appears as a circular mass with a curving core surrounded by a translucent curtain of glass.

"We should have the first great American city of the 21st century," Geller said.

May 31st, 2006, 07:57 AM
It's easy to order the rebuilding of New Orleans from Washington, but having money to rebuild is not sufficient.

The question is - what percentage of people are going to return to New Orleans? ...
So, we got the answer - 40%

May 31st, 2006, 09:04 AM
I know this may sound bad but....

I do not think they should rebuild New Orleans. I think they should just clean everything out and open the dykes.

I think the money that is being earmarked for reconstruction should go toward relocation of the families that were displaced. And NO HANDOUTS!!!

Handouts do not make the recipients respectful of what they have been given. Two classic examples? Abuse rate of animals that are paid for verses ones that are adopted at the shelter. Low income housing versus Habitat for Humanity.

Give a person the chance to help BUILD their home and you will see a hell of a lot more pride and respect for it than if they feel that it was just given to them to keep them quiet or that this was something they were entitled to from teh very start.

New Orleans was not a classic town in need of reconstruction. It was a poorly managed corrupt town that was all stuck below sea level behind sub-standard dykes that broke when a hurricane hit them. You rebuild them and, even if they are built to code, environmental changes (such as further ground settlement or global warming) will destroy them again.

So, help the people rebuild, just not in the areas that might need rebuilding again in 5-10 years.

May 31st, 2006, 10:22 AM
Give a person the chance to help BUILD their home and you will see a hell of a lot more pride and respect for it than if they feel that it was just given to them to keep them quiet or that this was something they were entitled to from teh very start.

I'm not understanding what you are implying. Are you suggesting that people living in New Orleans did not respect their homes or houses? Or are you suggesting that they won't properly appreciate the new homes provided?

I never built my own home, but I respect it as my home. Growing up in the suburbs, my family never built its own home. We respected where we lived.

I don't get your point.

May 31st, 2006, 11:27 AM
I'm not understanding what you are implying. Are you suggesting that people living in New Orleans did not respect their homes or houses? Or are you suggesting that they won't properly appreciate the new homes provided?

I am saying that, if NO is to be rebuilt, it should not be akin to a government handout. Developments like that are not respected and usually do not last very long.

I am not saying that people did not respect the homes that they built or bought, but that people, ni general, have less respect for a generic structure that was built and given to them than for the building THEY had something to do with.

I never built my own home, but I respect it as my home. Growing up in the suburbs, my family never built its own home. We respected where we lived.

Did your family buy the home you were in or was it given to you?

I don't get your point.

Point is, at lest the one you singled out, that people have respect for thnigs that they have something to do with. Whether it be purchasing or construction. If w have a bunch of programs being run that start giving generic housing away, there will be a lot of folks that will not respect it as much as if it were generally their own rather than a mediocre handout.

My main point was that NO should NOT be rebuilt. It is a self defeating recovery. Unless you design all of them to be able to survive another flood (such as building codes that are already prevalent at the Jersey Shore) rebuilding there is just asking for trouble the next time a storm hits.

May 31st, 2006, 03:10 PM
Yes, you rebuild all of them to be able to withstand another flood, the worst flood, as it should have been done in the first place. Had they spent the money on this years ago with the same technology the Dutch use to keep their ocean out, it would have been far cheaper than the current rebuilding effort, and besides, we wouldn't be talking about this now since it would have kept out the flooding from Katrina. We can and should protect New Orleans at least as well as the Dutch protect their cities that are below sea level.

Nobody is getting a handout, as though they are getting something for nothing. They now have nothing due to incompetence and corruption - the government let these people down when they failed to protect the city from the inevitable catastrophe, the least they should do is rebuild their city and protect it the way it should have been. And if this property is so worthless, I wonder why the oil companies want to grab them. Those poor people weren't using their land right, I guess.

We're not giving up on New Orleans (even though some people spew lies to discourage the effort) - it is there for a reason. It is the largest port by volume in our country at the mouth of our largest river system. It also has its own distinct culture with its own population that will always be drawn to it. You couldn't move the city if you tried. Just protect it like they were supposed to, and let the local population do the work of rebuilding instead of Halliburton.

May 31st, 2006, 03:21 PM
My main point was that NO should NOT be rebuilt. It is a self defeating recovery. Unless you design all of them to be able to survive another flood (such as building codes that are already prevalent at the Jersey Shore) rebuilding there is just asking for trouble the next time a storm hits.

If you require too much in the way of protection, people won't live there, even if the next storm is 30 years away.

Each Ward (or community subdivision - I am not that up on NO municipals) should have a location of last resort.

(I call it the "save me" building. It would in general be designed higher than the highest flood line with a generator, storage for civil defense materials, heli-pad and other flood survival brick-a-brack. )

This should be funded by the goverment at least in part - and adhere to strict building and design codes. This way you can insure that people are physically safe, but let the communities determine the acceptable level of saftey for their personal possessions and property

p.s. - Fix the damn flood control mechanisms. It is shameful that the Dutch shake their heads at us and say "oh we could have fixed that 20 years ago for next to nothing (considering the price it will cost to fix it now)"

May 31st, 2006, 04:25 PM

The Oil companies want that area so tehy can simply pump what they can (or was that natural gas) from the area and let it all sink into the ocean. There was an interesting article on that in Time magazine about a year ago I believe.

As for teh city, it has its nice spots, but it also had a bunch of areas that the city could not care less about. Most of which were flooded. They were not the driving force behind the shipyard or the shipping lane. We are confusing issues here.

All I am saying is that we should not pay to rebuild something in an area that is prone to something like this happening again. Just like Insurance should not be given to rich people that insist on building their houses so close to the ocean that one storm comes and a dozen of them are swept away. (that whole SoCal thing I believe).

I am not saying that they should not be provided for, but the providence should be in donations to things like Habitat, where these people can work a bit and get a BETTER house than what a government sponsored housing project will give them. In addition to that, people (myself included) are MORE respectful of thnigs they have had a hand in doing. They will have more pride in their dwelling and their community if it was something that owed a bit to them for being there.

May 31st, 2006, 04:39 PM
If you require too much in the way of protection, people won't live there, even if the next storm is 30 years away.

Hate to tell you, but most storms are based on a 50 year return period, not 30. I kow what yuo are saying about this, but your arguement works both ways. If requiring that a building has to be built to survive in the area that it is being built in discourages people from living there it should be a sign. It is a sign that that is not a hospitible area for habitation!

Just like the wildfires sweeping the grasslands that the suburbs have expanded into, or bears attacks that now occur in NJ, CT and NY where there was once wilderness, it should come as a strong reminder that we are not free to just plop ourselves down wherever we feel like it.

California would also be a good example of what is now being required in construction for Earthquake safety. But just because they have stricter standards for lateral forces does not mean that they have stopped building there.

Each Ward (or community subdivision - I am not that up on NO municipals) should have a location of last resort.

(I call it the "save me" building. It would in general be designed higher than the highest flood line with a generator, storage for civil defense materials, heli-pad and other flood survival brick-a-brack. )

This should be funded by the goverment at least in part - and adhere to strict building and design codes. This way you can insure that people are physically safe, but let the communities determine the acceptable level of saftey for their personal possessions and property

I sort of agree to that, but the thing is, why bother?

Not in the sense of not providing a safe haven for the people, but more like, if the town was OBLITERATED in the first place, why are we bothering to rebuild it in an area that is not suited for rebuilding? Why not relocate? Aside from the human feeling of settlement and posession, is there any real reason 90% of the people in that area could not be moved a little further inland?

p.s. - Fix the damn flood control mechanisms. It is shameful that the Dutch shake their heads at us and say "oh we could have fixed that 20 years ago for next to nothing (considering the price it will cost to fix it now)"

We should have, but as soon as somethnig like that finds its way on the budget, everyone screams that they should not be paying for it. Building things is a politicians best boon, but paying for them is their bane.

If that system was done properly, we would not be having this discussion. But it wasn't. The question now is not what-if, but what will be done now that will bring the best results. Having another dyke constructed ni the area will cost TONS of money and is still no guarantee that the town will be safe.

You bring the example of the Dutch, but hell, there are people there that are even starting to make their houses flotable on metal guide posts! Just because Amsterdam has not been destroyed yet has not removed that possibility from their minds.

I don't know. I guess it is difficult to get people to move away from what they are used to. I just get frustrated when you see someone standing in a snakepit and you try to warn them and they will not listen to you since they have been in that pit their entire life.

It does not mean they will not get bitten because they do this and that or have been there so long, but you wish they would just climb out and set up somewhere else....

May 31st, 2006, 05:09 PM
We should leave the Dutch out of this. They have no choice.

After all, it is a low country

May 31st, 2006, 05:14 PM
We aren't talking about a town in California prone to wildfires or a town in the plains located in a river floodplain, this is a major city and the most major port in our country, not to mention one of our country's most special places - it can't just be moved, abandoned, or its population relocated. There is a culture THERE, in that spot, around its cultural hub, the high-and-dry French Quarter. The people who work at the port facilities and who keep the tourist industry running, live there, nearby, some in the cheaper parts of town. That was left to itself, and now it's being abandoned, that's two wrongs. Though it's always been flood-prone (why so many houses there are built on stilts) it wasn't always below sea level, that happened when the river was kept from flooding, so historically nobody moved into a snake pit, it was created.

I do not think they should rebuild New Orleans. I think they should just clean everything out and open the dykes.Why stop there? There are dykes protecting St. Louis and Memphis too, among thousands of other places.

June 1st, 2006, 10:12 AM
We aren't talking about a town in California prone to wildfires or a town in the plains located in a river floodplain, this is a major city and the most major port in our country, not to mention one of our country's most special places - it can't just be moved, abandoned, or its population relocated.

Yes it can.

The areas that were destroyed were primarily low income residential that were built after the success of the main town, which was not flooded.

The historic city was, for the most part, not damaged by the flood. Why do we feel the need to go back and rebuild the overcrowded slums back to their original "splendor"?

There is a culture THERE, in that spot, around its cultural hub, the high-and-dry French Quarter. The people who work at the port facilities and who keep the tourist industry running, live there, nearby, some in the cheaper parts of town.

Not all of them. That is why I said 90%

Unemployment was very high in NO. Somehow saying that all the people living in the surrounding areas around NO were essential to its survival is a little naive.

Some are definitely needed, just as they are in any town, but REBUILDING THEM IN A CATASTROPHIC FLOOD ZONE IS NOT SMART!

That was left to itself, and now it's being abandoned, that's two wrongs. Though it's always been flood-prone (why so many houses there are built on stilts) it wasn't always below sea level, that happened when the river was kept from flooding, so historically nobody moved into a snake pit, it was created.

Most of the people were in that pit for their entire lives NYK. It did not happen just in the past 5 years or so. The reason it is sinking was many, read the Time article about the resource extraction, the channel dredging, and other things that are threatening the land more than a set of dikes being under-designed. Clam-beds and other industries are dying because of the gradual MAN-MADE sinking of the entire area.

And there is no real practical way to reverse this! So just because it wasn't a snake pit 100 years ago when it started does not make it safe now. Also, it was not built up like this 100 years ago either!

Like I said, do not look to what it WAS as an argument for building. Look at what it is NOW and the practicality of what is being proposed to save an area that has little, if anything to do with the "historic" and "Cultural" foundations of the area.

Why stop there? There are dikes protecting St. Louis and Memphis too, among thousands of other places.

Why bring up that? You are starting to beat straw men here. Are those towns destroyed right now? As we speak? Are their dikes under-designed?

When a house burns down, you strive to rebuild it. But when it burns down because you put it next to a volcano, you try to move the house a little bit further FROM the volcano the next time. You don't simply build a bigger wall between them.

June 1st, 2006, 02:25 PM
Yes it can. You know how to move a port city? I'm all ears.
The areas that were destroyed were primarily low income residential that were built after the success of the main town, which was not flooded.Way oversimplified, irresponsibly so.
Why do we feel the need to go back and rebuild the overcrowded slums back to their original "splendor"?You just made that up. Nobody said that.
Somehow saying that all the people living in the surrounding areas around NO were essential to its survival is a little naive.Nobody said, "all" the people, but talk about naive, that flooded area most definitely has to do with the cultural and historic parts of the city, many of them have been with families for generations. That's where they first sang the blues, my friend.
I go down there often, in fact I just got back. My job takes me there for some of the new engineering projects, and I have family there too. I've seen first hand what can and what can't be rebuilt, and who is and who isn't essential. It is struggling to survive without so many of those people, not just the ones from the low income neighborhoods, flooding was bad in lots of areas and they are lacking essential workers - blue and white collar. Like they say down there, "it ain't gumbo without filé". Well, it ain't the same New Orleans without those residents.
REBUILDING THEM IN A CATASTROPHIC FLOOD ZONE IS NOT SMART!Duh. So make it so it won't be catastrophic, if possible, and where it's impossible, don't rebuild.
The reason it is sinking..... Spare me.
Like I said, do not look to what it WAS as an argument for building. Look at what it is NOW and the practicality of what is being proposed to save an area that has little, if anything to do with the "historic" and "Cultural" foundations of the area.Again, if you don't think that area is cultural or historic, you don't know what you're talking about. Most of it wasn't a slum, and many badly flooded areas definitely had redeeming qualities. Here in New York we know that any neighborhood has the potential to come back. In fact, this may be its golden opportunity, provided they don't waste or steal the money slated for infrastructure. That will be the biggest challenge about whether it can or can't be done.
Why bring up that? You are starting to beat straw men here. Are those towns destroyed right now? As we speak? Are their dikes under-designed?Oh, so you don't want to destroy communities that are currently unharmed? I couldn't tell that when you said,
I do not think they should rebuild New Orleans. I think they should just clean everything out and open the dykes.and since much of New Orleans is fine right now, opening the dykes would certainly destroy what is left.
When a house burns down, you strive to rebuild it. But when it burns down because you put it next to a volcano, you try to move the house a little bit further FROM the volcano the next time. You don't simply build a bigger wall between them. True, but we're not talking about a house, nor a volcano.

June 1st, 2006, 05:07 PM
You know how to move a port city? I'm all ears.

You do not move the port.

Like I said, most of teh people and living quarters theer were NOT for dock workers. Also, if you read the article I keep mentioning (which I admittedly cannot find, but googled some others with this: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&rls=GGLJ%2CGGLJ%3A2006-13%2CGGLJ%3Aen&q=%22time+magazine%22+new+orleans+sinking) you will see how the ports are moving themselves. Sorta.... ;)

Way oversimplified, irresponsibly so.

You want me to get a civil survey and delineate the incomes of all the families whose houses were damaged or destroed by Hurricane Katrina while I am here at work?

Come on NY@K! You know you are pulling a trump card that I cannot beat here! You also know that MOST of teh housing destroyed was not essential to the area recovering! You say my ideas are oversimplified, but anymoreso than someone saying "rebuild it all"?

You just made that up. Nobody said that.

It is an inferrence. They said they wanted to rebuild NO. To get some of the area back, to be able to save its historical significance etc etc etc. They use these terms in loose affiliation to the French Quarter, but then apply that same reasoning for the entire area.

And I am not saying that anyone HERE is coming out and saying that, but that that is a common thread of reasoning that is being used by the politician to try to procure additional funding.

Nobody said, "all" the people, but talk about naive, that flooded area most definitely has to do with the cultural and historic parts of the city, many of them have been with families for generations. That's where they first sang the blues, my friend.

Because they were happy?

All I am saying is that the only thing that was historical about a lot of these areas was that people have been suffering there for generations. Sometimes "old" does not necessarily mean "historical".

Add to it "Old and Destroyed" does not mean the same as "not quite the same anymore". We are not talking about a proposed redevelopment that would somehow destroy what was there. All that is gone!

You do not need buildings to rebuild history if most of the history was PEOPLE.

I go down there often, in fact I just got back. My job takes me there for some of the new engineering projects, and I have family there too. I've seen first hand what can and what can't be rebuilt, and who is and who isn't essential. It is struggling to survive without so many of those people, not just the ones from the low income neighborhoods, flooding was bad in lots of areas and they are lacking essential workers - blue and white collar. Like they say down there, "it ain't gumbo without filé". Well, it ain't the same New Orleans without those residents.

New Orleans is not New Orleans without the people, I know that. The thing is, it is not NO anymore either. Who says they cannot build another town further inland that would reflect the culture they left behind in that pit? It does not have to be Oaklahoma, but above sea level would be nice!

Duh. So make it so it won't be catastrophic, if possible, and where it's impossible, don't rebuild.

That is the difficult part. Like talking to an architect. You can do almost anything an architect wants in a design, it just costs a lot more to do it. And even then it would not guarantee that that would survive a catastrophic event. You need to TOTALLY REBUILD the entire levee system if you want to be sure a CAT5 will not do this again. And that would be no guarantee of survival if some combination of events (Harvest Moon High Tide with a Hurricane) occurred.

...if you don't think that area is cultural or historic, you don't know what you're talking about.


What is historic about a totally demolished neighborhood? It is like restoration projects. In my neighborhood, they restored a building in town, board for board, because it was deemed historic.

Thing is, noce that happened, it was no longer the same old building, and it was since remodeled.

So you take a town, level it, scatter its people around the country, and you say that somehow rebuilding it is necessary to make it somehow recapture the history?

It will never be the same again. It will only be a copy, at best, of the original. If teh peopel are what matters in a community after everything else is lost, why set yourself up in a bad situation again?

Most of it wasn't a slum, and many badly flooded areas definitely had redeeming qualities. Here in New York we know that any neighborhood has the potential to come back. In fact, this may be its golden opportunity, provided they don't waste or steal the money slated for infrastructure.

We all know how honest and uncorrupter LA and NO are! ;)

And as for rebuilding, New York is not in the same situation. Building again in areas of the city that were not destroyed by natural occurance would be able to be preserved SOLELY by human intervention. The reason NY decayed was lack of human attension, not a hurricane or earthquake.

San Fran would be a better example, but I am not aware of any major $$ for rebuilding being spent lately. Even Northridge pales in comparison to the $$ of rebuilding NO.

Not only that, SF has SO many restrictive building codes to try to help prevent another 190(4) that they are not exactly directly comparable to NO.

That will be the biggest challenge about whether it can or can't be done. Oh, so you don't want to destroy communities that are currently unharmed?

This whole arguement has been about rebuilding. What areas were undamaged by the levees bursting that would be now if we were to open everything up?

And no, I am not talking about destroying anything. I am commenting on the fallacy of rebuilding in an area that would be exceedingly hard to preserve without SUBSTANTIAL governmental intervening. If SF got another earthquake, it would not require the US government to build stronger buildings. Right now the rebuilding of NO requires the government to build stronger levees.

I couldn't tell that when you said, and since much of New Orleans is fine right now, opening the dykes would certainly destroy what is left.

I probably split this wrong (all your comments got squished together on the quote). I am not talking of destroying what is left, but the minimizing of this desire to reconstruct what was destroyed in areas that are at high risk. If you could build a smaller, but better levee system to insure the town better than what they are building now, I would chose that.

