“When the storm came through, it opened my eyes,” Vanessa Gueringer, a civil rights activist and vice president of A Community Voice, a nonprofit organization in New Orleans’ Upper Ninth Ward, said at a recent event. “Our neighborhoods should look like any other neighborhood. All babies deserve a healthy start, no matter the zip code.”
NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — All you have to do is take a quick spin around the area of Feliciana and Law streets in the Ninth Ward and you’ll understand why neighbors there are mad.
There’s a boat that hasn’t been on the water since the day Hurricane Katrina struck. You’ll find tree houses — that aren’t supposed to be tree houses — with branches stretching out of the roof and windows. But you’ll also find people who have repaired and raised their homes, hoping the neighborhood will bounce back better than ever.
Check out the gallery below and see if you would feel comfortable investing your own money in the area. You’ll see photos of people who are taking a chance on the neighborhood as well as the battle they’re facing.
The New Orleans Advocate
Some of their ire was directed at the city, which they said should take a firmer hand in cleaning up overgrown properties, including the land bordering a nearby railyard. Many of those lots are overgrown with weeds and strewn with dumped items.
As the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaches, some said, their part of the Upper 9th Ward still feels far from recovered.
“We’re hearing these reports about how everything is going so swell,” said Debra Campbell, chairwoman of the Upper 9th Ward chapter of the nonprofit group A Community Voice. “But let’s be truthful. It’s going swell in SOME areas.”
Ancar, who lives just down Law Street from the park, said she frets constantly about snakes, rats and raccoons hiding in the overgrown lots near her house.
The city lists several code violations at Ancar’s own property. She fumed that she was targeted for enforcement even though other nearby lots feature violations as egregious as a small boat, which she says was dumped there about two months ago.
Elsewhere nearby are overgrown lots on Montegut Street bordering Norfolk Southern’s Oliver Yard Terminal, houses in varying states of collapse, and pitted roads that threaten to damage cars that venture on them.
City spokesman Brad Howard said the Landrieu administration has invested heavily in New Orleans Recreation Development Commission programming citywide.
“While Odile Davis Park has been heavily vandalized and repairs would cost the city a substantial amount of capital funding, NORDC is committed to working with community partners, neighborhood associations and the Upper 9th Ward community to rebuild and sustain a safe space for children and families to learn, play and grow,” Howard said.
Sitting in the bleachers at the park, Anthony Martin, 31, said that before Katrina, it was a hub for neighborhood youth. He hopes to see more recreation programming in the park. Short of that, he said, the city could keep the park’s lights on at night to provide local children a safer place to play.
“From my recollection and experience, the park saved a lot of lives,” Martin said. “If there were more activity in the park, I know crime would decrease.”
Across the street from the park at the intersection of Montegut and Law streets occurred another sign of the Upper 9th Ward’s shaky recovery — a murder on April 24.
About noon that day, Marcel Coleman, 20, was found shot to death in an empty lot. He was covered in blood and not wearing shoes or pants.
New Orleans Police Department spokesman Tyler Gamble said the investigation into Coleman’s murder is active, but he had no news on any suspects.
Gamble said that besides that April killing, the area around Odile Davis Playground has not seen a recent surge in crime.
He encouraged concerned residents to come to police-community meetings.
“We’re open to working with them and addressing any kinds of concerns they have,” he said.
Upper 9th Ward A Community Voice members rallied to fight for Blight clean-up at a neighborhood park
Odile Davis Park at 3000 Law Street corner of Montegut and Law Streets
Site of two murders this year, cars are burned, homes regularly burglarized, wheels stolen from cars, wide open drains with covers are missing, huge holes in the streets, an abandoned boat from Katrina rests and the CSX railroad has created a mile of overgrown rat and crime harborage.
