Started, but unfinished
Local business in Lower 9th ward that serves some mean chicken
But, zooming out and thinking about this form a larger scale, is this really the best we can do? Is Global Green and Make it Right the best we have to offer? They make look, sound, and smell different, but at the end of the day, they seem like more of the same. Cost overruns and excessive technologies bump up the initial costs of housing for those who need it the most. High profile figures do their best to give money and wield their influence, yet at the end of the day, all of this is being subsidized and built in vulnerable areas. Housing was not the only thing destroyed, livelihoods were as well. If the housing is built, but the means to support those are not redeveloped, then the pattern of
will be repeated all over again, this time without a storm. Ronald Lewis, who is a lower 9th ward resident is fairly critical of the Make it Right project precisely because it is happening from outside the community. And because it is happening from outside the community, it stifles many possibilities for the community to actually take action and develop something that is of their true direction. It reminds of something someone described as ‘New Democracy,’ where people and communities are actively engaged in participation, they are asked their opinions, they are listened to, but at the end of the day, the end result is still the same, determined by those who set up the process in the first place. New Orleans
The replacements of the public housing projects are reinterpreted in areas such as
, built and defined by a prescribed notion of style, space, and livelihood made to look like a nice neighborhood under the mantra of HUD’s Hope IV program. Typically, these are mixed income, and the math NEVER lines up. Poor people get displaced, not only from housing units, but neighborhoods and networks as well.
So, how then, do you really help jumpstart a community such as the lower 9th ward, and then allow it go on its own? Still working on that one.
But, there are many small scale efforts that are trying to get to the point. One of the projects within the Make It Right project was the Kieran Timberlake house. One of the architects described a much more holistic intention and approach with this particular model. The house is a prototype designed to transition from stick built construction to off-site fabrication, where a self sustaining local industry of component fabrication that could be maintained after the 9th Ward and surrounding areas are rebuilt. Integrating broader social fabric and conditions into the process is a pretty good way to think about. And allowing the house to be easily customizable to allow the project to grow quickly seems like a good approach as well. This project seems to offer interesting ideas, but I have a fear many initial principles had been lost and it may remain as a one-off project?Kieran Timberlake's Make it Right project
Another innovative example was the Project Home Again. This project is buying up people’s old flooded homes as they are and then selling them affordable new housing. As a group having the capital, they are able to invest more money into the houses and then resell them once there may be a demand in the area. Otherwise, most homeowners in this neighborhood would not be able to afford renovating their houses, much less be able to sell it.
Project Home Again
So, while much of my commentary about
has been very critical, I do leave very hopeful, because this was one place where I felt that some of the problems we are now facing are going to change. This old guard, this old way of doing things, this status quo that has messed up things so bad as in the case of New Orleans, won’t last forever. And having met tons of young, energetic, optimistic, creative, and critical young minds and doers gives me great hope for what is to come. And I think the election of Obama was the first major step in that transition. And, as in many other places I have visited this year, the most vulnerable people persevere, move forward, and shape and build their environment to the best of their abilities, in spite of all the shit thrown in their faces. It is much easier to write and think about these issues from a distance, than trying to solve it and address it on the ground, everyday. I just basically looked and listened. So, mad props to all those quiet people DOING, trying so hard to offer new solutions. New Orleans
Throughout the Lower 9th Ward, there are many signs that say “Roots Run Deep Here.” I finally really understand it. After seeing Trombone Shorty at Tipitino’s and dancing down the streets of Treme Sunday in a Second Line, I have realized how special this place really is. While I returned to back to my home country, New Orleans still felt like as rich and engaging city as any in the world.
Roots run deep