For christ sake they are saying that "everything is OK" and that they are "rebuilding the levees to be able to protect NO to the level they did in the past" or some other wording indicating that they are not improving anything!

They shoul dhave just saved the $$ and built a better, albeit smaller system. Yes they would have had to sacrifice some areas, and everyone would yell and scream about it, but the chance of losing anything the following year, or two, or 10 would be much less.

True, but we're not talking about a house, nor a volcano.

And you are criticising me about using indirect associations to illustrate a point?

You build your house in a flood zone, and it floods, why should anyone have to tell you to move out of the flood zone?

And why does there have to be money given/spent to rebuild your house IN that same flood zone?

The horse is dead NY@K... We are not going to see eye to eye on this.

You can reply if you want, I understand fully where you are coming from, I just do not agree with all you are saying.

That's about all I can say! I hope you can at least see what I am getting at and not have it colored by what others may have said about this...

June 2nd, 2006, 11:44 AM
Okay. It was getting boring anyway. Besides, they already are rebuilding.

Laissez les bon temps roulez.

June 2nd, 2006, 11:53 AM
They should have abandoned Venice a hundred years ago.

June 2nd, 2006, 02:11 PM
Nah, they just kept building houses on top of the old ones!

And it was also never majorly damaged. It just keep sinking....

July 5th, 2006, 06:49 PM
The State of New Orleans: An Update

NY TIMES (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/05/opinion/05fellowes.html?_r=1&oref=slogin)
July 5, 2006

Last week this newspaper reported that more than $2 billion in reconstruction aid for the victims of Hurricane Katrina had been lost to "scams, schemes and stupefying bureaucratic bungles."

Add to this the inexcusable $7 billion allocated for temporary trailers and mobile homes, which cost far more than available rental apartments, and the scale of waste is stunning.

Nonetheless, the vast majority of the $107 billion we calculate has been allocated by the federal government has been converted by public officials and private leaders into a substantial amount of progress. In New Orleans, levees have to a large extent been rebuilt and millions of tons of debris have been cleared away. Nearly $6.4 billion in new cash assistance is now headed to Louisiana homeowners; an additional $1.5 billion will go toward replenishing affordable housing stock in the state.

Still, as the chart below indicates, problems in reopening hospitals and schools and in getting city services operating will make it hard for New Orleans to attract new families, particularly the service workers that support the tourism industry. And in some ways those uprooted by the storm are doing worse than those in the city itself: of the 309,000 working-age adults still displaced by the hurricane, nearly 25 percent are unemployed — a rate more than four times as high as in New Orleans itself.

The $20 billion in new spending that President Bush signed off on last month will be the last major investment for some time. We must hope that the federal agencies on the receiving end and their state and local partners find ways to spend it wisely.


Matt Fellowes is a fellow at the Brookings Institution. Bruce Katz is the director of the metropolitan policy program at Brookings.
Amy Liu is the deputy director of the program.
Nigel Holmes is a graphic designer.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

July 15th, 2006, 02:33 PM
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Of the many ways Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, none is clearer than the storms assault on the citys neighborhoods. Eight months after the disaster, more than half of New Orleans remains empty, mile after mile of abandoned houses, shops, offices, schools, and churches. The promise of federal aid remains largely that a promise, and local and state authorities are struggling to produce plans for the citys future.

New Orleans Flood Water Map, August 31, 2005

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August 28th, 2006, 12:23 PM
Maybe it's deja-vu,this sudden obsession with Katrina reappearing once again like Marley's Ghost.I thought I shook it off six months ago,but it keeps coming back,like unwanted flashes of 9/11,which also seem to be reoccuring in larger numbers these days.

First,I liked New Orleans and flat HATED what the hurricane did to it.
I liked the crummy parts of NO,like the slummy stretch along Chef Menteur where I had some of the best gumbo in town,or the funky stilt settlements along the flats east of the City on US 90,fishing shacks that gentrified into permanent homes,all of them with little catchy homemade signs out front; "Dunwerkin","Cannabis Row","Howe's Bayou",and the like...

I liked the beauty parts of New Orleans,like the St Louis Square zone,the Audubon Terrace enclave,St Charles Ave or the whole Garden District,places that have a legitimate history dating back to Jefferson and an ambiance not found in too many cities.The entire city,even the ugly parts,lazed under a terrific canopy of mature trees.It smelled like piss and looked like a rose garden.

And the fun parts???...everything from toy guns that spark to flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark,with music.There's food that you write posts about fourteen months after it was consumed,and clubs and bakeries and po'boy stands and jazz bars that can drain all the excess off your Mastercard and make you pull out the Visa.

I walked,drove or took streetcars through most of the neighborhoods that have become so familiar to people who pay attention to NOLA.
City Park,Ninth Ward???--Been there...E New Orleans???...there too.Carrolton,Lakeview,Upper Ninth--each area has tire scrapings or shoe leather in it's concrete that I deposited personally.And I've ridden every mile of steel track that takes the streetcars where they are supposed to go.

As I became familiar with the place,I also came to recognise the topography.

In my many visits there,I came to feel the mild claustrophobia that came with feeling somewhat...enclosed.I also sensed the strong presence of water,something like how you feel when you begin getting really close to the Beach,but you can't see it yet.
Like,as I was walking a seemingly normal brick street along the Western reaches of St Charles Ave,hemmed in by demi-mansions and dense plantings,I see the superstructure of a huge freighter glide past,well above my line of sight.Turns out that the green hill a few blocks away is a levee,and the Mississippi is beyond it.

I climbed a well-worn path and crested the levee.The passing ships,and there were many of them--and all big--cruised past at approximately the same level I was standing.The Mississippi had to be a half-mile accross,and it was flowing like a conveyor belt on high speed,transporting a billion pounds of liquid past my feet every second.
When I turned around and saw that every rooftop,church steeple,tree and person in the neighborhood that I had just climbed out of was well below my position,I came to realize how screwed New Orlenians are if bad things ever happen,water-wise.

I live in Florida,where the land is totally flat and only a few feet above sea level.Moderate storms routinely flood the place,sometimes to depths that would rival New Orleans' numbers.Whole towns go under.
I've always thought it was just dumb to build in places prone to flooding,but then my family built a home on Captiva Island,elevation 3',and I came to enjoy what should be disallowed,building in a place guaranteed to flood.
Several times,water had it's way on the Island,culminating in it's near-obliteration at the evil mercy of Hurricane Charley.

In New Orleans,the water had its way,and the puny efforts to hold it back--the same effort that allowed thousands of homes to be build where they never should have,inadequate levees--washed away like a sandcastle at high tide and a long-awaited disaster took the stage as the bowl that is New Orleans filled to the rim.

Most of the city,the damaged parts in particular,need to be abandoned,or at best become stilt cities.No matter how well-built or how big the levees are,they cannot hold back the water if it wants to have it's way,and the water WILL be back someday so the concept of rebuilding this place back to what it was is foolish to the Max.

One suggestion was to simply dump a lot of fill in some of the affected areas and redo the city,only a little higher.Ten feet higher.
Come on.The cost to raise the land to safe heights is beyond money,and not too smart for a whole lot of reasons.Besides,raised land would require raised levees,and a spiral could start, right there,involving highways,sewer lines,etc.

Actually,even living on stilts would require raising the elevation for things like roads,shopping centers,driveways to stilt homes,etc,assuming there was enough dirt in the South to even contemplate the idea of the repopulation of New Orleans over an area of any appreciable size on any scale.

I suggest turning large areas of the city--like the infamous Ninth Ward,almost entirely destroyed and mouldering a full year after it's demise--into multi-use,water related things.It's a large piece of geography,Staten Island-sized.
Build it back as Theme Parks,golf courses with many water hazards,Water Worlds.Maybe put a NASCAR track there,or an airport.Restore the wetlands and have the largest urban park anywhere.When the next water problem hits,these easily sacrificed things will go by the wayside with few tears.

Just don't encourage people to live there.

August 28th, 2006, 01:30 PM
I agree.

Somehow slating money to rebuild areas that will be prone to another disaster is just like throwing money into a fire.

It is wasted beyond anything I can say.

But people will not leave. They are very possessive and even if given land elsewhere, and money to build, they will feel somehow insulted by the displacement.

The thing that gets me is not the fact that they will feel displaced or relocated, but that they somehow feel it is up to the rest of us to give them back what they had WHERE THEY HAD IT!

I am sorry, but if my brother lost his house because he built it too close to the ocean, I would not be giving him money to rebuild where he lost the first one.

As for the destroyed areas? Level them and make them sub-sea level parks and recreation facilities. Soccer fields, fairgrounds, racetracks, whatever. Something that does not have a lot to lose, or clean up after, if the levee breaks (rather WHEN the levee breaks) again.

August 28th, 2006, 06:08 PM
Why not build levees and canals that can withstand a level 5 Hurricane? I'm sure with all the money and technology this country has, we can build something that could hold to any power of a storm. Hell, if the Netherlands can build something like this: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/2/27/Oosterscheldedam.jpg



Why can't we? Politics?

August 29th, 2006, 09:09 AM
No, money.

Also feasability and scope. Comparing the situation in NO to areas liek Amsterdam are not fair. They have been taking it seriously for a VERY long time.

Now, in a country that is having trouble providing services for people in an area more corrupt than little italy during prohibition you thnik that pouring billions of dollars down there to make a levee system will produce one that will

a) be finished on schedule and under budget
b) Actually provide the protection needed

Will it be worth it? What is the only reason for putting them back up? Does that area produce anything? Is there no room for the people that were living there to live somewhere else? Can the money be spent more productively elsewhere?

For the cost of the dyke system you show there, they could probably rebuild the entire city somewhere else.

August 29th, 2006, 10:26 AM
Also -- Would you trust the Army Corps of Engineers to do the job?

About Re-Building ...

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August 29th, 2006, 07:19 PM
A year later, recovery in New Orleans not easy

POSTED: 5:25 p.m. EDT, August 29, 2006

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One year after Katrina, Anderson Cooper is live in New Orleans with a look at what areas are still struggling and what still needs to be done. Tonight at 10 ET. ");}One year after Katrina, Anderson Cooper is live in New Orleans with a look at what areas are still struggling and what still needs to be done. Tonight at 10 ET.

By Eliott C. McLaughlin
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NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (CNN) -- After months of rebuilding, Henry and Flora Hamilton's house doesn't look like it was sitting in 7 feet of water a year ago. The same can't be said for most of their neighbors' homes.
Shells of houses surround the Hamiltons' eastside residence, many missing patches of roofing and brick exteriors. Some of the Hamiltons' neighbors live in emergency trailers as they try to repair their houses; most have given up and abandoned them. The once-bustling Lake Kenilworth ballpark, still struggling to push up grass in the infield, has sat for months without a visit from its young sluggers.
In many ways, the Hamiltons' New Orleans East neighborhood looks like Hurricane Katrina struck last week. Call it a theme in a city still reeling a year after one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history.
According to the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank, roughly a third of the city's schools, hospitals and libraries remain closed, as do half the city's public transportation routes.
Thousands remain displaced, either living in FEMA trailers or calling a new place home. But a sign in the Hamiltons' yard points to the perseverance of those who stayed or returned to build: "We're home."
After evacuating their home of 16 years in the wake of Katrina, the Hamiltons had to make a daunting decision during their monthlong refuge in Centerville, Mississippi.
"When we finally got back, we seen the devastation and at that time we had decided we'd tear the whole thing down and we probably wasn't gonna return. But each time we came back, we were leaning more toward rebuilding," Henry said.
After gutting the house, Henry realized the foundation was still sound. The 53-year-old sugar-plant worker decided, "This was home." With the help of friends and family -- including son Jamie, 28, and longtime pal Charlie Mills, a retired plumber -- Henry "just got on back and started working."
Jamie Hamilton and Mills have not been as fortunate. Jamie's nearby apartment was leveled. Mills' uptown home won't be habitable until March. Both are living in FEMA trailers -- Mills' in front of his house, Jamie's in his parents' front yard.
Cramped quarters is an understatement. Five paces in the trailer will take you from the master bedroom through the living area and kitchen to the bathroom. Everything -- stove, closet, beds, shower -- is miniaturized.
Jamie Hamilton's wife Lovey doesn't live in the trailer. She lives on the other side of the Mississippi River with family, but their kids, 3-year-old Elijah and 4-month-old Joshua, visit often and like sleeping in the bunk beds wedged snugly behind a bathroom wall.
"It's not what you're used to, but it's better than not having anything at all. It's a small sense of having a home and some place to lay your head," said Jamie, who is working in a downtown casino to scrape up the funds to reunite his family.
'Tale of two cities'

Parts of New Orleans scream recovery; others scream for it. On one side of the city, you can't find a gas station intact. On the other, all three of Larry Flynt's Hustler clubs are blinking on Bourbon Street.
"We are a tale of two cities," said Mary Beth Romig, spokeswoman for the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. "We have a long way to go in those residential neighborhoods."
http://i.a.cnn.net/cnn/2006/US/08/29/katrina.anniversary/story.superdome.jpg The Louisiana Superdome will host its first post-Katrina NFL game when it reopens in September.

However, much of uptown, downtown, the French Quarter, and the business, Garden and Warehouse districts -- all areas that draw out-of-towners -- was "spared from the flooding and they're all thriving now," Romig said.
The city lost about half of its convention business this year, but it should be up to about 75 percent next year, and "things are looking much better for 2008 and beyond," she said. "In many ways, we are back; we just need to get the word out."
Even the once-ravaged Louisiana Superdome advertises its September 25 reopening, just in time for the Saints' first home game -- an NFL Monday-nighter against the Atlanta Falcons.
Signs of Katrina are sparse in the salvaged areas, though the shops in the French Quarter peddle T-shirts showing the city still has a sense of humor. "Make levees, not war," read one. Another: "FEMA evacuation plan: Run, (expletive), run." And in a shot at the New Orleans police, some of whom were accused of abandoning their posts during the disaster: "NOPD: Not our problem dude."
The Quarter is not yet the draw it once was, though. Booze specials and strip shows are still ably promoted amid a cacophony of rap, rock, blues, jazz and zydeco, but to an audience that is a trickle of its former flow.
About $107 billion in federal recovery money has been poured into the Gulf Coast, but New Orleans is still floundering, according to the Brookings Institution.
Down 190,000 workers since the storm, New Orleans has restored gas and electricity to most of the city, but only a fraction of pre-Katrina customers are using it, according to a Brookings report examining recovery factors. Only 17 percent of city buses are running.
And 54 percent of the city's restaurants, many of them famed for their Cajun cuisine, are still closed, according to the Louisiana Restaurant Association.
On the positive side, permits for housing rehabilitation have doubled in the last six months, but rent has jumped 39 percent in the city and home prices in the suburbs have spiked, Brookings reports.
Natalie Wyeth, spokeswoman for the Louisiana Recovery Authority, said more than $7.5 billion has been earmarked for helping 120,000 families rebuild their homes.
Billions more have gone toward health care, transportation, rebuilding schools and economic development, including a $38 million program that taps high school dropouts and ex-cons for work-force training.
"We want to connect those people with the opportunity to be part of the recovery effort," Wyeth said.
There appear to be efforts to make recovery as indiscriminate as Katrina and the ensuing flooding, which devoured homes and businesses in neighborhoods ranging from the upscale areas along Lake Ponchartrain, to the middle-class Gentilly Terrace and New Orleans East neighborhoods, and down to the impoverished 9th Ward.
Slow road back

Still, some, like 46-year-old Ron Stump, note that recovery comes easier for the haves than the have nots. Stump, a St. Bernard Port employee, puts in 27 hours a week after work offering affordable home-gutting and property cleanup to needy families and his friends at the sheriff's office.
"I don't do it for people who have everything. They can pay to have everything done," Stump said.
But despite his generosity, Stump's bitterness over the torpid pace of rebuilding is evident.
"I think a lot of people aren't aware of what's happening because they're not here. How long is somebody supposed to live in one of these things?" he asked, pointing to one of the scores of FEMA trailers littering the Arabi neighborhood, east of the 9th Ward. "It's a year later, and we're still gutting houses. ... You hear what you hear. You don't see a whole lot."
There's not a grocery store near Arabi, Stump said, and while the Brookings report shows parts of the city on the rise, St. Bernard Parish is not one of them. According to the report, no hospitals or libraries are yet operational in the parish.
Only 7 percent of the public schools there have reopened, and the average price of a home as of June, according to the report, was a paltry $36,880, about a third of what it was in August 2004.
The devastation has not soured the spirits of Elbert Jourdan, a fellow port employee who earns extra cash helping Stump clean up homes in the parish.
"Quit all that cussing and fussing and carrying on. The Lord's saying, 'Work with me, so I can help you,' " said the 37-year-old. "We gotta pull together more than we've ever had to pull together in our lives. Otherwise, this house won't get done; that house won't get done."
A Crescent City comeback?

Pulling together is the only hope places like Arabi and the 9th Ward have. Though Katrina left her footprints all over the city, these areas saw the apex of her annihilation.
Cars were dismantled, and homes were regularly reduced to piles of board, pipe and insulation. A year later, some houses are still missing from their foundations, either razed and hauled off or swept away by Katrina and the flooding.
The decimation and its aftermath have left some longtime residents cynical about returning. Mike Barnett, now of Clearwater, Florida, who grew up in New Orleans and whose father is a Loyola University professor, thought he would stay when Katrina first hit.
A former Green Beret, Barnett holed up on the 10th and 11th floors of a downtown high-rise with pistols, bread, lunchmeat, a generator and hundreds of gallons of diesel fuel. His task was to keep watch over a friend's business, an Internet data center. Even though his fiancée left after 10 days, Barnett stuck it out for three weeks before deciding to relocate to Florida.
"The politicians were promising a comeback. I knew immediately they were dreaming, and as much as I love the city, I couldn't live there anymore, not the way it was. It was hideous, horrendous," said the 35-year-old freelance economic consultant. "I'll never come back to live in New Orleans. I don't have much hope for the city."
Others cannot shun their love for the Big Easy, and it is the only thing bringing them back. Charlie Mills, the Hamiltons' plumber friend, knew he was coming back even as he led an evacuation convoy of 24 friends and seven dogs to his father's home and deer camp in Woodville, Mississippi.
"I been here since 1956, so you come back. You say you're not going to come back, but you're in love with New Orleans," said the 68-year-old. "Ain't no sense in moaning and groaning. You come in this world with nothing. You gonna leave with nothing."
Jamie Hamilton agrees. Standing in his FEMA trailer as his mom's beans simmered on the tiny stove, the young casino worker said Katrina may have taken everything from some people, but it did not leave the hopeful helpless.
"It's a new beginning, and you make do with what you got," he said. "It's kind of given a lot of people a new attitude about things."

August 30th, 2006, 03:32 PM
For Harry Anderson, the New Orleans Magic Is Gone

The re-election of C. Ray Nagin, whom Mr. Anderson holds largely responsible for New Orleans’s drift since the hurricane, came as a shock ... "This city hasn’t evolved ... I just feel this place is stuck on stupid."
Andy Levin/Contact Press Images, for The New York Times
Harry Anderson is leaving his French Quarter nightclub, and the city.

