Okay. Does New Orleans want WASPs in multimillion-dollar KB Home condos to replace the projects built to “clear the slums” known as Storyville, the birthplace of jazz? (Don’t answer that.)
The dilemma is framed as “clean up the drug dealers” versus “save our historic communities.” There is truth in both claims. In neither case has a solution been found.
What I think needs to happen is that some sort of mediated summit–one with teeth–needs to be held between representatives of residents, developers, and maybe Habitat for Humanity. HANO is a non-profit agency; it should use this status to broker such a summit.
Then, residents could teach developers about the history of their communities, their needs and challenges, and their proposals for change, and developers could bid competitively to address these needs in planning a new design. Donors and foundations could pay for building costs. Residents and Habitat (or Habitat-like secular crews) could contribute sweat equity. Repeat offenders with multiple drug-dealing convictions would be turned down. And residents could rent to own if they so chose.
Call it reparations, if you like. It’s the least this country can do for the working poor of New Orleans, without whom there would be no jazz, no Mardi Gras Indians, and no food worth eating.
Coming up: I’ll post an old story I wrote ca. 1989 about the Desire project and the slick calls for “slum clearance” at that time, which was just history repeating itself even then.