Through the Neighborhoods, Riled Up in the Cold

On my way home from anti-racism meetings and couching at friends’ houses in the lower garden district, I pass many a sight.  I cross the barren nightly scene of the Central Business District, or CBD to locals, which, due to its proximity to the lively French Quarter, is akin to the ghost on the other side of your bedroom door or quiet monster under the bed.    From there, I usually travel along the perimeter of the FQ up Canal Street and turn right onto Claiborne, at the intersection where most of the public homeless congregate together.

And tonight I was outraged.  Because it stinks of urine over there.  I don’t say this for my sake.  I have no problem smelling urine for a good ten to fifteen seconds as I pass, but people have to live among that scent, which no doubt seeps into their clothes and likely stigmatizes them at work, creating further alienation with the rest of their working peers.

And I’m pissed because the city was responsible for changing out the port-o-potties back in December, January and February when Duncan Plaza folks were booted out and the homeless got front page coverage in both the Times-Picayune and the Gambit Weekly.  Soon it came to light that the toilets were overflowing with waste.  The city continues to lack the will and the heart to change out the port-o-potty and help maintain people’s dignity.  Maybe the responsibility is in other hands, or the city outright removed the facilities, but there ought to be some way for the area to be cleaned up so working folks who live there can feel secure that there is no chance of being discriminated against or harassed due to the ubiquitous scent of urine.

Anyway, traveling down Claiborne, thinking of all this, I come upon Lafitte.  The last public housing development to remain standing, Lafitte is now also being torn down.  It was a slow process. First, contractors and the Housing Authority of New Orleans claimed they were doing asbestos remediation as they removed beautiful orange beige terra cotta tiles from the rooftops, dropped them needlessly forty feet to their shattering death.  The roofs, left uncovered, were no doubt in danger of becoming moldy with any significant rain, a way for HANO/HUD to make demolition inevitable despite the mayor’s delay in signing the Lafitte permits.

However, soon enough, Nagin said he had been given all the information he had requested from HANO/HUD and signed the permits for demolition.  The first building came down last week.  Strangely, a dozen or so buildings on the river side of the development, close to Claiborne Ave. remain open (rather than behind a barb-wire fence) and some even have new doors installed.  This is due to Providence/Catholic Charities plan to demolish the buildings in stages.

Approximately 100 people will live fifty feet from buildings being torn down that look and feel exactly the same as the doorways in which they stand, watching the bricks fall.   Living, breathing, surviving, loving, growing, playing, eating in homes that HUD continues to claim were too damaged in the Federal Flood to renovate.

And onward home, I go full of hurt for people I hardly know and rage for cold political power in offices in other cities (and Nagin in Dallas…) that do not feel such hurt.

There is shame in deceit in plain sight without retreat.

Published in: on April 15, 2008 at 2:57 am  Leave a Comment  
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