NY TIMES (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/30/arts/television/30harr.html?_r=1&ref=arts&oref=slogin)
August 30, 2006

NEW ORLEANS — In New Orleans these days, even a magician can run out of tricks.

Harry Anderson, the illusionist, comic and former star of sitcoms like “Night Court” and “Dave’s World,” has lived in New Orleans since 2000, when he left Hollywood with his wife, the former Elizabeth Morgan. They rode out Hurricane Katrina in the French Quarter, in the building that houses Oswald’s Speakeasy, Mr. Anderson’s nightclub. Their home, whose ground floor was given over to Sideshow, their magic and curiosity shop, was in another building in the Quarter.

In the weeks after the storm, even before the power was back, Mr. Anderson opened his club for what he called French Quarter Town Hall meetings. The weekly gatherings, which at first offered little more than camaraderie by candlelight and warm beer, evolved into a de facto government for a part of New Orleans that had experienced little flooding but could not begin cleanup and rebuilding because of the city’s overall paralysis.

The meetings drew officials from the city, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers — all of whom were given an earful — and bit by bit, things improved. Many locals, in fact, gave Mr. Anderson a lot of credit for kick-starting the Quarter’s recovery.

So it is especially poignant that the Andersons have now decided to leave.

But their story is not unique: many in this city are suffering the same continuing loss and strain that led these two to their decision. So their departure raises the question of whether others who can afford to leave, those who have not sunk every penny into a now-moldy house or a devastated store, will also move on.

Over dinner with a journalist recently at Irene’s, one of their favorite restaurants in the Quarter, the Andersons talked about their decision.

One reason they were leaving, they said, was that the tourists were few and even fewer were coming to see “Wise Guy,” Mr. Anderson’s engaging one-man show at Oswald’s. “I had more people in my car last night,” he said to his piano player during a performance in May.

More significantly, Mr. Anderson said, he and his wife had become captives of the depression that grips many in the damaged city. “Elizabeth is by nature kind of an agoraphobe,” Harry said, looking across the table. After the beginning of the year, as the city’s ordeal ground on, she became increasingly withdrawn and unwilling to leave the house. A bad sign, he said, was “when she had groceries delivered from a couple of blocks away.”

“It was an empty time,” Ms. Anderson recalled. “I was getting farther and farther away from other people, and happiness.” She would go downstairs to open their shop each day, she said, “but the passion for it was gone.”

This spring, the local power company, Entergy, which is in bankruptcy and has instituted rate increases that have mystified many residents, sent a $900 bill for an apartment in the club building that had no electricity. (Later a monthly electric bill for a small shop space that had been shut up with the lights off came to $7,339.)

The city tried to more than double their $17,000-a-year property taxes. A lawyer had the amount reduced, but “that just meant that the lawyer got the money instead of the city,” Mr. Anderson said. Then, in May, there was a repeat of an attack that had occurred more than a year before, when a stranger had approached Mr. Anderson, slammed his face into the side of a building and cursed him, saying, “You killed the Matador.” That was the name of the bar he had replaced with Oswald’s.

But it was the recent mayoral election, Mr. Anderson said, “that was the nail in the coffin.”

The re-election of C. Ray Nagin, whom Mr. Anderson holds largely responsible for New Orleans’s drift since the hurricane, came as a shock. The Sunday after the May 20 election, he said, he walked the streets of the Quarter, angry with a result that “pulled the rug out from any hope of” change for the better.

“This city hasn’t evolved,” Mr. Anderson said. “I just feel this place is stuck on stupid.”

A few weeks later, he sat down with his laptop and began trolling Google for cities he thought he would like. One of the places that popped up was a town he had seen and liked years before: Asheville, N.C. (elevation: 2,133 feet).

At first, the Andersons told themselves they would visit just to see if they could find an “evacuation house.” They wanted, Ms. Anderson said, “some option or choice” that would give them a measure of control over their lives.

Late in April, they drove 11 hours to Asheville, looked at three houses on the same street and, the same day, bought the third one. “As soon as we had it, it was almost a given, before we expressed it, that we were leaving,” Mr. Anderson said.

Almost immediately, they decided to sell their New Orleans properties, and to their surprise found that the city is in the middle of a speculative real estate boomlet.

“We had no idea anybody was going to be buying anything,” Ms. Anderson said, adding that they were also ambivalent about trying to hold out for the best possible deal in a city where so many people were struggling.

They sold their home within a week for a bit more than they paid, but a deal to sell the club fell through, and it is back on the market.

With the die cast, the Andersons began to feel more strongly a doubt that had plagued them for some time: that while they had chosen New Orleans as a home, the famously insular city had never really accepted them. Even after he started the town hall meetings, Mr. Anderson recalled, people would thank him “for helping my city,” never “our city.”

Now, he added, they will say, “How can you do this to my city?”

Mr. Anderson said friends and relatives from out of town are happy to hear that they are moving. “It’s been a universal response from people who aren’t here,” he said.

Their New Orleans friends, too, have been supportive, Ms. Anderson said, and no one has expressed hostility. “I feel a little bit better now because I feel something is going to happen,” Ms. Anderson said. “I’m glad we tried to stay, but I don’t want to be the person I will be if I stay here.”

Later that night, after dinner, a quiet walk through the streets of the Quarter and a parting handshake, Mr. Anderson called to make one thing clear: being assaulted was not the trigger for the move.

“I don’t want people to think somebody pushed me, so I took my marbles and I went home,” he said. “We love this place.”

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

August 30th, 2006, 07:48 PM
Bush Repeats Vow to Help New Orleans

Mario Tama/Getty Images
Mourners embraced at the repaired levee wall in the Lower Ninth Ward.

(http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/30/us/nationalspecial/30katrina.html?ref=us)By ANNE KORNBLUT and ADAM NOSSITER
August 30, 2006

NEW ORLEANS, Aug. 29 — Still at pains a year after Hurricane Katrina to demonstrate
his concern over the devastation it caused, President Bush said Tuesday that he took
“full responsibility” for the slow federal response to the disaster as he made a carefully
choreographed pilgrimage to the city that suffered most ...

Carlos Barria/Reuters
Residents attended a memorial ceremony dedicated to the victims of Hurricane Katrina
at the reconstructed wall of the levee at the Lower Ninth Ward.

Carlos Barria/Reuters
New Orleans residents during a candlelight ceremony last night dedicated to the victims
and survivors of Hurricane Katrina on the levee in Orleans Parish.


Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

August 31st, 2006, 08:51 AM
Why are the casinos doing so well?

Having them profit off of people that are spending their FEMA allowances in hopes of "hitting it big" is not exactly the most upstanding of things to do down there.... :(

August 31st, 2006, 07:38 PM
There's only one casino in NOLA--a Harrah's--and it's at the foot of Canal street,south of the CBD but immediately adjacent to Bourbon St and a few hundred yards from the Convention Center.
For a few months after the flood it became a police substation,but it refurbished itself and reopened around April.I think there is another one,out near the Airport somewhere.
I would suppose that most of Harrah's suckers--uh,patrons--are tourists spilling out from the Quarter,FEMA people with government credit cards or contractors.It does supply a lot of jobs for the natives,but most NO people dismiss it as a source of revenue.

Ray Nagin,in one of his flashes of misplaced governance,recently proposed that Canal St become a casino row,with 8-10 major gambling establishments located in the big hotels along the formerly-looted Canal strip,but NO parish Council shot that idea in the head.

The Biloxi Coast currently has 4 operating casinos (out of ten there pre-K),and they are making more gelt than before the storm.Who goes there??? Biloxi's homeless???I doubt it.

August 31st, 2006, 08:39 PM
So, you're tellling me that:

Casinos > than homes for the homeless. :(

August 31st, 2006, 09:08 PM
Who's shelling out the cash at the casinos?

Probably among the gamlblers are the land speculators looking to grab as many derelict properties for as little money as possible.

August 31st, 2006, 09:30 PM
Who's shelling out the cash at the casinos?

Probably among the gamlblers are the land speculators looking to grab as many derelict properties for as little money as possible.

Basically. Wonder how much money these contractors will spend on "rebuilding" New Orleans.

September 3rd, 2006, 04:21 PM
Brad Pitt shows "green" New Orleans housing design

myway.com (http://reuters.myway.com/article/20060831/2006-08-31T213825Z_01_N31370265_RTRIDST_0_ENTERTAINMENT-WEATHER-HURRICANES-PITT-DC.html)
August 31, 2006

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Actor Brad Pitt on Thursday unveiled a "green" housing design for New Orleans's Lower Ninth Ward and said he was appalled by the slow pace of rebuilding since Hurricane Katrina hit last year.

Two New York City architects won a contest, underwritten by Pitt, for an affordable, environmentally sound housing design.

Their complex of single family homes and apartments would be built from modular pieces into long houses on a site that connects to the neighboring Mississippi River levee with a wide pedestrian ramp.

But Pitt said the recovery would not work if the city did not assure critical services such as schools, and that he did not see much progress in the area that needed it most.

"I am appalled and embarrassed that residents still do not have the opportunity ... to decide if they want to get back into their neighborhoods and recreate their communities," Pitt told a news conference.

While historic and tourist-friendly areas such as the French Quarter look barely touched by the storm that hit a year ago, killing about 1,500 across four states, many parts of New Orleans remain sparsely populated and full of ruined houses.

There is a housing shortage, which Pitt and partners said they hoped to help address.

Environmental group Global Green USA, which sponsored the effort with Pitt, is raising money to build the project for roughly $3.5 million to $5 million, a spokesman said.

Ninth Ward resident Pam Dashiell, a community association leader who was part of the jury for the contest, said that it was the first quasi-commercial development in the area since Katrina roared through, flooding 80 percent of the city.

Architects Andrew Kotchen and Matthew Berman of Workshop/APD dubbed their design Greenola, which plays on the nickname for New Orleans, Louisiana -- NOLA.

The plan, modified after discussions with the community, calls for six houses, two multifamily units and services such as child care and a community garden.

Using resource-saving appliances and fixtures, solar electricity and hot water heaters, and recycled building materials, the team hopes to cut pollution and decrease operating energy use by 50 percent to 60 percent compared with traditional homes.

Whether the new homes will look like they belong in New Orleans may depend on the eye of the beholder. Berman said that exterior materials and the addition of porches, as well as the long forms, could make them echo other buildings in the area, but the core building is intended to be reproducible anywhere.

Global Green USA's Web site is http://www.globalgreen.org.

Copyright 2006 Reuters

September 3rd, 2006, 04:50 PM


Winning Design Utilizes Green Building to Save Money and Reduce Carbon Pollution;
Green Principles Could Cut New Orleans' Electricity Costs by More than 50%



GreeN.O.L.A. Large Format Renderings:

WorkshopAPD (http://competition.globalgreen.org/images/final_panels/WorkshopAPD_01.png)
WorkshopAPD (http://competition.globalgreen.org/images/final_panels/WorkshopAPD_02.png)
WorkshopAPD (http://competition.globalgreen.org/images/final_panels/WorkshopAPD_03.png)
WorkshopAPD (http://competition.globalgreen.org/images/final_panels/WorkshopAPD_04.png)
NEW ORLEANS, LA, August 31, 2006 - Global Green USA President Matt Petersen and design jury chairman Brad Pitt announced the winners of the Sustainable Design Competition for New Orleans today.

"The winning design integrated the newest sustainable technologies while drawing upon the wisdom of the past," said Matt Petersen, President of Global Green USA. "The impressive innovations show how to rebuild a healthier New Orleans. These homes, once built, will help improve the lives of families by lowering energy costs and improving the health of the residents."

If 50,000 homes were rebuilt according to the energy cost reduction goals in the competition, residents would save $38 million to $56 million EVERY year. Each sustainably designed home would also reduce carbon and greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 11 tons per household per year, the equivalent of taking 100,000 cars off the road.

Pam Dashiell, President of the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association served as one of the design jury members and described the role of the community process throughout the competition saying, "these green building designs breathe new life into our communities; the amount of community input was incredible."

Global Green facilitated more than a dozen meetings to solicit community feedback over the three months of the competition.

The GREEN.O.LA Design will be built in the Holy Cross Neighborhood of the 9th Ward and Global Green is currently exploring funding partners and appropriate developers to begin construction later this year. Thanks to a generous $100,000 contribution towards the purchase of the land in Holy Cross from Trizec Properties Inc, Global Green will be able to begin the process of acquiring the land and ultimately building the development which will include a 12 unit multi-family housing building, six single family homes and a community center.

The jury also selected two designs to receive Certificates of Excellence. The NOLA Shotgun Loft designed by Schwartz Architects received the Certificate for Excellence for Sustainability and Breathe designed by Eskew+Dumez+Ripple received the Certificate for Excellence for Architectural Distinction.

Brad Pitt co-sponsored the competition by helping to finance the cash prizes for the finalists and winning designs and also helping to raise the initial build funds. Pitt was joined by competition sponsors including: CEO of Sole Technology Pierre Andre Senizergues, Suzanne Friewald, Sean Cummings, a New Orleanian, and an anonymous donor. Global Green USA continues to solicit financial support for the building of the winning project. The final designs of all finalists are currently viewable at http://competition.globalgreen.org/images/final_panels/ (http://competition.globalgreen.org/images/final_panels/).

At the event Global Green announced that the public will be able to view the winning designs and register to attend the Ground Breaking Ceremony in New Orleans at www.globalgreen.org (http://www.globalgreen.org). The public can learn more about the green building design principles they can adopt to save money and reduce their impact on global warming.

The Sustainable Design Competition for New Orleans - Advancing the Sustainable Rebuilding of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast - combined Global Green USA's commitment to green affordable housing, sustainable cities, and climate solutions that work for communities, with Brad Pitt's passion for intelligent architecture. The idea for the competition developed from a conversation between Brad Pitt and Global Green President, Matt Petersen, at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York City in September 2005.

The competition is a central component of Global Green's sustainable rebuilding initiative for New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, which began 10 days after the landfall of Hurricane Katrina. This contest is an opportunity to give back to New Orleans, the birthplace of great culture, music, food, and architecture.

Global Green's Resource Center and work in New Orleans is supported by the Home Depot Foundation, Jerry and Ann Moss, donations from Global Green staff and by dozens of other individuals. The Resource Center provides green building information for homeowners, residents, builders and architects and represents Global Green's ongoing commitment to help New Orleans rebuild a sustainable city.

Global Green would like to acknowledge the U.S. Green Building Council and the American Institute of Architects for their tremendous help in supporting the jury process and contributing invaluable technical support.

Global Green USA - the American affiliate of President Gorbachev’s Green Cross International – was founded by Diane Meyer Simon in 1993. Its newly opened field office and green building resource center will serve as a focal point of green building expertise for New Orleans residents and is the face of its “Healthy Homes, Smart Neighborhoods” initiative whose Honorary National Task Force includes: Julian bond, Gen. Wesley Clark, Leonardo DiCaprio, Morgan Freeman, Lee Hamilton, Pat Mitchell and David Orr. Global Green USA has been a national leader in green building for affordable housing, schools and communities for more than a decade and has influenced more than $20 billion dollars in green construction.

Copyright 2006 Global Green USA

September 23rd, 2006, 05:32 PM
What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Robert Polidori
The modern Pompeii: "2732 Orleans Avenue, New Orleans, La., September 2005." a photograph
by Robert Polidori is in "New Orleans After the Flood," at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

NY TIMES (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/22/arts/design/22floo.html?_r=1&ref=design&oref=slogin)
September 22, 2006

Art Review

After Hurricane Katrina, Robert Polidori went to New Orleans, where he lived years ago, to shoot photographs of the devastation for The New Yorker. He stayed longer than first planned, then went back again and again, for weeks, taking hundreds of pictures with a large-format camera that produced wide, superbly detailed color photographs. The camera was awkward to manipulate through the wreckage and in the heat, without electricity and lights. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Jeff L. Rosenheim, a photography curator, has selected a couple dozen of these big panoramas and interiors to make a pocket-size lament for a woebegone city.

They are unpeopled scenes: New Orleans as our modern Pompeii. Mr. Polidori stood near the corner of Law and Egania Streets where a plain, single-story cottage with a hole in the roof rests beside a telephone pole. A crisscross of power lines forms a shallow X against the empty blue sky. The house, pale green and white, recedes, diagonally.

Except that — the image can take a second to decipher — there are two cottages, one green, one white. During Katrina, the green one, like Dorothy’s house, floated clear across Egania Street from who knows where, stopped perpendicular to its neighbor by those electric lines, which acted like arrestor wires on an aircraft carrier, ripping open the hole in the roof.

Robert Polidori
“Corner of Law and Egania Streets.”

If this sounds confusing, that’s the nature of chaos, which can be as hard to photograph as it is to describe. Fortunately, Mr. Polidori is a connoisseur of chaos, and the beauty of his pictures — they have a languid, almost underwater beauty — entails locating order in bedlam.

The X of wires and the diagonal thrust of that green house, extending horizontally across the photograph, are vertically anchored by the telephone pole, creating a tranquillity in the composition that belies the actual pandemonium. Given bearings by this geometry, a viewer is set free to find details like the teetering stop sign on the street corner where the green house landed: a black-humored punch line.

All artists, as best they can, make sense of a world that is often senseless. Mr. Polidori’s work, from Chernobyl to Havana — in sometimes dangerous, topsy-turvy, out-of-time places — generally bears witness to profound neglect. A photojournalist’s compulsion and problem is always to contrive beauty from misery, and it is only human to feel uneasy about admiring pictures like these from New Orleans, whose sumptuousness can be disorienting. But the works also express an archaeologist’s aspiration to document plain-spoken truth, and they are without most of the tricks of the trade that photographers exploit to turn victims into objects and pictures of pain into tributes to themselves.

Consider the photograph of 2732 Orleans Avenue: a white house with green stoop next to a pink cottage with white stoop, under cloudy skies. Again, flat geometry, lacking melodrama: order is interrupted only by a white Ford at an angle before the white house, the subtlest of indicators that something’s awry, but enough. Stains left by the tide that apparently swept the car off the street clinch the image: they’re discreet parallel brown bands stretching across the windshield and the clapboard, adding to the serendipity of compressed abstraction. The photograph meanwhile speaks volumes about life post-Katrina in New Orleans: the traditional shotgun houses, the people in one who cared to paint the shutters green, their neighbors with the air conditioner, the other neighbors who chose pink, what they have all lost and abandoned.

Mr. Polidori shot many photographs of interiors (on the whole less memorable because less emblematic than the exteriors), where soaked ceiling fans droop like wilted daisies and caked mud has turned bedrooms into Martian topographies; each is a voyeur’s opportunity to check out the family goods, but also a memorial. The colors ravish. Intractable mold left pox stains in patterns like modernist paintings: at 5526 Chatham Street, on ornamental wallpaper with scenes of Noah’s flood, no less.

Robert Polidori
“North Robertson Street.”

Robert Polidori

“5526 Chatham Street.”

Robert Polidori
“6525 Wuerpel Street, New Orleans, Louisiana, April 2006.”

Robert Polidori
“5417 Marigny Street, New Orleans, Louisiana, March 2006.”

