It is now about 22 months since hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region. I was recently in New Orleans for the first time and had plenty to see. The city is still very much in a state of devastation. But there has also been a lot of progress.
In this post, I'd like to share some pictures I took when I was there and some facts and figures I've come across that help illustrate the current situation in the city.
It’s been said before, but it’s worth repeating – the reconstruction of New Orleans is both a planner’s dream – and a planner’s nightmare. Even before the flood waters subsided, planners and architects from around the globe descended on the Crescent City to give their take on the road to recovery. Close to two years later, a host of plans lay in the wake of the constant ebb and flow of professionals in and out of the city. Local residents are exasperated with the proposed plans and the progress of the recovery. Meanwhile, the rest of the country has seemingly lost interest.
New Orleans is experiencing a crime wave. High murder rates in the first two months of 2007 have made national attention. Anderson Cooper of CNN has been following this story. So far this year he has devoted two hour-long shows to this topic. I live in central New Orleans and my biggest complaint about the city is the high crime rate. I don’t think our city will recover if we fail to address this most serious issue. Crime makes you ask yourself – should I move to the suburbs where it’s safer and commute? But being a transportation planner, I can’t help but follow-up that question with – If I spend a lot more time driving will my exposure to dieing in a car accident increase? So which is worse - murder or traffic fatalities?
Thousands of New Orleanians have participated in planning their post-Katrina future – likely more than in any single American city-planning effort, ever. Unfortunately, the New Orleans experience definitively demonstrates the limits of orthodox community-focused planning, the kind that has been neighborhood-based and consensus-driven.