Today I went to Lakeview which is a middle/upper middle class white area of New Orleans.There is more construction than last time I was here, of course there was very little then. While there are people working to rebuild, much of Lakeview seemed the same as 6 months ago. Block after block of empty torn up shells of destroyed houses now overgrown with weeds. On some streets are a few FEMA trailers in front of homes where people live as they work to rebuild. On other streets there are none. There are a few homes where hired work crews are busy. Then there are the ice cream trucks that travel up and down the blocks with their music announcing their arrival for the hot and tired workers needing a break. However while standing on the empty block of Vicksburg Street between Mouton and Walker it was terribly incongruous to hear the happy ice cream truck music off in the distance.
At random, six months ago, I had visited this block of Vicksburg Street which runs parallel to Canal Blvd ….
and now I wanted to see what it looked like…
Little has changed. Now there are doors on this property and all the homes are over run with weeds. Debris piles have been picked up.
While I was there taking photos 2 city employees came through. They were stapling yellow notices to the front door jams of homes which were to notify the owners that they had between 10-20 days to contact the city to let them know what they are going to do with their property specifically to gut their home or demolish. If they do not do that the city will come in and gut the home or in some cases demolish it and the owner would have to pay the cost.
The city workers only put notices on homes that had not been gutted. On this block of Vicksburg that was the case for 10 of the 19 homes. 4 homes had been gutted and had For Sale signs on the properties. 2 had been gutted but no for sale signs. 3 homes looked to be in the process of being rebuilt. None of those were yet inhabitable. There were also 3 empty lots where it appeared homes had been torn down.
There were no people on this block of Vicksburg today, the same as was the case 6 months ago. Not one person nor one car save the city workers. It was a very quiet and desolate place……
Just around the corner and running parallel to Vicksburg is Memphis Street. By contrast there were about 10 homes in various stages of being rebuilt on Memphis.
This block of Lakeview did not seem the norm for what I saw driving and walking through Lakeview. One family was unloading a moving truck (above) and moving back into their home so I stopped and talked with them for a few minutes and asked why the difference. Was it random I asked? The owner said yes to a degree but that more important the homes on this block that were coming back were only 1 or 2 years old. She said it was just “too much money to walk away from.” She related that their home had been worth $700,00 pre-Katrina. They had received flood insurance and it was just barely enough to cover rebuilding their home. She said they had 6 1/2 – 7 feet of water in their home that stood there for 3 weeks. She said on this block 4 families had returned and 2 more were moving in today for a total of six now living on the block. She said they planned to give it 1-2 years and see if the area came back. More important she said that here is the city’s middle class, its tax base, and that if this area “doesn’t come back then New Orleans won’t come back.”
I know you are probably familiar with the lower 9th ward by now but it is important to realize Katrina and the federal flood devestated black and white, rich and poor and that good ol backbone of America…..the middle class. The people that are forgotten here by the Bush administration are a slice of All of America. It could be you because no matter who you are …… there is someone just like you hurting down here.