It’s fashionable among some artists today to stage cinematic pictures that look gothic and otherworldly, like Hollywood film stills. Mr. Polidori found real barges lifted onto real embankments, bayous where streets used to be, insulation like rendered whale blubber in giant mounds on sidewalks, S.U.V.’s propped against houses like flying buttresses and bungalows crumpled like balls of paper.

He also photographed signs of recovery: trailers and construction equipment; a few historic homes, stripped to their frames, shorn, on the verge of new life.

These are photographs, in other words, without nostalgia, as Mr. Rosenheim writes in a short introduction to Mr. Polidori’s book, “After the Flood,” but with “something of the air that generations of anonymous New Orleanians had breathed in and out.” They make “no attempt to excavate what went wrong in New Orleans or why the state and federal response remains even today predisposed to cronyism, gross fraud and corruption.” They simply testify, as Mr. Rosenheim puts it, “to a city that care forgot.”

It’s good of the Met to remind us.


Robert Polidori
“5417 Marigny Street, New Orleans, Louisiana, March 2006.”

Robert Polidori
“Vicinity of Jourdan and Surekote Streets, New Orleans, Louisiana, January 2006.”

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

November 20th, 2006, 01:59 PM
November 19, 2006
All Fall Down

BEFORE THE FLOOD The Lafitte housing development in New Orleans, in 1940 when it worked well. Plans call for razing it.

Old-Style Projects The B. W. Cooper Housing Project in New Orleans, which is being demolished, at one time fulfilled much of the New Urbanist ideal.

Audio Slide Show: Unbuilding New Orleans (http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/weekinreview/20061119_OURO_FEATURE/blocker.html)


The ravaged neighborhoods of New Orleans make a grim backdrop for imagining the future of American cities. But despite its criminally slow pace, the rebuilding of this city is emerging as one of the most aggressive works of social engineering in America since the postwar boom of the 1950s. And architecture and urban planning have become critical tools in shaping that new order.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s plan to demolish four of the city’s biggest low-income housing developments at a time when the city still cannot shelter the majority of its residents. The plan, which is being challenged in federal court by local housing advocates, would replace more than 5,000 units of public housing with a range of privately owned mixed-income developments.

Billed as a strategy for relieving the entrenched poverty of the city’s urban slums, it is based on familiar arguments about the alienating effects of large-scale postwar inner-city housing.

But this argument seems strangely disingenuous in New Orleans. Built at the height of the New Deal, the city’s public housing projects have little in common with the dehumanizing superblocks and grim plazas that have long been an emblem of urban poverty. Modestly scaled, they include some of the best public housing built in the United States.

So it’s not surprising that many of its residents suspect a sinister agenda is at work here. Locked out of the planning process, they fear the planned demolitions are part of a broad effort to prevent displaced poor people from returning to New Orleans.

This demolition strategy is not new. It is part of a long-standing campaign to dismantle the nation’s public housing system that began in the 1970s. That campaign was based on the valid belief that the concentration of the poor into segregated ghettos condemned them to a permanent cycle of poverty, crime and drugs. Specifically, it was directed at the large-scale postwar housing developments that became a fixture of American cities in the 1960s — anonymous blocks of concrete housing, like Chicago’s recently partially demolished Cabrini-Green, whose deadening uniformity seemed to strip the poor of their identity, reducing them to repetitive numbers in a vast bureaucratic machine.

The last few decades have witnessed the emergence of a new model for public housing: mixed-income developments whose designs are largely based on New Urbanist town-planning principles. Nostalgic visions of Middle America, they are marked by narrow pedestrian streets and quaint two-story houses with pitched roofs and covered porches. For HUD, they have become the default mode for rebuilding in New Orleans.

But if the sight of workers dynamiting an abandoned housing complex was a cause for celebration in Chicago’s North Side, the notion is stupefying in New Orleans, whose public housing embodies many of those same New Urbanist ideals: pedestrian friendly environments whose pitched roofs, shallow porches and wrought iron rails have as much to do with 19th-century historical precedents as with late Modernism.

More specifically, they were inspired by local developments such as the 1850s Pontalba Apartments and late-19th “Garden City” proposals, whose winding tree-lined streets and open green spaces were seen as an antidote to the filth and congestion of the industrial city.

The low red-brick housing blocks of the Lafitte Avenue project, in the historically black neighborhood of Treme, for example, are scaled to fit within the surrounding neighborhood of Creole cottages and shotgun houses. To lessen the sense of isolation, the architects extended the surrounding street grid through the site with a mix of roadways and pedestrian paths. As you move deeper into the complex, the buildings frame a series of communal courtyards sheltered by the canopies of enormous oak trees. Nature, here, was intended to foster spiritual as well as physical well being.

That care was reflected in the quality of construction as well. Solidly built, the buildings’ detailed brickwork, tile roofs and wrought-iron balustrades represent a level of craft more likely found on an Ivy League campus than in a contemporary public housing complex.

They would be almost impossible to reproduce in the kind of bottom-line developments that have become the norm.

In truth, the collapse of New Orleans’ public housing system had less to do with bad design than with cynical government policies, which were rooted in the city’s divisive racial politics. Up through the 1950s, residents of Lafitte were supported by a network of social services, from nursery schools financed by the Works Progress Administration to onsite medical care, adult education programs, Boy Scout groups and gardening clubs.

But as the middle class fled to the suburbs in the 1960s, these services were gradually stripped away, transforming entire areas of the inner city into ghettos for the black underclass.

By 2002, conditions had worsened to the point that the city of New Orleans agreed to turn control of its public housing over to HUD. Today, the richly landscaped gardens are gone. Many of the lawns have been paved over and replaced by basketball courts. Huge garbage bins, some with fading paintings of balloons, are scattered across decaying lots. Towering floodlights illuminate forbidding concrete pathways.

That neglect has now touched bottom in post-Katrina New Orleans. Most of the city’s public housing was boarded up a few months after the storm — long before most residents were able to claim their possessions or clean out their refrigerators. Many are now rat-infested. And while HUD has promised that anyone who comes back will be provided housing in the same neighborhood, those residents that have managed to return have had little voice about what their housing will be. (By comparison, the city has set up numerous town meetings to help homeowners decide how to rebuild their neighborhoods.)

The point is not that projects like Lafitte should be painstakingly restored to their original condition; nor are we likely to return to the same spirit of social optimism that created them any time soon. None of the projects rise to the level, say, of the best Modernist workers housing built in Europe in the 1920s, some of which were such refined architectural compositions that their apartments are now occupied by upper-middle-class sophisticates.

But they certainly rank above the level of much of the conventional middle-class housing being churned out today. And it is not difficult to imagine how a number of thoughtful modifications — the addition of new buildings, extensive landscaping, extending the existing street grid to anchor the project more firmly into the city — could transform the project into model housing.

Yet HUD has never seriously considered such a plan. And although HUD says it has studied what it would cost to restore the projects, it has not released any figures. Finally, it has been unwilling to acknowledge the psychic damage of ripping out more of the city’s fabric at a time when New Orleans has yet to heal the wounds of Hurricane Katrina.

HUD officials say they have not yet set a date for demolition, but they have already selected a team of developers — Enterprise Community Partners and Providence Community Housing, an arm of the Catholic church — which are working on plans for the site. Meanwhile, HUD’s vision of the future is already visible several miles away at the New Fischer development in Algiers. Built to replace a decaying 1960s-era housing complex, part of which is still under demolition, the neighborhood’s rows of two-story houses, painted in cheery pastel colors, will be occupied by a mix of low- and middle-income families. Its porch-lined streets are straight from a Norman Rockwell painting of small-town America.

But in many ways, the development is also an illusion. Conceived as an internalized world, with the majority of its narrow streets dead-ending into nowhere, the development is virtually cut off from the lifeblood of the surrounding city — the shops, streets, parks and freeways that weave the city into an urban whole. And its uniform rows of houses represent a vision of conformity that has little to do with urban life. Instead, it replaces one vision of social isolation with another.

In its broadest sense, that approach is part of the continued assault against cities as places of contact and friction, where life is embraced in its full range. By smoothing over differences, it seeks to make the city safe for returning suburbanites and tourists.

This is a fool’s game. The challenge in New Orleans is to piece together the fragments of a shattered culture.

Sadly, HUD’s plan manages to trivialize the past without engaging the painful realities that have shorn this city apart.

NEW-STYLE PROJECTS A low-income development in New Orleans has pastel houses and narrow streets, but is cut off from the city.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

January 20th, 2007, 11:16 PM
January 21, 2007

New Orleans of Future May Stay Half Its Old Size

Lee Celano for The New York Times

Abandoned homes this month on a lightly populated street in the Central City section of New Orleans.


NEW ORLEANS, Jan. 20 — The empty streets, deserted avenues and abandoned houses prompt a gnawing question, nearly 17 months after Hurricane Katrina: Is this what New Orleans has come to — a city half its old size?

Over and over, the city’s leaders reassure citizens that better days and, above all, more people are in the future. Their destiny will not merely be to reside in a smaller city with a few good restaurants and curious local customs, the citizens are told.

But some economists and demographers are beginning to wonder whether New Orleans will top out at about half its prestorm population of about 444,000, already in a steep decline from its peak of 627,525 in the 1960 Census. At the moment, the population is well below half, and future gains are likely to be small.

“It will be a trickle based on what we know now,” said Elliott Stonecipher, a consultant and demographer based in Shreveport, La. “Low tens of thousands, over three or four or five years, something in that range. I would say we could start losing people, especially if the crime problem doesn’t get high visibility.”

The new doubts, surprisingly, are largely not based on the widespread damage caused by the flood. Rather, crippling problems that existed long before Hurricane Katrina are mostly being blamed for the city’s failure to thrive.

In this view, the storm was merely a grim exclamation point to conditions decades in the making. Before the storm, some economists say, New Orleans may have had more people than its economy could support, and the stalled repopulation is merely reflecting that.

Hurricane Katrina may have brutally recalibrated the city’s demographics, setting New Orleans firmly on the path its underlying characteristics had already been leading it down: a city losing people at the rate of perhaps 1.5 percent a year before Hurricane Katrina, with a stagnant economy, more than a quarter of the population living in poverty, and a staggeringly high rate of unemployment, in which as many as one in five were jobless or not seeking work.

Political leaders, worried about the loss of clout and a Congressional seat, press for people to return, but a smaller New Orleans may not be bad, some economists say. Most of those who have not returned — 175,000, by Mr. Stonecipher’s count — are very poor, and can be more easily absorbed in places with vibrant job markets, they say.

Large-scale concentrations of deep poverty — as was the case in New Orleans before the storm — are inherently harmful to cities. The smaller New Orleans is almost certain to wind up with a far higher percentage of its population working than before Hurricane Katrina.

“Where there are high concentrations of poverty, people can’t see a way out,” said William Oakland, a retired economist from Tulane University who has studied the city’s economy for decades. “Maybe the diaspora is a blessing.”

Others, however, worry that permanently losing so many people threatens the city’s culture — its unique way of talking, parading and eating.

“Culture is people,” said Richard Campanella, a Tulane geographer who has written extensively about the city’s neighborhoods. “If half the local people are dispersed and no longer living cohesively in those social networks, then half of local culture is gone.”

The new doubts also take into account the current barriers to repopulation, including the well-documented failure of the state’s Road Home aid program for homeowners, the loss of tens of thousands of jobs since the storm, the crime problem and delays in rebuilding moderately priced housing. Official efforts — local, state and federal — to rebuild the network of hospitals, schools and public housing projects that once served the city’s huge poor population have been faltering. But they also look at what New Orleans was before the storm.

The low population figure, 191,000, which was reported by the Louisiana Recovery Authority in November last year in the most credible survey to date, was about half the 444,000 count in a census estimate before Hurricane Katrina. The number was surprising, dashing expectations of a “big return,” as one economist put it, and was hotly disputed by local officials. Still, upticks, if there are any, are imperceptible: the percentage of prehurricane gas and electric users who were getting service, for instance, remained the same from April to November 2006, the Brookings Institution reported last month.

“Our expectations were just wrong,” said James A. Richardson, an economist who directs the Public Administration Institute at Louisiana State University. “I don’t believe it will ever be 450,000 again. I think New Orleans did not need 450,000 people to support the economy you had at that time.”

With no real place for the poorest of the evacuees in the economy before the storm, New Orleans may have permanently lost that part of its population. Supporting that notion is an unpublished analysis by Mr. Oakland, the former Tulane economist, which shows unusually low rates of participation in the labor force before Hurricane Katrina.

Thus, a frequent impression of prehurricane travelers to New Orleans — that there were “a lot of people hanging around, going nowhere,” as Edmund S. Phelps, the Nobel-winning Columbia University economist and sometime-visitor, puts it — turns out to have a statistical basis.

The statistics, which compare the number of people actually working with the total working-age population, suggest “there are a lot of people out there not working,” said Mr. Oakland, referring to the period before Hurricane Katrina. Or, he said, they were working in an underground economy, not measured by statistics. If not actually illegal, he said, it was not very profitable.

In New Orleans, before the storm, about 4 out of 10 men in the working-age population were out of a job or not looking for one, compared with less than 3 in 10 nationally.

Employment had dropped sharply in the city from 1969 to 1999, Mr. Oakland writes. More than half of young black men ages 16 to 24 were not in the labor force. Unemployment rates among young blacks were above 25 percent. “The data is showing New Orleans is really a basket case,” Mr. Oakland said.

In the city’s poorest areas, the numbers were even more discouraging. In places like the Lower Ninth Ward or Central City, half of all working-age people were not looking for work, Mr. Oakland wrote. The real unemployment rate in these impoverished, high-crime areas, which would include those not looking for work, would have been a “whopping” 32 percent, he wrote.

Compounding the city’s difficulties, and, in effect, helping to stem the population loss, was a secondary factor: the direness of the city’s poverty, and its concentration. Those conditions helped make the city’s poor population exceptionally immobile. New Orleans was also poor not only in absolute terms, but also in relative terms. The poorest 30 percent of households had a lower share of the city’s total income than the comparable slice in any other similar Southern city, Mr. Oakland found.

“The job mobility was very low among the poor, so they just stay where they are, and the social welfare system shored them up,” Mr. Oakland said.

The city’s population was thus “out of equilibrium, if you would say that,” Mr. Oakland added. “It’s not normal to have that level of nonparticipation in the labor force.”

Haunting the city’s effort to repopulate, too, is the incalculable toll inflicted by ghosts from its past — a political legacy of corruption and patronage, and a deep racial division with a far more distressing passage toward integration than was experienced, say, in Atlanta.

Looking to the future, an additional 50,000 people might eventually be added to the city’s population, Mr. Oakland suggested, but there are no guarantees.

There has been little to no construction of cheap housing that would enable the return of the largest category of those still displaced, Mr. Stonecipher noted.

A second category of people, 50,000 or more who have established themselves elsewhere but who could return, may be even harder to recapture, given the combination of past weaknesses and continuing present-day hurdles.

“The longer it lasts, the more likely it is that our population is plateauing, the longer the uncertainty continues,” said Janet Speyrer, an economist at the University of New Orleans.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

January 24th, 2007, 07:56 PM
La. gov.: Bush forgetting Katrina

http://d.yimg.com/us.yimg.com/p/ap/20070124/capt.lawh60101241857.hurricanes_louisiana_blanco_l awh601.jpg
Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco addresses a news conference in New Orleans, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2007.
Blanco criticized President Bush for leaving any mention of the hurricanes that
lashed Louisiana in 2005 out of his State of the Union Address

By CAIN BURDEAU, Associated Press Writer
January 24, 2007

NEW ORLEANS - Gov. Kathleen Blanco angrily criticized President Bush (http://search.news.yahoo.com/search/news/?p=President+Bush) on Wednesday for not mentioning 2005's destructive hurricanes in his State of the Union speech, and said Louisiana is being shortchanged in federal recovery funding for political reasons.

"I guess the pains of the hurricane are yesterday's news in Washington," Blanco said.

"But for us it's still very real, very real, and it's something that we live every single day," the governor said. "But we will continue to fight, and we will continue to come on, and we will effect a recovery."

Mayor Ray Nagin echoed Blanco's disappointment at Bush's omission of New Orleans' recovery from Hurricane Katrina, but he cautioned against reopening political rifts that developed after the storm.

"We're 18 months into this thing. I'm tired of complaining and bellyaching," the mayor said. "We're going to take whatever nickels we have, whatever pennies we have, whatever dollars we have, and we're going to stretch it, and we're going to make this recovery work."

The White House had no immediate comment on Blanco's remarks.

Blanco accused the White House of repeatedly delivering less money than Louisiana has needed to repair the damage to housing, schools and hospitals. She said Mississippi has received much more help.

"I just want an end to the disparities, once and for all," the governor said.

She said Louisiana's unfair treatment set the state's recovery back by six months.


January 27th, 2007, 12:01 PM
New Orleans is going to have to adjust to the inevitable--it is a much smaller city now and will be for several decades.It's a city of a quarter million on a much larger footprint ,Rochester sized,and it has to just BE that for a while.The city needs to start thinking small.

The city had about 450,000 residents pre-Katrina,a number in itself representing a LOT of population loss since the 1980's,and the tax base was rapidly moving out as well.The place was one of the few Southern cities that was steadily losing real estate value,even as much of the rest of the country was appreciating.Reason was,it's housing stock was crumbling and it's infrastructure had crapped out.
Meanwhile,businesses were chasing the middle class,who were moving to the suburbs in record numbers.Outside of the Tourist zones,the city was just crummy,miles of trashy lots,empty strip centers and abandoned projects,and endless city streets densely filled with deteriorated wooden shacks.Most of the neighborhoods destroyed in the flood were ready to fall down at any time.

Many of it's neighborhoods were "historic" only because the buildings had been around for awhile.They were cheaply and poorly built out about hundred years ago,and they've been going to hell since.
Imagine the housing density of tenement-era Brooklyn,only it's all 1- or 2- floor homes and is made of termite-riddled wood.
The residential areas were mainly shotgun shacks on narrow lots,teardowns in any other community,and the only reason they held any architectural interest was because there were so damn many of them,crammed on narrow brick streets and smelling of mildew.They caught and held your attention as you wondered "Why would anyone want to live THERE???".

There were some homes that had some significance,to be sure,isolated houses that caught and pleased the eye,but they were flecks of gold among acres of dross.
Mostly,the streets were lined with multiple variations of the same house,many sporting the odd detail--a lamp,a stained glass window,a plywood entry-- some touch designed to put a little personality on the place.
And while the neighborhoods did hold some of the city's history and had some funk of their own,the city was mostly a social minefield,filled with places so reeking of imminent danger that you got in and out of them fast,damn the architectural anomolies.

Katrina put an end to all that.Ironically,the storm destroyed the cheap but left behind the signigicant.Huge sections of NOLA's cityscape were spared innundation,and these areas were mostly where all the architecture was kept.
The 300-year old French Quarter,much of the Central City and the Garden District were spared the worst.Much of Carrolton survived,as did Lakeside areas west of the busted 17th Street Canal.They are now the historic archetectural core of the city.

