Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only ask one time of year, but when we do, we mean it. Without your support we can’t continue to bring you the very best material, day-in and day-out. CounterPunch is one of the last common spaces on the Internet. Help make sure it stays that way.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Not Getting It About New Orleans

by CHUCK MUNSON

It comes as no surprise when a major U.S. newspaper backs real estate developers over the rights and interests of the poor they have a long track record of doing so, while the poor are lectured in patronizing language to emulate the people the papers celebrate. This week the New Orleans Times-Picayune has an article on their website titled “Protests ignore realities.” This article is a response to the struggle local residents have been waging against the planned demolition of their homes–protests which made national headlines this week. The “realities” these people supposedly ignore is that the government and wealthy real estate developers know what’s best for them.

But the poor just don’t seem to be getting it. Over the past week, as residents of New Orleans public housing complexes and activist allies have been resisting the demolition of four public housing complexes, comprising of 4,500 units, the city council–now racially skewed to the white end of the spectrum–voted to bulldoze those complexes to make way for new “mixed income” developments that purportedly would provide homes to some of those being displaced. The reality of similar programs around the country is that they seldom provide even a fraction of the affordable units promised by officials when older housing complexes were demolished.

Housing activists are not against programs that create more and better affordable housing, but they correctly point out that people should have a say in what happens to their current homes. In the case of New Orleans, it is outrageous that the city should demolish so much public housing when there are tens of thousands of displaced residents still looking for a place to live.

The Washington Post, too, weighs in on the side of real estate developers with an unsigned editorial (“A Better Life in New Orleans” December 20, 2007) calling for the demolition of public housing in New Orleans. The Post dismisses the fight by local residents for their homes as being mistakenly based on a “conspiracy.” The Post repeats standard myths about the housing complexes being havens for crime and poverty. These myths ignore the fact that these complexes have been closed since Katrina, that residents worked hard to keep crime out, and that crime is high all across New Orleans. Residents of these complexes are working people and this housing was affordable. History suggests this will not be the case with the developments proposed to replace them.

The Post also recycles the claim that most of these complexes were seriously damaged by the hurricanes. This is simply untrue.

What the Post doesn’t get is that New Orleans residents should first and foremost have the power to decide what is best for their interests. The Post would never editorialize that a group of white residents living in, say, Arlington, Virginia shouldn’t have input on the future of their homes if they were being threatened by a government-backed redevelopment project. When housing in New Orleans is so scarce and rents so high, the right of people to have access to their existing housing should take priority over any project to demolish housing–and certainly over any project so clearly aimed at fattening the wallets of developers and construction companies.

The Post tries to cast the New Orleans housing struggle as being fomented by a few people who just don’t want to get rid of poverty: “What makes no sense is perpetuating a housing policy that trapped people in poverty.” What makes no sense is a policy that would tear down thousands of habitable units when tens of thousands of people are looking for homes. The current policy only replicates failed national programs such as Hope VI, which purports to turn housing complexes into mixed-income developments with affordable units, but which are really just a form of ethnic cleansing, gentrification, and welfare for the rich. It’s hard to believe that the New Orleans government is well-intentioned when it is replicating housing policies that elsewhere have turned out so unfavorably for the urban working poor. It’s also clear that the New Orleans ruling class is using the dislocation caused by the hurricanes to enact policies that haven’t gone through a democratic process. To cite just one rather important detail, the current plan lacks any details about where people are supposed to live during the years that these new projects are under construction.

It’s ironic that the Washington Post should dismiss the New Orleans housing struggle as some kind of “romantic” lost cause, a day after the New York Times’ architectural critic wrote that the demolitions are “one of the greatest crimes in American urban planning.” One of the reasons why so many people enjoy visiting New Orleans is because it is one of the few American cities left with a truly unique gumbo of architecture, culture, environment, and diversity of people. If the Post feels that the interests of New Orleans should be swept aside in the name of modernization, why stop with the demolition of these four housing complexes? Why doesn’t the city bulldoze the French Quarter and replace it with an upscale mixed-use development? Such a project would create new jobs and more income for the city. Tourists wouldn’t miss a beat if the new and modernized French Quarter had a Panera that sells beignets, a Hard Rock Cafe and all of our favorite sports bar chains lining Bourbon Street.

Why, the tourists would feel right at home!

CHUCK MUNSON is Kansas City-based a webmaster and editor with Infoshop News, a project of the Alternative Media Project. Infoshop.org was instrumental in getting the Common Ground Clinics started in New Orleans in the weeks after Hurricane Katrina. Munson is also a volunteer with the Crossroads Infoshop & Radical Bookstore in Kansas City, Missouri.

 

 

 

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
James McEnteer
Eugene, Oregon and the Rising Cost of Cool
Norman Pollack
The Great Debate: Proto-Fascism vs. the Real Thing
Michael Winship
The Tracks of John Boehner’s Tears
John Steppling
Fear Level Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Where Is That Wasteful Government Spending?
James Russell
Beyond Debate: Interview Styles of the Rich and Famous
September 26, 2016
Diana Johnstone
The Hillary Clinton Presidency has Already Begun as Lame Ducks Promote Her War
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Against Russia
Dave Lindorff
Parking While Black: When Police Shoot as First Resort
Robert Crawford
The Political Rhetoric of Perpetual War
Howard Lisnoff
The Case of One Homeless Person
Michael Howard
The New York Times Endorses Hillary, Scorns the World
Russell Mokhiber
Wells Fargo and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival
Chad Nelson
The Crime of Going Vegan: the Latest Attack on Angela Davis
Colin Todhunter
A System of Food Production for Human Need, Not Corporate Greed
Brian Cloughley
The United States Wants to Put Russia in a Corner
Guillermo R. Gil
The Clevenger Effect: Exposing Racism in Pro Sports
David Swanson
Turn the Pentagon into a Hospital
Ralph Nader
Are You Ready for Democracy?
Chris Martenson
Hell to Pay
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Debate Night: Undecided is Everything, Advantage Trump
Frank X Murphy
Power & Struggle: the Detroit Literacy Case
Chris Knight
The Tom and Noam Show: a Review of Tom Wolfe’s “The Kingdom of Speech”
Weekend Edition
September 23, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Meaning of the Trump Surge
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: More Pricks Than Kicks
Mike Whitney
Oh, Say Can You See the Carnage? Why Stand for a Country That Can Gun You Down in Cold Blood?
Chris Welzenbach
The Diminution of Chris Hayes
Vincent Emanuele
The Riots Will Continue
Rob Urie
A Scam Too Far
Pepe Escobar
Les Deplorables
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes, Obfuscation and Propaganda in Syria
Timothy Braatz
The Quarterback and the Propaganda
Sheldon Richman
Obama Rewards Israel’s Bad Behavior
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail