Wednesday, July 15, 2015

New Orleans Neighborhoods at Risk - Intro

This is an introduction to a new long term story I am starting on AZ that will focus on a subject that is of great personal interest to me...the plight of neighborhoods in New Orleans.

Since the Federal Flood of 2005, the city has experienced a dramatic shift in its socio-economic and cultural make up.  In spite of overwhelming odds and mostly empty promises from government officials, pre-Katrina New Orleans residents came back, buckled down and pulled the city up from the grave in the years following the Flood.  We endured, we overcame...we succeeded.

But that success has brought on a whole new slew of problems/challenges to the city.  Skyrocketing real estate prices, record tourism numbers, unprecedented commercial and residential development have led to issues of gentrification, zoning and regulation challenges, dramatic shifts in public education, traffic nightmares, interlopers, cultural shifts and allegations of exploitation/appropriation...the list goes on.  These disruptions are particularly difficult for a city known to be anaphylactic to change.

Although I was not born and raised in New Orleans I have spent the majority of my life in the city and certainly most of my adult life.  My house was flooded in Katrina and after nine tough years of financial and emotional struggles, my wife and I were finally able to get our family back into a house of our very own last Fall.  It took about ten months of searching but we came to settle on New Orleans West Bank in Lower Algiers after realizing that we simply didn't have the financial resources to buy a house on the East side of the river (in Orleans Parish).  The astronomical real estate prices on the other side of the creek made our decision for us.  It turned out to be fortuitous as I have come to love my house and my neighborhood...I am now the Wank's biggest fan...perhaps besides Pistolette.

But other folks like me who have been here most of their lives or even all of their lives are not faring so well.

Many long time locals are being pushed out of the city due to rising rents, housing prices, city taxes, and a general increase in the cost of living all due to a glut of New New Orleanians moving into the City. It's become a real pickle, especially in a service industry driven city where folks rely on close proximity to their work in order to tend the bars, wait the tables and hop the bells (whatever) that drive our economy.

The short term rental phenomenon is not only helping to fuel an affordable housing shortage it's changing the population of registered voters in attractive tourist areas like the Quarter and Marigny, consequently diminishing the influence of neighborhood organizations.  Rents in areas like the Bywater have skyrocketed while controversial developments like the St. Roch Market have been developed to cater to a clientele of higher income instead of providing a badly needed affordable grocery store in the area. There are myriad conflicts popping up around the city which are a result of our newfound, post-K "success".

Many of these issues have been masterfully lampooned in recent Carnivals by The Krewe of Spank during Krewe du Vieux

It's like two tectonic plates grinding against each other, the Old New Orleans and the New New Orleans aren't going to meld together without some major upheaval.  The tension is palpable and to some extent even our current crime problems, perhaps, reflect that...I'm not sure about that but I would like to see if there is a correlation.

Summary:  The exact thing that has always made New Orleans unique, neighborhoods, is being transformed by an affluent class...some who have moved here to experience that uniqueness, some who live here part time and others who simply obtained real estate or launched business ventures to enterprise on the gold rush.  Good and bad...New Orleans is changing dramatically and it will never be what it was before the storm.  I want to look at those changes here on AZ and create a dialogue to better understand where we're headed.

So...let's get started in the next post.      


Clay said...

I love the tectonic plate analogy.

Also, as a SPANKer, thanks for the compliment.

sam said...

We lived on the Westbank prior to the storm. Wound up moving to the East bank because of the Ferry's ever changing schedule/status. I've been following the batture argument and really hope folks over there can keep the towers out.

I love your project. As you know I've been writing a lot about the short term rental issue (and am really upset that I didn't know about the meeting today until this morning.) The problem is that it all seems so much a done deal before we ever get to discuss it. Not just meetings, lately it seems the Council makes a decision that almost inevitably isn't what most folks want.

I brought up the same issue re:emptying of neighborhoods and the fact that the tourists don't vote.

I'm rambling. I'm sorry about that. I've been pondering some of this for a long time and will look greatly forward to what you do with it all.