I used to LOVE New Orleans,despite the less-that-stellar surroundings,and I really hated to see it get smashed,but it was mostly a place in dire need if a complete renewal,and not as much architectural history as you may think was lost when it got suddenly renewed.

January 27th, 2007, 01:40 PM
I think most people are guilty of forggeting about Katrina.

February 16th, 2007, 12:06 AM
February 16, 2007

In Setback for New Orleans, Fed-Up Residents Give Up

ee Celano for The New York Times
Dylan Langlois, center, and Kasandra Larsen said goodbye to a friend as they prepared to move out of New Orleans.


NEW ORLEANS, Feb. 15 — After nearly a decade in the city of their dreams, Kasandra Larsen and her fiancé, Dylan Langlois, climbed into a rented moving truck on Marais Street last Sunday, pointed it toward New Hampshire, and said goodbye.

Not because of some great betrayal — they had, after all, come back after losing everything in Hurricane Katrina — but a series of escalating indignities: the attempted carjacking of a pregnant friend; the announced move to Nashville by Ms. Larsen’s employer; the human feces deposited on their roof by, they suspect, the contractors next door; the two burglaries in the space of a week; and, not least, the overnight wait for the police to respond.

A year ago, Ms. Larsen, 36, and Mr. Langlois, 37, were hopeful New Orleanians eager to rebuild and improve the city they adored. But now they have joined hundreds of the city’s best and brightest who, as if finally acknowledging a lover’s destructive impulses, have made the wrenching decision to leave at a time when the population is supposed to be rebounding.

Their reasons include high crime, high rents, soaring insurance premiums and what many call a lack of leadership, competence, money and progress. In other words: yes, it is still bad down here. But more damning is what many of them describe as a dissipating sense of possibility, a dwindling chance at redemption for a great city that, even before the storm, cried out for great improvement.

“The window of opportunity is closing,” Ms. Larsen said, “before more people like us give up and say it’s too little, too late.”

Mr. Langlois, who has repeatedly called the health and sanitation departments, the police and City Hall, said he despaired of receiving any response. In November, the couple bought their first house, and in December, they bought their first handgun.

“My friends here are just the greatest, hard-working, tax-paying people,” Mr. Langlois said, “and I think a lot of us are feeling under siege.”

The couple are unlikely to make any money on the sale of their house.

For every household that, like this one, has given up, there is another on the verge. Tyrone Wilson, a successful real estate agent and consultant, said he and his wife, Trina, a lawyer, had given post-storm life a fair chance. But, Mr. Wilson said, at the end of the school year they are likely to take their three children back to Dallas, where they took refuge after the storm.

“We came back, we tried,” he said. “It’s really draining, and at a certain point you sit down and you say, ‘We don’t have to go through this.’ ”

As a city in flux, New Orleans remains statistically murky, but demographers generally agree that the population replenishment after the storm, as measured by things like the amount of mail sent and employment in main economic sectors, has leveled off. While many poorer residents have moved back to the city, the “brain drain” of professionals that the city was experiencing before the storm appears to have accelerated.

Some say the overall effect is negligible. Greg Rigamer, a demographer who has done work for the city, said that the lack of housing had constrained the recovery, but that many residents remained fully committed to the city.

“The pattern in is certainly stronger than the pattern out,” Mr. Rigamer said.

But in December, the number of houses on the market peaked at a high not seen since the late 1980s, while the number of sales has trended downward since last June, according to data tracked by the Brookings Institution in Washington. Statistics kept by commercial moving companies show a net loss to New Orleans. Employers say they have raised salaries for skilled workers.

One oft-cited survey by the University of New Orleans found that a third of residents, especially those with graduate degrees, were thinking of leaving within two years.

Susan E. Howell, who conducted the survey, cautioned that the sample was small and that the poor were underrepresented. There are indications that low-income New Orleanians — those who will need the most help from a cash-strapped city —are making their way back, despite a lack of affordable housing, piling into relatives’ homes and trailers.

U-Haul, the rental company that is more affordable than commercial movers, has had more inbound trucks than outbound, according to the company’s records, and the number of public school children and new applications for food stamps in Orleans Parish are rising. In Houston, a task force that helps Hurricane Katrina residents resettle has paid more than $1 million in moving expenses for 350 families returning to New Orleans.

“This is a serious problem for the city, because one of the things we had pre-Katrina was the lack of an educated population,” Dr. Howell said. “We had too many people at the low end and not enough at the high end, and Katrina sort of fast-forwarded that trend.”

Because many poorer people have taken longer to return, they have not dealt with as many months of frustration as families with higher income and more mobility, so their staying power has yet to be determined.

Reganer Stewart, 30, a hotel maid, said she had been living with her cousin and her cousin’s mother and four children since November. In January, Ms. Stewart’s 12-year-old daughter, Brandi, joined them, but was put on a waiting list for school and could not enroll until earlier this month.

Houston, which Ms. Stewart had not liked when she evacuated there, was growing more attractive as her search for an apartment here grew longer. “Most likely, we going to leave,” she said.

In battered but proud New Orleans, abandonment is a highly emotional subject, in part because many have made sacrifices to stay and rebuild. To some, leaving now is tantamount to treason. When a report appeared a year ago that Emeril Lagasse, the famed chef, had said the city would “never come back,” reservations at his restaurants were canceled and strangers berated him. He insisted he had been misquoted.

And in response to an article in The Times-Picayune of New Orleans about a woman who had decided to move on, Poppy Z. Brite, a New Orleans novelist, wrote: “This isn’t an easy place to be right now, and the decision to stay or go is deeply personal. But why must some people use the media to take a parting shot at the city?”

On another occasion, Ms. Brite said, “If a place takes you in and you take it into yourself, you don’t desert it just because it can kill you. There are some things more valuable than life.”

Such fierce sentiments help explain why a dozen people who were planning to move or had already done so declined to speak on the record for this article or allow their name to be used. One man, a chef, said he wanted to remain anonymous because he was likely to return someday. A university professor said she did not want to compromise her employer’s ability to recruit.

“If I was going to be really politically savvy,” she said, “I would say that I was going to do a job search about this time anyway.”

The decision to leave is especially difficult for natives, said Elliott Stonecipher, a demographic analyst in Shreveport, La., even if they are going no farther than the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain.

“They just won’t talk about it; they do not want to talk about it,” Mr. Stonecipher said, adding that the reluctance shows just how unusual the city is. “It’s remarkable that they just don’t want anybody to know that they gave in.”

Others have unimpeachable reasons: Paul Gailiunas, a doctor whose wife, Helen Hill, was murdered in their home last month, left immediately for South Carolina.

As for Ms. Larsen and Mr. Langlois, they have taken in all the fury at those who are leaving, in newspapers, neighborhood forums on the Internet and even in the bars and cafes of their neighborhood, the Ninth Ward. But while many of their own friends had expressed disappointment, none had blamed them.

“Not only do they understand why we’re leaving,” Ms. Larsen said, “but they say, ‘You know what, I’m thinking about getting out of here, too.’ It’s like they’re waiting for that one more bad thing to happen.”

Brenda Goodman contributed reporting.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

February 16th, 2007, 09:20 AM
Here's the question. We do, indeed need to help rebuild New Orleans, but how much do we have to throw money at a problem like this?

I think we should move these people OUT of NO, and demolish the neighborhoods that were flooded. It is not a very attractive solution, but this place needs to come back on its own, with help from the US, not because we are throwing money at the politicians and hoping something will start growing from that sh....t.

Humans are so weird though. There will always be some that demand to move back into these high risk areas, despite having no real way to do so, and they will demand support to resume a life in an area that does not want to be that way right now.

I am not for denying support for these people, or anyone who was hurt by the ACE's negligence with Levy design or our failure to evacuate in time, but I am also against people believing that we can take an entire CORRUPT municipality and get it back up on its feet just by political speeches asking for money, or promising money, a few celebrities building houses and an overall feeling of "community spirit".

This aint a barn raising.

People will eventually come back, but you can''t rush rebuilding things like this, especially when your foundation sucked even BEFORE the destruction happened.

February 16th, 2007, 12:58 PM
We're damned if we do, and damned if we don't. That is this hidden tragedy of Katrina.

May 1st, 2007, 07:17 AM
La. Plan to Reclaim Land Would Divert the Mississippi

By Peter Whoriskey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 1, 2007

ISLE DE JEAN CHARLES, La. -- Over two centuries, engineers have restrained the Mississippi River's natural urge to wriggle disastrously out of its banks by building hundreds of miles of levees that work today like a riverine straitjacket.

But it is time, Louisiana officials propose, to let the river loose.

To save the state from washing into the ocean at the astonishing rate of 24 square miles per year, Louisiana officials are developing an epic $50 billion plan that would rebuild the land by rerouting one of the world's biggest rivers. The proposal envisions enormous projects to provide flood protection and reclaim land-building sediment from the river, which now flows uselessly out into the Gulf of Mexico.

The cost of the project, which was initiated by the legislature after hurricanes Katrina and Rita revealed the dangers of the sinking coast, dwarfs those of other megaprojects such as the $14 billion "Big Dig" in Boston and the $8 billion Everglades restoration.

"This will be one of the great engineering challenges of the 21st century -- on the order of the Channel Tunnel or the Three Gorges Dam," said Denise J. Reed, a scientist at the University of New Orleans who has focused on the river. "What is obvious to everyone is that something has to be done."

Specifics are still being worked out, but the plan calls for allowing the Mississippi to flow out of its levees in more than a dozen places in Louisiana, creating, at seven or more sites, new waterways that would carry a volume of water similar to that of the Potomac River. At least three of those waterways, in fact, would run many times as fast as the Potomac.

Those diversions would carry the Mississippi and its land-enhancing sediment into the eroding coastal areas. Other elements in the plan call for mechanically pumping sediment to rebuild marshes and barrier islands. Hundreds of miles of new or reconstructed levees would add flood protection.

The plan now faces two political hurdles. First, the state legislature, which called for the development of a plan last year, must approve it on a straight up-or-down vote. Although the shipping and fishing interests that would be significantly affected by the river diversions are expected to weigh in along the way, they have been quiet so far.

"I haven't heard any opposition yet; people in Louisiana know what's at stake," said state Sen. Reggie P. Dupre Jr., who introduced the bill that called for the planning effort.

The next step, winning federal approval and money, is expected to be more difficult.

In the past, Washington has been unwilling to commit such large sums of money. A $14 billion Louisiana coastal restoration program with some of the same elements as the current proposal was shrunk to about $1 billion in 2004 after the Office of Management and Budget called it too expensive.

But that was before Katrina and Rita fulfilled predictions that the wetland loss was making the state far more vulnerable to storm surge. The hurricanes killed more than 1,400 people and displaced more than 1 million Louisiana residents.

"If the hurricanes didn't make the point we've been trying to make for all these years, nothing will," said Sidney Coffee, the chairman of the state authority created by the legislature to develop a plan. "We can't afford to be scaled back again."

"We didn't want to take risks before," said Scott Angelle, secretary of Louisiana's Department of Natural Resources. "But now we've been hit in the head with a two-by-six. We're ready."

The Loss of Land

For decades, the steady loss of Louisiana's coastal wetlands was considered a slow-motion disaster, but not an emergency.

Most of southeastern Louisiana was built over the past 6,000 years by the sediment of the Mississippi River, which naturally changed course and flooded over the millennia. The river deposits created everything from the land that New Orleans sits on down to the state's southernmost -- and marshiest -- extremes.

Since the settlement of New Orleans, however, the levees built to prevent catastrophic flooding have slowly but inexorably contributed to a different type of catastrophe: the loss of land.

The hemmed-in river could no longer occasionally change course and overflow to spread its sediment and build up the land. The soft soil of southern Louisiana continued to settle and sink. At the same time, the wetland vegetation that had helped hold the existing land together was crisscrossed with navigation canals, paths for oil rigs and gas pipelines.

Since the 1930s, an estimated 1,900 square miles of land have been lost, an area about the size of Delaware.

Entire bayou Cajun communities -- Leeville, Port Fourchon, Isle de Jean Charles -- have shrunk over the decades to little more than narrow strips. Fields and marshes that once supported hunting and fishing have surrendered to the ocean. After each storm, more families relocate to higher ground.

One recent morning, Keith Brunet, 31, a tugboat deckhand, and his girlfriend were doing chores in the front yard of the Isle de Jean Charles house his grandfather once lived in.

The yard, he points out, no longer supports the tomato garden that used to grow there; the soil has become too salty.

In his lawn, there are two types of grass: one small patch of ordinary lawn grass and the rest a spiky marsh variety. A 25-foot oak, planted by Brunet's father when Brunet was a child, died a few years ago, leaving only a leafless ghostly white trunk.

His father, "tired of fighting the water," recently moved north, leaving the house to Brunet. Across the street is an abandoned house where his aunt used to live.

Brunet looked around and grimaced.

"My kids will never see this place," he said. "It's going to be nothing but water."

Rickey Cheramie, 54, of Port Fourchon remembers hunting and fishing on 5,000 acres of wetlands that are now underwater. He has put his property up for sale because he wants to move north to live within existing levees.

"It's just too saddening to be here," he said. "I just keep looking for something that isn't there anymore."

Levees and Diversions

Rita and Katrina transformed a sad situation into an urgent one. Yet exactly what to do remains a matter of debate.

The most prominent argument over the plan concerns the extent and location of the new levees, which could extend protection for much of southern Louisiana.

Some communities, like Brunet's, are facing the prospect of being left out.

"It doesn't seem fair," he said. "Why not just build them down here?"

On the other side are environmentalists and scientists who say the vast earthen walls will damage any wetlands they cross. In the long run, the scientists argue, building the levees could be self-defeating.

"Healthy tidal wetlands are not in general compatible with levee construction, and without healthy wetlands the land loss will continue," said a letter from Environmental Defense, the National Audubon Society and the National Wildlife Federation.

The master plan's authors say they are seeking the right balance.

"We are not embarrassed to say we want to provide hurricane protection to as many communities as we can," said Jon Porthouse of the state's Department of Natural Resources. "But there is a lot of planning to be done before we say, 'The levees will go here.' "

While the levees have aroused the noisiest debate so far, the vast river diversions, which could place river-dependent industries at risk, may pose larger challenges.

For starters, some scientists warn that the river diversions will not work in time to rescue threatened communities. "It could be hundreds or thousands of years before we see a spot of land," said Kerry St. P?, director for Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program. But whether it's hundreds or thousands of years, it will be too long, he said: "Right now we are at absolute collapse."

By removing all or most of the flow from the Mississippi River's main channel, the more than 6,000 ships that travel through New Orleans to the ocean each year -- carrying chemicals, coal and a significant portion of the nation's grain exports -- may have to find an alternate route nearby, possibly through a system of locks and canals. That would increase travel time and add to costs. The plan also calls for closing shipping to the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, a navigation channel that some scientists said acted as a "superhighway" for storm surge caused by Katrina.

The diversions would also dilute salt water in estuaries, altering the region's shrimp and oyster harvest, one of the largest in the nation.

Some in the oyster industry waged a protracted legal battle over a smaller river diversion, but attitudes may have shifted. Oysterman Ralph "Buddy" Pausina, a member of the state's oyster task force, said they cannot stop the plan, adding: "The coast has to be protected."

In response to the myriad concerns, supporters say the plan remains largely conceptual. They focus instead on its urgency.

"Look, if we solve this problem, yes, it's going to hurt some people," said Windell Curole, a native of the affected area and a member of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. "But if we don't solve it, it's going to hurt all the people."

Curole and others note that although the problem of the ocean overtaking the coast is for now specific to Louisiana, some global-warming scenarios lead scientists to say it is just a portent of what could happen to other coastal areas in the United States.

"We're not the only ones who will have to deal with this if the seas keep rising," Coffee said. "Just the first."

Shifting the Flow

Over the past century, the Mississippi River has been penned in by levees to protect cities and farmland from flooding. These efforts have impeded the natural flow of water that replenishes swamps and marshes with sediment, which has resulted in a significant loss of land along the Louisiana coast. A plan has been proposed to divert some of the water along various points of the river to maintain the wetlands that support the ecosystem.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

James Kovata
June 8th, 2007, 12:41 AM
A plan like the above is essential. Without it, NOLA will be a beach front city in 30 years.

June 15th, 2007, 01:28 PM
Posted on Fri, Jun. 15, 2007
New Orleans turns to international aid

NEW ORLEANS -- The cash-strapped city of New Orleans is turning to foreign countries for help to rebuild as federal hurricane-recovery dollars remain slow to flow.
Kenya Smith, director of intergovernmental relations for Mayor Ray Nagin, said city leaders are talking with more than five countries. He wouldn't identify the countries, saying discussions were in the early stages. But he said the city is "very serious" about pursuing foreign help.

"Of course, we would love to have all the resources we need from federal and state partners, but we're comfortable now in having to be creative," Smith said. He did not know if the city would have to overcome any obstacles if it got firm pledges for aid, but "we want to make sure we're leaving no options unexplored."

For months Nagin has complained bureaucracy is choking the flow of much-needed federal aid dollars to New Orleans - slowing the city's recovery. As of June 8, the city said it had received just over half of the $320 million FEMA has obligated for rebuilding city infrastructure and emergency response-related costs. The city has estimated its damage at far more than that - at least $1 billion. And that doesn't include other improvements - such as raised neighborhoods - meant to help build the stronger city promoted by Nagin and his recovery director.

Discussions with foreign representatives have been occurring off and on since the storm, but Smith said the city became re-engaged after a news report in April that millions of dollars in aid offered by foreign countries after Hurricane Katrina went unaccepted.

It wasn't clear how much of the $854 million in aid originally offered remained on the table. In Katrina's wake, Cuban President Fidel Castro's proposal to send more than 1,000 medical personnel to New Orleans was among the offers of aid.

The federal government accepted about $126 million from foreign sources and encouraged some countries to give instead to private groups such as the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice told a congressional committee last month.

Nagin said city officials are now trying to skirt the Bush administration and contact foreign governments directly "to see if we can get some of those dollars coming here."

Separately, Adam Sharp, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said Landrieu is working with the government of Saudi Arabi on ways it can help restore New Orleans' City Park.

In addition, Landrieu joined Sens. Joseph Biden, D-Del., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., in asking Rice to respond to whether the United States is better positioned now to accept foreign aid should the need arise again.


© 2007 Sun Herald. All Rights Reserved.

July 13th, 2007, 06:17 AM
The New York Times
July 12, 2007

Road to New Life After Katrina Is Closed to Many

By SHAILA DEWAN (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/d/shaila_dewan/index.html?inline=nyt-per)

CONVENT, La. — This was not how Cindy Cole pictured her life at 26: living in a mobile home park called Sugar Hill, wedged amid the refineries and cane fields of tiny St. James Parish, 18 miles from the nearest supermarket. Sustaining three small children on nothing but food stamps, with no playground, no security guards and nowhere to go.

No, Ms. Cole was supposed to be paying $275 a month for a two-bedroom house in the Lower Ninth Ward — next door to her mother, across the street from her aunt, with a child care network that extended the length and breadth of her large New Orleans family. With her house destroyed and no job or savings, however, her chances of recreating that old reality are slim.

