Friday, August 24, 2007

Rebuilding New Orleans Ethically

I come upon this video, the same day I read in the Wall Street Journal that

"A group of homeowners filed suit against the City of New Orleans and Ray Nagin, seeking damages for houses they say were illegally targeted for demolition as part of the city's drive to clean up properties damaged by Hurricane Katrina...The suit alleges that the city plans to continue demolishing houses "without the permission of the homeowners, without securing legal authority, and without providing reasonable notice and/or any opportunity for the homeowners to be heard....residents say the city has demolished some houses that were already under repair, targeted others that were never badly damaged and repeatedly failed to give homeowners proper notice that their houses were scheduled for removal."

Over the last few years, I've heard a number of pretty incredible excuses for not helping the people of New Orleans. One of the most common was, "Why rebuild an area that's so dangerous, and that will just be hit by another hurricane in another few years?" Interestingly, that argument seems to hold only when the property owners are of lower income. If it's a hotel or resort developer interested in the property then suddenly, rebuilding is a great idea.

Note, this excerpt from August 2007 "House and Garden" magazine,

"Sean Cummings is asking for a major leap of faith. He wants people to believe that Reinventing the Crescent, a bold scheme to transform four and a half miles of riverfront, will be the cart that drags their city out fo the mud... (Cummings) has used his appointment by Mayor Ray Nagin as executive director of the New Orleans Building Corporation to fund a comptetion among world class architects and planners for a riverfront project meant to make New Orleans a world-class destination...After public review, and one assumes, the help of POWERFUL ALLIES, including recovery czar Edward Blakely, the plan in some form should be adopted. Then each project ... walking and bike paths, chapel performance space, culitnary institute, Tulane and Xavier's RiverSphere, cruise ship terminals, hotel, and condominiums -- will each have to be reviewed separately."

Ok, so what does this mean exactly? Are people who lost their homes in Hurricane Katrina, now losing their property to developers who are going to profit off it by turning it into some fancy river front showpiece?

I don't know the answers to these questions, but they are certainly the questions we should all be asking!

I certainly hope that people who want to return to their home in New Orleans have that right and that those who choose not to will be fairly compensated for their property. Personally, if a homeowner sells to a developer, I think, they should try to build in a clause that would grant them a percentage of the developer's profits for a certain number of years. I would hate to think that these developers and architects would puff up their resumes and profits by taking advantage of people who suffered due to Hurricane Katrina.