Two Narratives Collide in Post-Katrina New Orleans

“A narrative of rebirth, reform and success that coexists with a narrative of stasis, failure and unrealized dreams.”

2 minute read

August 28, 2015, 6:00 AM PDT

By Emily Calhoun

New Orleans Streetcar

Jorg Hackemann / Shutterstock

The New York Times presents a multimedia foray into the redevelopment of some of New Orleans’ most devastated neighborhoods after Hurricane Katrina. The post-hurricane devastation presented a lucrative “blank slate” for entrepreneurs, real estate developers, transplants and immigrants. But for many long-time residents, the displacement was permanent, and the rich cultural heritage dissolved into history.

Treme, the "birthplace of jazz" is whiter; Mid City is more Hispanic; and the Lower Nine is all but deserted. According to the Times, in the Central Business District: "The start-up scene here is, to a great extent, a deliberate construct, built by a small, aggressive group of boosters who believe that this city, so careful to honor its past, must innovate its way to a future that isn’t so reliant on the old standbys of the oil, gas and hospitality industries."

Prior to the hurricane, there was already an effort underway to reduce concentrated levels of poverty by transitioning projects residents into voucher holders. According to the Data Center, the number of households using vouchers doubled in the five years before Katrina, and doubled again in the five years following. However, "the reliance on the private housing market to fill the affordable housing gap neglected to account for the post-disaster housing shortage." There are still thousands on the voucher waiting list. The Times feature includes a map that shows median rents have risen while median income levels have declined in neighborhoods all across the city.

The razing of project housing in favor of mixed-use, mixed-income developments is lauded by some as New Urbanist revitalization and others as gentrification. "But while in most cities gentrification is caused by a simple desire for prime real estate, in New Orleans the draw is the very culture that the resulting changes to the city is eroding," writes John Stanton. Indeed, with only half as many subsidized rental units available at traditional public housing rates, and a severe housing shortage all over the city, many neighborhoods have permanently lost pre-Katrina populations that had roots many generations back.

 "Before the flood, the Tremé blocks just east of the Lafitte public housing projects and south of Claiborne Avenue were both close-knit and tough; the music flourished, but so did crime and blight. Joe’s Cozy Corner was where musicians met before their gigs in the French Quarter; it was also where 'Papa Joe' Glasper, the bar’s owner, shot and killed a man," the Times reports.

Hat tip to the NYTimes team: Campbell Robertson, Richard Fausset, Alexandra Garcia, Margaret Cheatham Williams, Andrew Blackwell, Tanner Curtis, Haeyoun Park, Rumsey Taylor, Derek Watkins, Josh Williams, Katy Reckdahl, and Ben Laffin.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015 in The New York Times

Aerial view of Oceanwide Plaza skyscrapers covered with graffiti tags.

LA’s Abandoned Towers Loom as a “$1.2 Billion Ruin of Global Capital”

Oceanwide Plaza, shuttered mid-construction after its developer filed for bankruptcy, has stood vacant on prime Los Angeles real estate since 2019.

May 21, 2024 - The Architect's Newspaper

Entrance to a drive-through car wash at night with green 'Enter' sign.

Ohio Towns Move to Ban New Car Washes

City officials in northeast Ohio are putting limits on how many car wash facilities can open in their towns.

May 16, 2024 - News 5 Cleveland

Ornate, tan stone capitol building with a gold dome roof and low-rise city buildings in the background.

States Are Banning Guaranteed Income Programs

Four states now have laws in place that prevent cities and counties from creating or continuing guaranteed income programs, and several more have tried or are trying.

May 23, 2024 - Bloomberg CityLab

Close-up of apartment rental listing on iPad or tablet device.

Colorado Becomes First State in US to Regulate AI for Bias

Under the new law, developers, deployers, and businesses using AI systems at “high-risk” for bias discrimination in critical areas like housing will be required to account for risks and be transparent about how the technology is being used.

12 minutes ago - People of Color in Tech

3D rendering of blue flying car over a cityscape and buildings, a river, and bridges in the background.

Minnesota Legalizes Flying Cars

A new Minnesota law outlines state registration of “roadable aircraft” and legalizes their use on state roads and highways.

1 hour ago - The U.S. Sun

Green highway signs on Highway 23 for Ann Arbor and Flint, Michigan.

Michigan DOT Nixes Ann Arbor Highway Expansion

In response to public feedback, the Michigan Department of Transportation is no longer considering options to widen U.S. 23 on Ann Arbor’s east side.

2 hours ago - MLive

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.