For thousands of evacuees like Ms. Cole, going home to New Orleans has become a vague and receding dream. Living in bleak circumstances, they cannot afford to go back, or have nothing to go back to. Over the two years since Hurricane Katrina hit, the shock of evacuation has hardened into the grim limbo of exile.

“We in storage,” said Ann Picard, 49, cocking her arm toward the blind white cracker box of a house she shares with Ms. Cole, her niece, and Ms. Cole’s three children. “We just in storage.”

Their options whittled away by government inaction, they represent a sharp contrast to the promise made by President Bush in Jackson Square on Sept. 15, 2005.

“Americans want the Gulf Coast not just to survive, but to thrive; not just to cope, but to overcome,” Mr. Bush said. “We want evacuees to come home, for the best of reasons — because they have a real chance at a better life in a place they love.”

As of late May, however, there were still more than 30,000 families displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita spread across the country in apartments paid for by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/f/federal_emergency_management_agency/index.html?inline=nyt-org), and another 13,000 families, down from a peak of nearly 18,000, marooned in trailer or mobile home parks, where hunger is so prevalent that lines form when the truck from the food bank appears.

Thousands of families have moved off disaster aid. It is not clear how many evacuees have permanently settled into their new communities, but postal delivery data suggest that more than 56,000 people have returned to New Orleans in the last year.

Those still in trailers and FEMA apartments are the least equipped to start over. In Houston, according to a city-sponsored survey in February, a third of the people in those apartments were elderly or disabled, a third were employed in mostly low-wage jobs, and a third were still looking for work.

Hardly any of the 77,000 rental units destroyed in New Orleans have been rebuilt, in fact, and the local and federal governments have done almost nothing to make it possible for low-income renters like Ms. Cole, who has a ninth-grade education, to return. Because she was never a homeowner, she is not eligible for a federally financed Road Home grant to rebuild her house, destroyed in the hurricane’s floodwaters like the rest of her neighborhood.

With rents double or triple what they were before the storm, she could barely afford a studio apartment, much less anything like the little shotgun house she had, serenaded by brass band parades, on a street traditionally used by Mardi Gras Indians on carnival day.

Despite their longing, some evacuees are afraid to return; they must choose between formaldehyde-laced trailers and a city they view as contaminated, poorly protected from floods and more violent than ever before.

For those who do not plan to go back, or just want to sustain themselves until they can, government solutions like the trailer parks have turned out to be obstacles, especially for the many evacuees like Ms. Cole, who has no car and lost her job at Jack in the Box when she could no longer get a ride to work. At Sugar Hill, 18 miles from the nearest supermarket, the public bus stops only four times a week.

JoAnn Anderson needs a job.

She has filled out applications and taken drug tests. She has asked people who are already employed for help. A hotel housekeeper for 22 years in New Orleans, she has called every hotel and motel in the hotel and motel section of the Memphis Yellow Pages. They are not interested.

“I keep calling them back,” Ms. Anderson said. “Once I get started working, I know they would like me because I know I do my best and I do my job. I want to work. I don’t want to just sit around getting my bones all old and everything.”

Ms. Anderson, 53, and her longtime companion, Jeffery Evans, 52, are in the category of people for whom recovery is furthest from reach. Near the end of their working lives, unappealing to employers, yet financially unable to retire, many are on the brink of ruin — or will be when their federal disaster assistance runs out.

“I was born poor; I’m probably going to die poor; and before the storm came through I was doing pretty good,” Ms. Anderson said. She and Mr. Evans paid $325 a month for half a duplex in the Uptown section of New Orleans, with “a little porch watching the laundrymat,” she said, “and a backyard.” The streetcar took her right to her job at the Columns, an elegant 1883 hotel in the Garden District. Mr. Evans built cabinets and countertops.

Now they live in a monochrome apartment complex. An empty swimming pool bakes in the Memphis heat, and frayed ropes dangle where the swings should be. FEMA pays the rent. Their social life consists of church on Sundays. For the first time in their lives, they are on food stamps, and to make them stretch, Ms. Anderson shuns the nearby Kroger in favor of a distant Save-a-Lot. Without a car, she trudges home from the bus stop with frozen turkey legs in a canvas bag over one shoulder.

For months, they searched the unfamiliar city for work — she at hotels, he at temporary agencies and, when that failed, at fast-food restaurants. But being an evacuee seemed to be enough to tip the scales against them, perhaps, the couple said, because the evacuees who took jobs right after the storm were not in their right minds.

“I didn’t really ever think that I was going to get hired, for the simple reason that I have to show my Louisiana ID,” Mr. Evans said. “It was like, I give them an application, and from their hands to the garbage can.” At one business, he said, hurricane evacuees were required to take anger management tests.

Ms. Anderson said she applied at one hotel that never responded but, weeks later, was advertising for housekeepers again. She filled out another application.

In May, Mr. Evans finally found a warehouse job near downtown. The bus ride takes so long that he leaves the house at 5 a.m. to get there by 7. He earns $6 an hour.

But Mr. Evans is not complaining. “I’ve been trying to get a job forever,” he said, “so I’m very, very satisfied that I got a job like that.”

Closed Doors for Renters

What makes this couple’s situation all the more bitter is that New Orleans is desperate for workers like them. Luxury hotels are trying to recruit temporary employees from South America. Homeowners are desperate for craftsmen and builders.

But Ms. Anderson says the city is doing nothing to bring them back, pointing out that Charity Hospital, where the poor received heavily subsidized medical care, has not reopened.

“The places where poor people, poor black people lived at, they wasn’t trying to fix up any housing,” she said. “Everything was closed down.”

Only 21 percent of the 77,000 rental units in the five parishes in the New Orleans metropolitan area are slated to be rebuilt through government grants and tax credits, according to a recent study by PolicyLink, a nonprofit research institute, with a disproportionate number for families on teacher or police officer salaries, rather than much lower-paid home health aides or hotel clerks. Rents on the remaining units have doubled or even tripled.

Despite pitched opposition, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/h/housing_and_urban_development_department/index.html?inline=nyt-org) is going forward with plans to demolish and redevelop the city’s four largest housing projects, knocking out 3,000 apartments that were occupied by low-income families before the storm and adding middle-income families to the mix. So far, there is money in place to rebuild only about 1,000 units affordable enough for previous residents.

At the state level, officials have allocated $6.3 billion for the Road Home’s assistance program for homeowners, dwarfing the $869 million allocated to the Small Rental Property Program, which housing advocates say is the most likely to replace affordable units quickly.

And when the homeowner program faced a shortfall, one proposed solution was to transfer as much as $667 million from the rental program to cover it, said Broderick Bagert, an organizer with the Jeremiah Group, which advocates for renters. That idea died, but the Louisiana Recovery Authority, which controls the money, recently voted to transfer 5 percent of the budget for renters to the fund for homeowners.

Walter J. Leger Jr., the chairman of the authority, said the 5 percent transfer was temporary to satisfy Congressional demands. Washington will be asked to replace the money down the road, he said.

Mr. Leger said the state’s focus had been on homeowners in part because landlords were more likely to be insured, but he acknowledged the need to do more to replenish the city’s work force. “We’d like to get more money for the rental program, if Washington will help,” he said.

Poor renters, though, are not the only ones who need a hand. Terry Coggins, the coordinator of a consortium of aid groups in Memphis, said many middle-class people were only now asking for help.

“They’ve exhausted their savings,” Mr. Coggins said. “They’ve exhausted their insurance money. They’ve exhausted their ability to drive back and forth and check on their property.”

Barriers for Trailers

In many ways, evacuees have become the region’s new pariahs, shunned by towns and parishes who have erected a number of legal barriers to keep them out.

At least five jurisdictions in Louisiana and Mississippi — St. Bernard, St. John the Baptist, and Jefferson parishes in Louisiana and Pascagoula and Ocean Springs in Mississippi — have begun revoking permits for trailers or allowing their zoning exemptions to expire. Those moves affect families still living in 7,400 trailers across the Gulf Coast, according to the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a group based in Washington that has sued to stop the evictions.

Joseph D. Rich, project director for fair housing and community development with the committee, said some jurisdictions have complained about crime in the trailer parks, prompting FEMA to provide extra security. Mr. Rich said he believed there was another motivation for banning trailers.

“There are severe racial overtones to these actions,” he said. “Because there’s all this concern that black and low-income people will be coming into your neighborhood.”

Some local jurisdictions are also fighting to prevent the construction or repair of rental units. In Jefferson Parish, the suburb just west of New Orleans, officials blocked a 200-unit complex for the elderly in Terrytown, citing concerns that it would increase crime, and they are fighting a second complex for the elderly in Marrero. Westwego, also in Jefferson Parish, has placed a moratorium on multifamily buildings.

“You have some people that just lack any degree of civilization,” said Chris Roberts, a Jefferson Parish councilman who has fought to remove FEMA trailers and block subsidized housing developments. “I think low-income housing which is not properly run invites those people.”

Mr. Roberts complained that such residents were often idle, but many evacuees have burdens that prevent them from working.

Gwendolyn Marie Allen, 55, formerly of the Uptown section of New Orleans, now lives in Renaissance Village, a large FEMA trailer park near the Baton Rouge airport. Ms. Allen is the sole caretaker for a son, 20, who was given a diagnosis of schizophrenia after a violent episode in the park, and a severely retarded brother, who huddled on the bottom bunk of a bed in their travel trailer, clad only in adult diapers. In an interview, Ms. Allen periodically shushed his wordless moans by waving a green flyswatter in his direction.

“I want to get out of here, baby, this is not no house,” she said. “I want something where he can move around.”

As proof of her resourcefulness, Ms. Allen opened the freezer of the trailer’s compact refrigerator where, to make room for bargain packs of meat from the supermarket, she had removed the shelves.

“The renters aren’t asking that much, just give us a start,” she said. “Put us there, and we could do what we have to do to survive. We could catch it from there.”

Copyright 2007 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)


July 14th, 2007, 05:02 AM
I hope New Orleans is rebuilt with density, civility, old southern sensibility and urbanity in mind.


...Oh, and beauty won't hurt either. Just like above.

Of course, I'm probably asking for too much. After all, this is the United States.

July 18th, 2007, 11:21 AM
“You have some people that just lack any degree of civilization,” said Chris Roberts, a Jefferson Parish councilman who has fought to remove FEMA trailers and block subsidized housing developments.

That pretty much sums up the whole isssue in N.O.

poor = unclivilized to these people.

August 26th, 2007, 07:44 AM
Obama’s Plan to Restore New Orleans

Lee Celano/Reuters
For Democrats and Republicans alike, a recovery plan for New Orleans is a new element
of the 2008 presidential campaign.

NY TIMES (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/26/us/politics/26obama.html?_r=1&oref=slogin)
August 26, 2007

WASHINGTON, Aug. 25 — On the cusp of the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Senator Barack Obama will present a plan on Sunday aimed at hastening the rebuilding of New Orleans and restructuring how the federal government responds to future catastrophes in America.

The Gulf Coast restoration, Mr. Obama said, has been weighed down by red tape that has kept billions of dollars from reaching Louisiana communities. As president, he said, he would streamline the bureaucracy, strengthen law enforcement to curb a rise in crime and immediately close the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet in order to restore wetlands to protect against storms.

Mr. Obama also said that he would seek to lessen the influence of politics in the Federal Emergency Management Agency by giving its director a fixed term, similar to the structure of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FEMA director would serve a six-year term, under Mr. Obama’s plan, and report directly to the president.

Mr. Obama, an Illinois Democrat, and several presidential hopefuls are scheduled to arrive in Louisiana this week to highlight how New Orleans has — and has not — recovered from Hurricane Katrina. Democrats have sought to use the city as an example of what they believe was among the Bush administration’s greatest domestic failures.

John Edwards, the former North Carolina senator who announced his presidential candidacy in the city’s devastated Lower Ninth Ward, is set to return to New Orleans on Monday and to appear with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York at a summit dedicated to rebuilding the Gulf Coast. For Democrats and Republicans alike, a plan for New Orleans is a new element of the 2008 campaign.

Mr. Obama, according to details provided by his campaign, said he would appoint a chief coordinating officer to “cut through bureaucratic obstacles” and a chief financial officer “to minimize waste and abuse.” Only about 40 percent of the money allocated by FEMA to rebuild schools, hospitals and other infrastructure has reached Louisiana communities, he said, which could be improved upon with better coordination.

“Let New Orleans be the place where we strengthen those bonds of trust, where a city rises up on a new foundation that can be broken by no storm,” Mr. Obama is planning to say Sunday, according to remarks provided by his aides. “Let New Orleans become the example of what America can do when we come together, not a symbol for what we couldn’t do.”

If elected, Mr. Obama said he would establish a Drug Enforcement Agency office in New Orleans that would be dedicated to stopping drug gangs across the region. He also would create a “COPS for Katrina” program, which would allow communities affected by the storm to hire more police officers and prosecutors to fight crime.

The city’s recovery has been crippled by a shortage of doctors and the closures of hospitals and medical centers. Mr. Obama said he would create a program to forgive medical school loans in exchange for doctors agreeing to practice in New Orleans.

In his plan, Mr. Obama will call for creating a National Catastrophe Insurance Reserve, which would be paid for by private insurers contributing a portion of the premiums they collect from policy holders. Working with the industry before a disaster, he said, would create a “backstop” to protect homeowners and business owners against catastrophic loss.

Mr. Obama will also propose overhauling the levee and pumping system in New Orleans by 2011 to protect the city against a 100-year storm. To restore wetlands, marshes and barrier islands to help protect the city from a future storm, he pledges to close the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, an old navigation channel that many scientists say destroyed wetlands and contributed to a funnel effect that increased damage from the storm.

Before Hurricane Katrina struck on Aug. 29, 2005, Mr. Obama had never been to New Orleans. After the storm, he visited evacuees in Houston (alongside Mrs. Clinton and former President Bill Clinton); his first trip to the city was last summer.

After outlining his plan during a morning speech at First Emanuel Baptist Church on Sunday, Mr. Obama is scheduled to take a walking tour of a city neighborhood. The procession of politicians, particularly Democrats, who are set to pass through New Orleans this week are eager to use the city as an example of why Americans need their government and the challenges facing the next president.

Copyright 2007The New York Times Company

August 27th, 2007, 10:25 AM

At least, not all of it.

Get these people OUT of the flood plain. Make it so that if the levees break, it does not put peoples lives in danger. Keep the city a manageable size and move a lot of the areas out now while they still have not been fully repopulated.

I know people want to be where they lived for XX years, but you have to look at things a bit differently. Down the NJ shore, any new construction has to be built on piles, with nothing but garage space for the first XX feet (10 or 12, I forget which). Something similar has to be put into place with these other areas, as well as a transportation system that can get people out before or after an emergency (tracks ABOVE the flood line).

If that does not happen, it is only a matter of time before we get another test of our emergency response system.

August 27th, 2007, 05:16 PM
With all the rumors about Chertoff replacing Alberto Gonzales, this seems the right place to remind everyone that Chertoff did a "heckuva job" along with FEMA.

August 28th, 2007, 03:30 PM
Ninja I agree man. This is bad news to rebuild this place. The leeves are a joke and still not fully repaired and the bowl New Orleans is in continues to sink into the sea. I mean it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out.

You put people back in bowl + bowl sinks + bowl fills with water again from storm + people are stuck in harms way yet again = people are F'n screwed.

You don't rebuild this city in the same place when you know that this type of catostrophe can and will happen in the not so distant future. It's insanity.

Then for the insurance companies telling them to go back and we'll insure you and they know they won't is a joke. It like luring a mouse to the mouse trap with promise of sustinance just to snap the damm things head off.

Build New Orleans few miles up river on high land and not in a damm soup bowl.

August 29th, 2007, 11:51 AM
On Katrina anniversary, anger persists

Mourning and memorials as New Orleans remembers disaster

Wednesday, August 29th 2007, 10:20 AM

NEW ORLEANS - On the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, anger over the stalled rebuilding was palpable Wednesday throughout the city where the mourning for the dead and feeling of loss don't seem to subside.
Hurricane Katrina made landfall south of New Orleans at 6:10 a.m. Aug. 29, 2005, as a strong Category 3 hurricane that flooded 80 percent of the city and killed more than 1,600 people in Louisiana and Mississippi. It was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States.

New Orleans churches staged memorial services, including one at the historic St. Louis Cathedral on Jackson Square, and ring bells in honor of the victims. People throughout the city will hold their own private ceremonies to remember where they were when Katrina hit, and what they lost.

"We ring the bells today for the 17, 1,800 people who have gone on to a better place," Mayor Ray Nagin said after large bell tolled a dozen times and a crowd wordlessly sounded handheld bells for more than a minute. "We ring the bells for a city that is in recovery, that is struggling, that is performing miracles on a daily basis."
President Bush visited a recovering school in the Lower 9th Ward - a predominantly black, low income area that was all but obliterated when Katrina flooded 80 percent of the city. "Better days are ahead," he said, seeking to assure residents that his administration had not forgotten the region and would make good on the promises of aid he made in the days after the storm.

"We're still paying attention. We understand," the president said.
Protesters planned to march from the obliterated Lower 9th Ward to Congo Square, where slaves were once allowed to celebrate their culture. Accompanied by brass bands, they will again try to spread their message that the government has failed to help people return.
"People are angry and they want to send a message to politicians that they want them to do more and do it faster," said the Rev. Marshall Truehill, a Baptist pastor and community activist. "Nobody's going to be partying."

"It's an emotional time. You relive what happened and you remember how scattered everyone is now. There are relationships now that are completely over," said Robert Smallwood, a local writer. "The city has been dying this slow death. In New Orleans, you can't escape it. It's bad news every day."
In Mississippi, Gov. Haley Barbour saw progress. He said Wednesday in Gulfport that about 13,000 of his state's families are still living in FEMA trailers, down from a peak of 48,000, and he expects they could all be out of the temporary housing in a year.

"We made a huge amount of progress. The character of Mississippi was revealed and it was very positive," Barbour told NBC's "Today" show.
"Everyone who gives it any thought, and I can't imagine who hasn't, has to reflect on his or her own personal experience during that time, and also look at how far we've come," said Larry Lorenz, a journalism professor at Loyola University in New Orleans.

A candlelight vigil was scheduled in Jackson Square at dusk, right around the time the French Quarter may start getting tipsy with street parties and anniversary revelers, as happened last year.
The anniversary is an opportunity for the city to recapture media attention to tell the nation what's happened to New Orleans since Katrina. Reporters, television crews and photographers have, once again, flocked to the city.
Bush and first lady Laura Bush arrived Tuesday night and dined with Leah Chase, the Queen of Creole cooking, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and musician Irvin Mayfield. Several presidential contenders, including Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, have visited in recent days.

While politicians have used the anniversary to pitch policy, think tanks, scholars and activists have released a steady stream of reports on the state of recovery.

Meanwhile, an international people's tribunal has been convened to take testimony from victims. The tribunal is being spearheaded by legal activists trying to build a case under international law accusing the United States of human rights abuses during and after Katrina.

