This is my record book for tracking time and thoughts. Some images have been placed over personal information.
NOLA 9-12SEP17 RECONNAISSANCE
This was a trip to New Orleans for an affordable housing conference that my wife attended. My goal was to witness the recovering housing/architecture since Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. I took these photographs while venturing from the French Quarter on a rental bike through the neighborhoods of Marigny, Bywater, Holy Cross and the Ninth Ward, and to the Industrial Canal.
Of all the neighborhoods I traveled through, The Ninth Ward stood out with an empty vibe of dissonance, like that of a graveyard. It seemed like there was an underlying code in this place, and I was clearly an outsider as a white guy on a 3-speed rental bike.
As I continued the journey through the Ninth Ward, I began to get a sense of freedom from the outside world, meaning that if you were a local resident or someone who belonged here, this was a place where standard governing authorities lost their jurisdiction. It was radical and awesome at the same time. Locals were working on cars and drinking beers, casually coming and going about their daily routines. A car flew past me at +/-50 mph., and another vehicle was quietly rolling into a ditch as the driver darted into a nearby house, not realizing that he must have left it out of gear and failed to put on the emergency brake. I was farther away when I witnessed an illegal dumping on Reynes Street. The two men did this in an extreme rush and sped off, dragging the trailer tailgate behind them. The awkward and loud chain of events created quite a scene, and yet it drew no attention at all. could still hear them as they rounded a corner down the wrong way of a one-way street, with virtual sparks flying behind them. Coincidentally, I later saw the same truck/trailer in the French Quarter loading furniture trash from a renovation project that was in progress.
I stopped by the Make it Right Foundations Park Installation [29.969987, -90.021902] and I was intrigued by one of the exhibits. This was once an alive and dense neighborhood. The red houses were destroyed by the hurricane, and the black houses are all that are surviving or have been replaced to this day.
Brad Pitt, a renowned actor in the United States, is praised as being a catalyst for recovery efforts and a main funding agent in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He is the founder of the Make it Right Foundation, a non-profit organization that was established in 2007 to aid in the environmentally friendly rebuilding of New Orleans. My opinion is, however, that they were unsuccessful in fostering new growth in the community partially due to the functional premise and visual aesthetic of the new housing. The colorful, contemporary architecture was a blatant contrast to the existing neighborhood that once thrived in the Ninth Ward.
Thom Mayne, originator of the architecture firm, Morphosis, designed one of the more successful homes in the flood zone, called The Float House. Check it out: https://www.morphosis.com/architecture/126/
Frank Gehry’s house on the contrary was an oddity in form and function and it was confusing seeing it in this context.
A few locals expressed to me that they thought the houses missed the mark. After seeing them first-hand, I think it was not as right as it could have been.
Leona Tate is the curator of a small museum and memorial, located within the Lower Ninth. We talked about how the neighborhood used to be. It was a poor black neighborhood that somehow managed to create its own unique and dynamic culture. After my return home I researched videos and read personal accounts from people who used to live in the Lower Ninth prior to Hurricane Katrina. I was impressed that something so humble as residing in a neighborhood that was destined to fail, was able to grow into a once in a lifetime spiritual place for those who made their homes there. It was clearly a precious place, and now it is gone.
When I was visiting I could see how the gentrification has consumed the Bywater Nieghborhood and it appears the hipsters are moving into parts of Holy Cross. Making these areas different, perhaps more attractive and higher in value. I do not think this is bad or good, it just is growth.
A local architect told me that the pump stations are still not fully functional. If there was another levee failure or a hurricane event as powerful as Katrina, the results would be catastrophic once again. We spoke of the foundation systems and soils reports that were ignored by a corrupt bureaucratic system that approved construction in a flood plain where no homes should have even been allowed. An uninformed population lost everything when the neglected pump systems failed, and the bureaucrats and developers still made their money.
Check out Jimmy Stamp’s write up that I have shared in the, Re-building of New Orleans within a link towards to the bottom of this entry.
Here are some links that I found while doing additional research:
Katrina + 5: An X-Code Exhibition Blackwater Operations during Katrina. Erik Prince petitioned to be there from my findings and made some profit. Not sure what the mission statement was to the [boots on the ground = mercs] on the ground, but solid help would have been amazing on the one ones stuck, instead of focusing on the looters. I was not there but my findings are very mixed. Check out some of these videos that I came across: Shadow Ops, an overview of what went down: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xM9p2UxelFQ Jeremy Scahill's interview of being there and bringing specific insights into matters: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lNsqv7DWFw Blackwater Ops during Katrina from a one person perspective: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OuBKmPQlJ-M Shenanigans from residents: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VM-rAK0DxdY From a news feed from RT, The Unheard Story of Hurricane Katrina: Blackwater, White Militias & Community Empowerment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWmVHjw3HrU Rebuilding New Orleans. Some links that were motivating: Jimmy Stamp's write up: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/the-debate-continues-over-how-to-rebuild-new-orleans-lower-ninth-ward-7942828/
Make It Right, a neighborhood born of Hurricane Katrina and the 2005 flood, published in 2015 brings a positive spotlight on Pitt's MiRF: https://www.nola.com/katrina/index.ssf/2015/08/make_it_right_hurricane_katrin.html
Gentrification of NOLA: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euMx24xBX04