August 29th, 2007, 12:19 PM
I went to college down there years ago and I volunteered for every weekend for two months in the months right after the storm. That city means a lot to me as do the people that live there. I can think back to so many places I went to stores, restaurants, bars and what not that are no longer there. Standing on Bourbon street a month after the storm, having only been there six weeks earlier, I couldn't believe the disaster I saw. What bothered me the most was how non of what I saw should have happened!!

All I can say is that this so called recovery operation is pathetic at best. They let anyone come down, half of whom cant raise a hammer and despite having a good heart, nothing really gets completed. What needs to be done is to have major construction firms come in, divide the city up and repair and rebuild starting with the levees that we knew were jokes 10 years ago and still are.

The money is not getting to the areas that needs it. The donations and aid is very high yet nothing and I mean nothing is getting done. I was there a few weeks ago and the area I worked in looks the same but with more gang graffiti on homes. The State and City have never seen eye to eye ( much like NYC and Albany) and this disconnect is the route of many of the problems down there. But in the end the feds are the only people to blame and its there job to rebuild this great city ( which sadly no matter what will never be the same) . Bush should have been impeached for this and this alone and the idea that Mr. Gut Feeling Homeland Insecurity chief Mike Chertoff may soon be our Attorney General, frightening is where id start describing that situation.

August 29th, 2007, 01:21 PM
The August National Geographic had an in-depth and interesting article on the subject of rebuilding New Orleans. It can be read online, here:

They make a pretty convincing case that the quintuple whammy of (i)permanent loss of protective wetlands, (ii)sinking city, (iii)rising sea levels, (iv)more powerful Atlantic hurricanes and (v)inadequate manmade protections, is a guaranteed invitation for disaster and that New Orleans, impossibly, should be moved 150 miles upriver.

August 29th, 2007, 01:40 PM
I think they need to abandon the low-lying areas.

Maybe try to save some of the more historical parts of town, but not the backwaters.

There was a short clip on the news about people coming back and not being able to afford the higher rents, then camping outside the city hall to "protest". My question is, why didn't they check before they came back?

How is the city supposed to be responsible to house people coming back if the people coming back don't even look to see if there is anything available yet?

I smell people looking for handouts. Otherwise, why would they STAY down there homeless when there are probably other areas still offering a place to stay to most of the good people that lost their homes.

Odd thing is, I have even heard of some good things about families that got moved out of the slums. They miss their home, naturally, but being tranplanted into a different environment has made them realize and start to persue their true potential.

Bottom line is, just about everything that everyone is saying is right. We need professionals down there doing the work, or at least able bodied individuals that can cart the wreckage out of some areas. It is mostly menial dirty work, but it is still work.

Which also brings me back to the homeless outside the city hall. If they are able, and people are still volunteering, why haven't they offered to help inthe cleanup rather than complain about it not going fast enough?

Anyway, professionals are needed, the town needs to be brought back to its classic former state, and the urban sprawl/slums need to be abandoned. There needs to be a new set of dykes built on good solid ground inland of the current ones that would be a considerable ammount higher and more reliable than the old ones. Anything built outside the dikes would need special provisions (such as piers), and anything NEW built inside would also have to have some emergency provisions (such as minimum height and interior roof access).

The politicians need to stop saying nice things before anything is done and simply DO them, then point at what they have done rather than at nice pictures and smiling babies.

And that is about it.

The people taht were displaced, we have to find a way to relocate them. Make a place wher they are not just transplanted, but genuinely fit into a community or economic role where they can be productive members of that society. They need jobs, schools, and other things in addition to trailers and food. Make them feel needed and maybe we can do more than clean up just the land around New Orleans.

August 29th, 2007, 06:10 PM
In the areas below sea level, where there was major flooding, now rebuilding should be allowed. Everything in these area's should be seized by eminent domain, and bulldozed.

Then, river silt should be dredged and trucked/pumped into to these areas, and the land built up till it's well above sea level. Then I'd allow the areas to be rebuilt.

August 29th, 2007, 06:51 PM
One problem with filling in below sea level land is that some of the NO land is sinking ... so it would be a continuous and on-going task to maintain the level above that of the water ...

August 29th, 2007, 10:57 PM
Shoveling sand against the tide.

October 18th, 2007, 01:36 AM
NOLA Gets Boost from Brad Pitt's Housing Group
Architectural Record
October 16, 2007
by Alec Appelbaum (http://archrecord.construction.com/news/daily/archives/071016nola.asp)

Who’s snickering about Brad Pitt’s interest in architecture now? The movie star jolted attendees at the Clinton Global Initiative (http://www.clintonglobalinitiative.org/NETCOMMUNITY/Page.aspx?&pid=1399&srcid=-2)’s annual conference in late September by announcing a plan (http://www.clintonglobalinitiative.org/NETCOMMUNITY/Page.aspx?&pid=1713&srcid=1612) to replace 150 destroyed houses in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward with new, environmentally sustainable ones that cost less than $200,000 each.

Seeking justice for city residents who lost their houses in what he termed an “abysmal” rescue effort, Pitt and his partners formed an organization called Make it Right (http://www.makeitrightnola.org/) to hire 13 architectural firms for green designs that fit the local vernacular. He promised that each model will match what residents want to see with what engineers need to provide to protect against climate change and future floods. “Our goal is to bring green technology to the affordable level and not have it look like a Prius,” Pitt said. When attendants laughed nervously, he added: “I own two of them, it’s all right.”

Graft (http://www.graftlab.com/), a Los Angeles architectural firm, collected prototype proposals and belongs to the design-review team. Louisiana-based Billes Architecture (http://www.billesarchitecture.com/), Concordia (http://www.concordia.com/home/), Eskew+Dumez+Ripple (http://www.studioedr.com/index_flash.html), and Trahan Architects (http://www.trahanarchitects.com/) all submitted designs, as did international offices including Adjaye/Associates (http://www.adjaye.com/), BNIM Architects (http://www.bnim.com/fmi/xsl/index.xsl), Constructs (http://www.constructsllc.com/), KieranTimberlake Associates (http://www.kierantimberlake.com/home/index.html), Morphosis (http://www.morphosis.net/), MVRDV (http://www.mvrdv.nl/_v2/), Pugh + Scarpa Architects (http://www.pugh-scarpa.com/), and Shigeru Ban Architects (http://www.shigerubanarchitects.com/).

The prototypes meet guidelines that William McDonough (http://www.mcdonough.com/), whose cradle-to-cradle model treats all architectural inputs as reusable. According to KieranTimberlake partner James Timberlake, each house must total less than 1,000 square feet and stand between five and eight feet above the ground to protect against floods.

Make it Right put residents’ priorities first in developing these designs. “Pitt’s people were consulting with homeowners on questions of style and livability, and all buildings will address the street,” observes Timberlake, who, like the other architects, worked on the project pro bono. “This is an attempt to rebuild a neighborhood in a way that copycat homes couldn’t.”

Pitt told the Clinton audience that he hopes to break ground on at least one house by the end of 2007. He and movie producer Steve Bing (http://www.tmz.com/2006/11/08/steve-bings-50-million-dollar-flop/) have pledged to match $10 million in sponsorships toward this goal.

October 18th, 2007, 01:08 PM
Over the past ten years,New Orleans had become one of my favorite places,and to watch the City come undone by the floods was a difficult thing to witness.
Rarely has a city been visited by a near-complete elimination of it's infrastructure,AND then watched as its' citizens departed,taking with them much of the unique character that made the place what it was.
After all,NOLA is NOT Dubuque or Columbus--it was one of those towns that was a standout,bigger than life,a real City back when New York was a bead-trading outpost and it's been like that since before the inception of the Nation.
Recently,despite its' reputation as a crime-ridden cesspool and a training ground for future political felons,NOLA had become--mostly due to it's party-til-you-drop ambiance--one of the country's primary tourist destinations,attracting millions annually in large part because of it's dense historical character.It was one hell of a city,a great place to visit.

That is why advocating the abandonment of much of Post-Katrina New Orleans is a tough opinion to me have.

What Katrina bestowed on the Gulf Coast was not just a disaster,it was a disaster that nobody can fix,a huge Humpty-Dumpty that fell from the levee and shattered into a million pieces.Most if it did not need to happen--ie; if the arrogance that allowed whole Parishes to be built in low-lying swampland had never been exercised,very few would have been affected by the inevitable floods.If thousands of individual decisions to build homes RIGHT ON THE WATER had never seen the light of day,storms like Katrina would be mere footnotes.If the people who built the levees actually KNEW what they were doing,they would have argued about the futility of building them in the first place.

But it WAS built up and populated,during a time when Americans foolishly embraced the idea that Nature was just another irritance to be overcome.Hell,we can bridge miles-wide rivers;we can strip mine whole mountains,suck as much oil from the Earth's crust as we can burn and build 'scrapers that touch the sky.
Why NOT build a wall around a sunken,swampy basin and invite a million people to live there?
For that matter,why not wall in the thousand-mile course of one of the planet's mightiest rivers?So we did,and when Nature's sardonic calling card was delivered on it's silver platter,Man's efforts to wall out disaster with puny dirt levvees were undone in moments.

Even after entire sections of the City were destroyed and stripped of people,this peculiar arrogance managed to survive and it re-emerged,this time with inventive,trillion-dollar plans to rebuild it all pretty much in the same way.These plans should be re-thought,and quickly.What is being proposed is hugely expensive and an engineering fantasy.NOLA WILL flood again,and all those new ideas will just wash away and join with all the Old Ideas.

Imagine,for example,that Staten Island is wiped out.You can create your own disaster scenario here,but imagine SI in the same position as New Orleans.(NOLA's Ninth Ward land mass and population are--were--about the same as Staten Island's).
About 30% of the Island has survived,the other 70% lies destroyed,fully or partially.Sixty percent of the population is living somewhere else,in Newark,Brooklyn,Buffalo.There are no schools or hospitals,no municipal services of any kind,no busses,sewers or--in a third of the Island--electricity,no fresh water,mail service or supermarkets;jobs have fled and the tax base is in negative numbers.Housing--what's left of it--is rare and expensive.Civility has retverted to jungle-like conditions as the few remaining citizens rob and kill each other nightly.
It's been two years since the Incident,and you are in charge of rebuilding the place.
What would you,looking at the Disaster Area from your Manhattan skyscraper,do?
Especially if you know that the disaster that wiped Staten Island out is bound to return?

Like the guy quoted in the Geographic article said:"...If these homes flood twice,it's all over for the City...".
They will flood again,no doubt.

October 18th, 2007, 02:06 PM
Anyone read the story of King Canute?


Man cannot defeat Nature, but of course in his arrogance thinks he can.

October 18th, 2007, 04:31 PM
Arrogance is when man thinks he can defeat nature.

Intelligence is when he knows he can live with nature.

People moving back into some of teh classic areas is all well and good, but people moving back into the lowlands is just not smart. It is our base territorial instincts taking over and clouding what would be common sense.

The levees are not fully reconstructed, and if another similar storm hits any time in the near future, we could be faced with the same scenarios.

So while I definitely feel for these people, you just do not build a straw house in a hurricane zone. You need to do it right if you are going to do it again, and sadly, that is not happening here.

October 18th, 2007, 06:38 PM
Hof, I can't agree more. I have friends in Metarie who are bred, born and reared natives invested in revitalizing the full expression of this cosmopolitan, libertine, melting port of a city. (He is a nightlife maven and former bartender/bar-owner. She, a medical doctor/research PHD associate professor at Tulane.) They have a destroyed property in the Gretna historic district I've been consulting on, (hopefully we'll rebuild.)

Here (http://wirednewyork.com/forum/blog.php?b=56) is an illustrative 10 sec. .mov of the effects of sea level rise in the NOLA region, (I hope you're wrong Al).

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/41/Landsat_new_orleans_nfl_lrg.jpg/799px-Landsat_new_orleans_nfl_lrg.jpg (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/41/Landsat_new_orleans_nfl_lrg.jpg)

October 30th, 2007, 01:13 PM
..If you go to "nola.com",they have archived an interactive map that shows Katrina flooding,block-by-block.It's amazing how quickly much of the City was flooded,and how deep the floodwater actually got in places.

December 5th, 2007, 11:05 PM
December 3, 2007
Brad Pitt Commissions Designs for New Orleans

Concordia's idea for the devastated Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans includes a house with wide steps where neighbors can gather.

By ROBIN POGREBIN (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/03/arts/design/03pitt.html)
Thom Mayne of Morphosis in Los Angeles designed a house that would float if the city floods. James Timberlake of KieranTimberlake Associates in Philadelphia created a house with native vines climbing up the side walls to provide shade and coolness. Steven B. Bingler of Concordia in New Orleans envisioned a house with wide front steps ideal for a traditional crawfish boil.

Those are three of the designs by 13 architecture firms commissioned by the actor Brad Pitt to help rebuild New Orleans’s impoverished Lower Ninth Ward, one of the neighborhoods hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The project, called Make It Right, calls for building 150 affordable, environmentally sound houses over the next two years. In a telephone interview from New Orleans, where he plans to present the designs today, Mr. Pitt said the residents of the neighborhood had been homeless long enough. “They’re coming up on their third Christmas,” he said.

Mr. Pitt said he had been attached to New Orleans for more than a decade. “I’ve always had a fondness for this place — it’s like no other,” he said. “Seeing the frustration firsthand made me want to return the kindness this city has shown me.”

Rather than bemoan the slow pace of redevelopment in the Ninth Ward, Mr. Pitt said he decided to address the problem directly by teaming with William McDonough, the green design expert; Graft, a Los Angeles architecture firm; and Cherokee, an investment firm based in Raleigh, N.C., that specializes in sustainable redevelopment. John Williams of New Orleans is the executive architect for the project.

“If you have this blank slate and this great technology out there, what better test than low-income housing?” Mr. Pitt said. “It’s got to work at all levels to really be viable.”

When Make It Right was announced at the meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative in September, Mr. Pitt pledged to match $5 million in contributions to the project, as did Steve Bing, the philanthropist. Nine other firms — all of whom donated their services — are involved, including Adjaye Associates; Billes Architecture; BNIM Architects; Constructs; Eskew & Dumez & Ripple; MVRDV; Pugh and Scarpa Architecture; Shigeru Ban Architects; and Trahan Architects. “We wanted to have a mixture of voices,” Mr. Pitt said.

Beyond serving a public need, Mr. Pitt — who has a longstanding interest in architecture — was eager to see what the designers came up with. “I was most curious about advancing the discussion further,” he said. “That was certainly one of the benefits of this exercise. There is no other reason to call on these great minds if you’re just going to shackle them.”

The green building elements will reduce upkeep costs by at least 75 percent, Mr. Pitt said, and reduce some of the problems that devastated the Lower Ninth Ward during Katrina, when multiple levee breaks forced thousands of people from their homes.

The architects were each asked to design a 1,200-square-foot house for about $150,000, with Make It Right to help with the financing. The houses had to be built five to eight feet off the ground, with a front porch and three bedrooms.

Mr. Mayne of Morphosis opted for a lightweight concrete foundation anchored by two pylons, like a pier, which would buoy the house if floodwaters rise. “It’s a boat,” Mr. Mayne said.

“The population doesn’t want to live on stilts — and it’s expensive,” he added. “These are simple houses for low-income people.”

Mr. Bingler of Concordia said his design called for homes “that would respond to the culture of the Lower Ninth Ward.” He said residents had asked him for “a house where the baby can be sleeping in the back, the mama making red beans in the kitchen and the grandpa can be on the front porch entertaining neighbors.”

Mr. Pitt is asking foundations, corporations and individuals to contribute to the project by adopting one house, several houses or a portion of a house through the project Web site, makeitrightnola.org. “You can adopt a tankless water heater or a solar panel or a tree or a low-flush toilet,” Mr. Pitt said. “You can give it to someone for Christmas,” he said — instead of another sweater.

Responding to critics who question the wisdom of rebuilding at all in an area likely to get hit again, Mr. Pitt said: “My first answer to that is, talk to the people who’ve lived there and have raised their kids there. People are needing to get back in their homes.”

James Timberlake added cooling vines
climbing up the side of his building.


NPR interview (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=16846943)


http://makeitrightnola.org/images/arch/d_eskew_01.jpg (http://makeitrightnola.org/mir_SUB.php?section=mir&page=designs&mySub=eskew)

December 6th, 2007, 08:50 AM
They look like cheap boxes on stilts!

December 6th, 2007, 11:45 AM
I really like the Eskew+Dumez+Ripple scheme. Looks like well designed, affordable architecture that's environmentally appropriate to flooding. I especially like the screens on the front doors that nod to traditional New Orleans embellishment.
As for the commisioner of the designs, Mr. Pitt and his lovely wife are a great example of celebrities that I admire, and there aren't many of them nowadays.

December 6th, 2007, 02:11 PM
Brad Pitt was on Larry King last night ...

He spoke of the fact that building materials which are now used (or have been used in the past) are themselves a big cause of environmental polution. And how wasteful our consumption practices are in regards to materials used for paking, etc.

He was joined by architect William McDonough, "a world leader in environmental architecture", who spoke about the plans for sustainable architecture, and that the plan for the Lower 9th is to use materials which degrade back into the environment while creating structure which will lower utilities costs.

William McDonough + Partners (http://www.makeitrightnola.org/mir_SUB.php?section=mir&page=team&mySub=wmp)

There is a website regarding the rebuilding of NOLA: Make It Right (http://www.makeitrightnola.org/)

The Make It Right Project Team (http://www.makeitrightnola.org/mir_SUB.php?section=mir&page=team)

From CNN:

On practicing environmental conservation and sustainability in his own lifestyle:

LARRY KING: Has this affected your interest in this, your own lifestyle. The fact that you practice this?

BRAD PITT: Oh yes, oh yes, sure. I'm putting in a water capture system in our home in L.A. right now and incorporating solar. And yes, I think it is really exciting, this idea that we can insert ourselves into the ecosystem, this idea that within nature there's no concept of waste is mind-boggling to me. Anything that's discarded becomes fuel or becomes food for something else. And that we can be -- we can be living that same way.And then, you know, it just sounds smart to me. It's fun. But on top of that, sounds respectful to the people around us, respectful to the world. And then you want to get into the politics and dependence on oil. It's a no-brainer for me.

December 22nd, 2008, 04:18 PM
In New Orleans, Pitt's First "Make It Right" Homes Complete

December 11, 2008
By Shawn Kennedy (http://archrecord.construction.com/news/daily/archives/081211PittHouses.asp)

A year ago, actor Brad Pitt presented lot owners in the devastated Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans with a portfolio of designs by 13 well-regarded architects, saying, in essence, choose a design and your house will be built.

The first six homes built by Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation are now finished. They represent not only fresh starts for homeowners, but also blueprints for affordable, storm-resistant, and sustainable housing designs. “The goal is to bring people back,” says John Williams, the New Orleans architect supervising the endeavor. “But this project is also a laboratory for what can be done here and elsewhere.”

Heavily subsidized by Pitt’s foundation, the per-house budget of $150,000 is possible because of donated materials and services, including the architects’ designs. Williams acknowledges that these prototypes exceeded the budget, but says costs will drop as more houses are built. The goal is to build 150 homes; Pitt’s foundation has raised money for 87 of them.

The first homeowners selected designs by Billes Architecture and Concordia, both New Orleans firms, along with KieranTimberlake of Philadelphia and Los Angeles-based Graft. With their edgy silhouettes and exuberant color schemes, the new houses stand in stark contrast to the ruined neighborhood that surrounds them.

In late August, as work neared completion, the first houses were tested by Hurricane Gustav’s 115 mph winds. Not even a window was lost, due, no doubt, to impact-resistant glass or removable hurricane fabric systems for all doors and windows. Built to accommodate a high-water event, the houses were raised at least five feet, with foundations resting on piles driven 35 feet into clay-like soil. But rooftop escape hatches address worst-case scenarios.

The houses are among the first in the city to earn LEED Platinum certification. Some materials used, such as sustainable wood cabinetry, non-toxic paints, and Energy Star appliances, are in broad use these days. Green features that take these houses to the next level include insulation that makes them five times more air-tight than typical homes, photovoltaic systems, and groundwater heat pumps for both heating and cooling. In a forward-thinking conservation measure, separate plumbing lines were installed so owners can utilize their rain harvest systems if a current state law banning rainwater for toilet use is repealed.

While homeowners were given the option of altering plans, homes were built largely as designed. Richard Kravet, a partner at Billes Architecture, says one client asked that the house be raised from five to eight feet. The additional height created an open-air basement level. To add some privacy to that space and keep the house from looking as though it is wearing stilts, one exterior wall was extended to the ground. “But in the event of a flood,” Kravet explains, “this wall extension would break away so flood pressure would not compromise the house.”

The only two-story dwelling to be built so far was designed by Concordia. Steven Bingler, its principal, says his design objective was to marry the local front porch culture with 21st century design and building techniques. To that end, Bingler gave the houses wide steps and generous front and side porches. The pitched roof is both a nod to the regional architectural tradition and an optimum position for the solar panels.

The flat-roofed house designed by James Timberlake, of KieranTimberlake, is the most overtly contemporary in the first group. In time, its sharp angles will be softened with a south-facing, vine-filled screen shading the porch and house. The metal cutouts that front the porch and its banister lend a whimsical, arty touch to the design.

So far all of the houses are stick-built with the exception of two designed by Nora Gordon of Los-Angeles based Graft. Prefabricated in North Carolina, the raised modular home’s shallow pitched roof gives it a cottage-like look that is offset by its asymmetrical staircase.

Work is already under way on additional homes; in fact, Williams expects to have 40 completed by this summer. For the next phase of development, lot owners have selected designs by Billes and Graft, along with those by Shigeru Ban Architects; BNIM Architects of Kansas City; Eskew+Dumez+Ripple of New Orleans; and Constructs of Accra, Ghana.

To view schemes by all 13 architects, check out our December 2007 story “Pitt Unveils Sustainable Designs for New Orleans (http://archrecord.construction.com/news/daily/archives/071210Pitt.asp).”

Photo courtesy Billes Architecture

House by Billes Architecture: Richard Kravet, a partner at the firm, says one client asked that the house be raised from five to eight feet. The additional height created an open-air basement level. To add some privacy to that space and to keep the house from looking as though it is wearing stilts, one exterior wall was extended to the ground. “But in the event of a flood,” Kravet explains, "this wall extension would break away so flood pressure would not compromise the house."
Photo courtesy Billes Architecture

Photo courtesy Billes Architecture

Photo © Virginia Miller/courtesy Make It Right Foundation

House by Concordia: Steven Bingler, firm principal, says his design objective was to marry the local front porch culture with 21st century design and building techniques. To that end, Bingler gave the houses wide steps and generous front and side porches. The pitched roof is both a nod to the regional architectural tradition and an optimum position for solar panels.

Photo © Virginia Miller/courtesy Make It Right Foundation

ZPhoto © Virginia Miller/courtesy Make It Right Foundation

House by KieranTimberlake Associates: The flat-roofed house designed by James Kieran is the most overtly contemporary in the first group. In time, its sharp angles will be softened with a south-facing, vine-filled screen shading the porch and house. The metal cutouts that front the porch and its banister lend a whimsical, arty touch to the design.

Photo © Virginia Miller/courtesy Make It Right Foundation

Photo © Virginia Miller/courtesy Make It Right Foundation

House by Graft: So far, all of the houses are stick-built with the exception of two designed by Nora Gordon of Los-Angeles based Graft. Prefabricated in North Carolina, the raised modular home’s shallow pitched roof gives it a cottage-like look that is offset by its asymmetrical staircase.
Photo © Virginia Miller/courtesy Make It Right Foundation

Photo © Virginia Miller/courtesy Make It Right Foundation

Photo © Virginia Miller/courtesy Make It Right Foundation

Work is already under way on additional homes; in fact, John Williams, the New Orleans architect supervising the endeavor, expects to have 40 completed by this summer. For the next phase of development, lot owners have selected designs by Billes and Graft, along with Shigeru Ban Architects, BNIM Architects, Eskew+Dumez+Ripple, and Constructs.

December 23rd, 2008, 03:05 PM
I like some better than others, but the stilts are needed!

There is already a regulation down the NJ shore that new houses built within a certain range need to have XX feet of unoccupied space (garage, storage, open).

Complacency and reliance on the dikes in NO made common sense go out the window...

November 5th, 2009, 02:21 PM
New Orleans in the forefront of a green building revolution

(Judi Bottoni/AP/file)
Global Green’s solar home project in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward features a solar-paneled flat roof for maximum sun exposure.

Hurricane Katrina provided New Orleans with the opportunity to be part of an environmental revolution and rebuild its houses, schools, and neighborhoods in a green, sustainable way.

By Husna Haq | Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor/ November 4, 2009 edition (http://features.csmonitor.com/environment/2009/11/04/new-orleans-in-the-forefront-of-a-green-building-revolution/)

When hurricane Katrina blew into New Orleans four years ago, Matt Petersen watched in shock as the floodwaters retreated, revealing one of the most devastating natural disasters in US history: billions of dollars in damages, 80 percent of the city flooded with filthy water, and a government response that provoked a firestorm of criticism.

“I watched everything play out in horror,” says Mr. Petersen. “And, like everyone else, I went through the process of thinking, ‘What can I do?’ ”

Petersen donated money and considered volunteering, but that wasn’t enough. “I kept feeling this well up inside me, I felt compelled to act,” he says.

As the city’s cleanup began, Petersen, the president and CEO of Global Green, an environmental nonprofit that promotes green building, saw a silver – or green – lining in Katrina’s catastrophic wake.

“I began to think, ‘Maybe I can do more.’ I run an organization with big thinking behind it; it’s a Red Cross for the environment. We have the greatest assemblage of green building expertise. How can we deploy that?” he says. “Certainly the city was going to be rebuilt. And this great city presented us with an opportunity to create the first truly green city in our nation.”

So Petersen opened Global Green’s first New Orleans office in March 2006.

Now, four years after hurricane Katrina swept through New Orleans, he and a bevy of green-minded government employees, nonprofit organizations, volunteers, and celebrities (such as Brad Pitt) have helped transform the city into the frontier of a new green revolution.

“Now more people are interested in what we do,” says Wynecta Fisher, director of the Mayor’s Office of Environmental Affairs. “That’s what the storm did. I have had access to some of the best and brightest minds and techniques.”

As a result, the city currently operates 49 biodiesel buses and several LED stoplights, with plans to purchase LED streetlamps soon. Green, energy-efficient schools are in the works, and the city is eager to do more.

“We serve as a model,” says Charles Allen, chairman of the board of the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association in the Lower Ninth Ward. “This is how a community can recover from a major disaster. I say, look, we’re going to prove to the world that you can live in an improved, better way.”

As part of that “improved … way,” Global Green came up with an ambitious three-pronged plan: rebuild 10,000 homes to be green, adopt a sustainable neighborhood model, and upgrade area schools to be more ecofriendly. Petersen also resolved to create local expertise in green building in order to create jobs and ensure that the effort endures.

In partnership with the city and using money from the Bush-Clinton Katrina fund, Global Green plans to improve energy efficiency and air quality of existing schools and open two new schools that will be certified Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver. The schools will also help promote environmental awareness.

Global Green’s landmark initiative is the Holy Cross project, a sustainable neighborhood in the Lower Ninth Ward that will serve as a model for other communities. To generate ideas for the project, Global Green sponsored an international design competition, challenging architects to design an energy-efficient and affordable neighborhood model.

The winning proposal, designed by architects Matt Berman and Andrew Kotchen of Workshop/apd, a New York design firm, consists of five single-family homes, an 18-unit apartment building, and a community center that also serves as a sustainable design and environmental advocacy center. The goal is for all construction to use zero net energy, and be carbon neutral and LEED platinum certified.

“The idea was to design replicable, affordable, sustainable housing,” says Mr. Kotchen.

The homes, the first of which was completed in May 2008, are tall, narrow, two-story buildings wrapped in fiber cement siding and topped with photovoltaic-paneled shed roofs at 30-degree angles. Screened porches, lower roofs, and strategically placed energy-efficient windows accent the exterior.

Inside, the wood flooring has been salvaged from existing structures. Paperless drywall, or gypsum board, offers mold resistance in the humid city. Spray foam insulation prevents air leaks and increases energy efficiency. And paints use water- or soy-based solvents containing few air-polluting toxins.

It’s not just about the materials, though, says Kotchen. “It was the whole approach. For us, it’s an all-encompassing design philosophy.”

For example, he cites house and window orientation as ways to minimize sun exposure, and high ceilings and deep porches as natural cooling measures.

“Good design is green design,” he says.

Responsible waste handling is also an important part of green building. About 8,000 pounds of waste are discarded during the construction of a typical 2,000-square-foot home, according to Sustainable Sources, a green building information resource. Global Green reuses or recycles construction waste to keep materials from being carted to landfills. This also saves disposal tipping fees.

(Judi Bottoni/AP/file)
Landscaping for the solar homes features andscaping with drought-resistant plants and cisterns to catch and store rainwater.

Even the homes’ landscaping is green. Porous pavement driveways allow rainwater to permeate the ground, rather than run off, carrying pollutants into nearby rivers and lakes. Rain gardens stocked with wetland vegetation border the driveways, ready to absorb and filter downpours. And shade trees planted in strategic areas – such as the sunny south side of a house – provide natural cooling.

This isn’t necessarily new, but simply good sense, says Kotchen. “Good design has been around for a long time.”

Contrary to popular thought, green design doesn’t have to be expensive. The Holy Cross homes will sell for about $175,000 and are expected to save residents an estimated $1,200 to $2,400 each year in utility bills.

“There’s an element of justice here,” says Petersen. “The question is, how do we protect the environment and provide truly affordable housing?”

This is a theme throughout the Holy Cross project, including the 18-unit apartment building. The apartments, which will be reserved for low-income residents, are expected to rent for $550 to $650 a month.

Once complete, America’s first entire LEED platinum certified neighborhood will include the first LEED platinum certified apartment building in the US.

“[The project] has created a ripple effect,” Petersen says. “It’s bringing in suppliers, creating a workforce. We’re helping create a market. It’s humbling, yet gratifying, to see what we’ve been able to accomplish to bring back this great city.”

As reconstruction continues four years after Katrina crippled the city, perhaps the most notable rebuilding isn’t happening at homes and schools, many people say. Instead, it’s happening in town meetings and neighborhood associations.

“One thing that Katrina did, it made people really look at the importance of community,” says Ms. Fisher of the Mayor’s Office of Environmental Affairs. “People are engaged now. They’re not waiting for the government to do something for them. They’re getting involved.”

In some ways, then, it could be called a perfect storm. “Absolutely, there are blessings and silver linings that come out of every disaster,” says Mr. Allen of the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association.

The hurricane created an opportunity for New Orleans, he says. “We definitely have more friends, more resources at our disposal. It’s allowing us to make major strides.”

He pauses. “This is our chance.”

November 5th, 2009, 03:13 PM
Does green have to be so UGLY?

May 12th, 2011, 07:15 AM
Feature> New Orleans Rising

The battered city becomes a lab for architecture with its new waterfront, housing, and public space projects.

Sam Lubell

Map showing riverfront areas in New Orleans that will be redeveloped as part of the city's Reinventing the Crescent plan.
Courtesy New Orleans Building Corporation

Six years after Hurricane Katrina leveled much of New Orleans, the still-struggling city is beginning to show signs of rebirth. Projects underway amounting to billions of wide-ranging investment include new and renovated schools, hospitals, libraries, commercial corridors, boulevards, waterways, parks, and even entire development zones.

Efforts like the Claiborne Avenue Corridor will link sections of the cities that have been divided by an interstate for decades.

Construction that began a few years ago is now starting to finish up, while the city’s new Mayor Mitch Landrieu has launched a program to instigate 100 city-initiated projects that will begin or even be completed in the next three years. In total, according to William Gilchrist, the city’s Director of Place-Based Planning, over $13 billion in federal, state and local investments will go into effect. In many ways, said Gilchrist, the city has become a laboratory for new ideas in architecture and urban planning.

Architects and landscape architects are playing a major role here, and creating designs that are in some cases shockingly contemporary.

The Crescent

Mandeville Crossing by Michael Maltzan.

One of the largest, and most architecturally ambitious, city plans now underway is called Reinventing the Crescent, a $300 million riverfront redevelopment plan, with contributions by a star-filled team including Eskew Dumez Ripple working on a master plan with Chan Krieger Sieniewicz and Ten Arquitectos; Michael Maltzan Architecture; David Adjaye; and Hargreaves Associates.

The Crescent, coordinated by the public-private New Orleans Building Corporation, calls for six miles of redevelopment along the banks of the Mississippi, including a continuous linear path, iconic landmarks, mixed use development, and parks and gathering spaces.

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David Adjaye's gardens at Piety Wharf (top) and the lawn in Maltzan's new plan for Mandeville Wharf (above).

Stretching from Jackson Avenue to the Holy Cross site near the Industrial Canal, the project takes on the river’s crescent shape. It doesn’t just revitalize the riverbanks, but it reconnects these banks to the rest of the city—a connection that has deteriorated over the years with barriers like freight train tracks and floodwalls.

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From top: The timber pavilion at Piety Wharf by David Adjaye; The stage at Crescent Park; and an interior view of Mandeville Wharf.

The first phase of the project, the 1.3 mile-long Crescent Park, is being paid for by a $30 million federal Community Development Block Grant. It started construction about five months ago and should be completed by 2012. Further phases should move forward when funding is secured, said Alan Eskew, principal at Eskew Dumez Ripple, who hopes that much will be ready by the city’s tri-centennial in 2018. Already, said Eskew, the area is already seeing new adaptive reuse and development projects. “Once construction started, suddenly there’s a lot “of activity in those neighborhoods,” he said.

Maltzan jumped into the challenge of overcoming the infrastructural segmentation of the area by literally creating a bridge between the waterfront and the rest of the city.

Maltzan’s long, serpentine Mandeville Crossing, which stretches high over the railroad and the floodwall all the way to the city’s famous French Market, is what he calls “an elongated signpost for the community,” made of a series of vertical gold-colored anodized aluminum tubes that, as you move along, create a shimmering effect of light and color.

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Existing and planned conditions at Celeste Park (top) and at Spanish Plaza (above).

At the end of the pedestrian bridge, the firm is leading the revitalization of the city’s historic Mandeville Wharf for events and markets, maintaining the entire steel structure with its long span steel trusses and installing a new roof with a series of skylights to inject light into the building. The firm will also install a new indoor/outdoor platform for performances, new benches, and a new wall for movie screenings, all merging with the landscape outside and becoming the center for the Crescent’s performances.

The other major element of the Crescent Park will be Piety Wharf, featuring a grassy park and Adjaye Associates’ timber pavilion, a structure—still awaiting funding— that lies flush with the water, and appears to float. Adjaye is also designing a bridge, the Piety Crossing, which spans over floodwalls and rail tracks leading to a visitor parking lot along Chartres Street.

For Maltzan, who spent a lot of time in New Orleans when he was a young architecture student, the project is a homecoming of sorts, and a chance to give back to a city that has long inspired him. “I think the park has the opportunity to be a very important step in not only moving beyond Katrina, but creating an image of what the city can be and its future.”

Make It Right

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Alexei Lebedev, Make it Right

Brad Pitt’s Make It Right foundation has already gotten a lot of attention for building contemporary-style, highly sustainable (from solar powered to rainwater harvesting) homes in the Lower Ninth Ward— the hardest hit of all of New Orleans’ neighborhoods. So far 80 of the 150 homes have been completed, including ambitious designs by LA firms Morphosis and Pugh + Scarpa as well as others by Adjaye Associates, MVRDV, Gehry Partners, Shigeru Ban Architects, Graft, Hitoshi Abe, Kieran Timberake, and Trahan Architects. Participant Larry Scarpa equates it to a modern-day Case Study program: “There was an idea to give people an opportunity to have a new and different way to live—to provide normal people with quality design.”

“Most visitors to the neighborhood love it, a few hate it,” said Make It Right spokesperson Taylor Royle. “But the most important thing to us is that each homeowner says that their design is the best one and can give you ten reasons why they're right.”

Planters Grove

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Planters Park by Ken Smith Landscape Architect. Ken Smith

Planters Peanuts has launched a program in which noted landscape architect Ken Smith is designing Planters Groves in New York, San Francisco, D.C., and New Orleans. The parks—described by the company as “part urban revitalization, part art”—use locally reclaimed materials and native trees and plants to turn vacant lots into valuable urban spaces. New Orleans’ park, the first of the bunch, just opened.

New Orleans Grove appears on the site of a once trash-littered lot in the struggling Central City neighborhood. Elements of the 80 by 80 foot park include recycled concrete pavers, an open trellis wall made of recycled windows from homes destroyed in Hurricane Katrina, 16 bald cypress trees, solar-powered lights, common planting areas, and a bog garden made up of local plants. The garden's main spaces—the bog garden, the community gathering spot, known as Legume Plaza, and the space enclosed by the trellis—are shaped in plan, not surprisingly, like peanuts.

"It's not a playground, it's not a community garden, and it's not a conventional park,” said Smith. “The community can use it however they choose."

Lafitte Greenway


Lafitte Greenway proposed on a former railroad right of way.
Friends of Lafitte Corridor

This project aims to turn a former railroad right of way into a public park, pedestrian, and bike path, similar to New York’s High Line. The three-mile-long Greenway would extend from Basin Street, at the back of the French Quarter, all the way to Canal Boulevard in Lakeview, near Lake Ponchartrain. While recently held up by a lack of funds, the city has gotten the project back on track thanks to an $11.6 million Community Development Block Grant. If completed it would become the city’s first continuous urban greenway.

For New Orleans, many questions remain—including how the city’s neighborhoods will—or won’t—continue to be planned and developed, an effort that will include a myriad of agencies, from the Department of Capital Projects to the Department of Public Works. But the results are vital, and there’s no doubt that the city is committed. As Gilchrist put it: “From public housing to health care to education to infrastructure planning, New Orleans’ rebuilding efforts are setting the stage for American renewal.”