“The Upper 9th ward is still struggling to come back since H. Katrina” states Debra Campbell, Chairperson of the Upper 9th Ward A Community Voice chapter. “We cannot afford to pretend that letting one area of the city die won’t affect the whole city. A Community Voice 9th Ward members meet monthly to work on strategies to save the neighborhood and have recently won restoration of street lights on the France/Poland St overpass, so we are a CAN-DO organization and will fight for a clean-up here.”
The residents and churches that have returned in the Montegut/Feliciana area between Galvez and Law need:
- serious enforcement of the law, including regular community policing patrols and investigations of crimes by Police,
- enforcement of code violations by the City Health Dept., including fines to CSX Railroad for their length of uncut grass and jungle conditions along Montegut St.,
- street repairs
- and clean-up of area blighted lots, including another home for the Katrina abandoned boat.
“I find myself wishing for a storm in Chicago — an unpredictable, haughty, devastating swirl of fury. A dramatic levee break. Geysers bursting through manhole covers. A sleeping city, forced onto the rooftops,” she wrote. It was meant as a metaphor. But many readers called it tone deaf, clueless, or a sad display of white privilege. McQueary is white, and many of the more than 1,800 people who died during Katrina were elderly, poor, and black.
On Friday and over the weekend, the column spread around the internet — to New Orleans, to Washington, even internationally — and the backlash was swift and cutting.
“As someone who experienced Katrina first-hand, the ignorance in this column is trivializing, grotesque and upsetting,” one person wrote on Twitter.
Some readers defended McQueary and the Tribune, saying it was a bad metaphor, nothing more.
Down in the Big Easy, many residents took issue with McQueary’s glossed-over version of their city after Katrina. In her depiction, things are peachy. Government corruption has been rooted out. Dilapidated buildings have been torn down. The schools are great.
Our guest says that’s far from the case. We turn to Vanessa Gueringer, Vice President of “A Community Voice,” a non-profit community organization in New Orleans made up of and serving the working, poor, elderly, women, children, and families. (Photo: Flickr/Infrogmation of New Orleans)
NEW ORLEANS — Lights are out along two major overpasses in the Upper Ninth Ward. Community activists are concerned about public safety, saying they’ve reached out to the city in the last year and nothing has been done.
The city of New Orleans is once again blaming copper thieves for the blackout.
“That bridge makes a curve. If you’re not familiar with it, you could just as well go off the bridge. So all of this is a concern for me,” said Debra Campbell, chairperson for A Community Voice in the Upper Ninth Ward.
Broken streetlights and missing guardrails dot the France Street overpass in the Upper Ninth Ward along the Industrial Canal. Those safety concerns are weighing on the mind of Campbell and her neighbors.
Our camera captured blacked-out lights at sunset along a nearly two-mile stretch from North Dorgenois Street at France Street all the way to the Alvar Street overpass near 1-10.
Campbell is chairperson of the Upper Ninth Ward chapter of A Community Voice. She said residents’ complaints to the city continue to go mostly unanswered.
“I’m just concerned for their safety. I think something needs to be done. I’m not opposed to the areas we’ve given to the bicyclists, but we have to protect them,” said Campbell.
The New Orleans Department of Public Works confirms thieves stole the copper wiring inside some of the streetlight poles, damaging a feed point at the France Street overpass.
“It’s a big hazard. It’s an overpass where people could get hit. A bicyclist, a vehicle could go off road. The lighting needs to be addressed at this overpass,” said Councilman Jared Brossett, who said his office is aware of the problem.
Brossett said the Department of Public Works informed his office that major repairs are needed and an estimate is being drawn up to figure out a price tag.
“I’m hoping the Department of Public Works can act swiftly on this, as it is a hazard. I’m working with the community to address their concerns,” Brossett said.
For those who regularly drive, cycle or walk along these Upper Ninth Ward overpasses and streets, the unlit stretch is seen as a ticking time bomb.
“We have bikers that go over after dark. We’re asking the city to please give us some lights back here,” Campbell said.
In a written statement, the Landrieu administration said “97 percent of the city’s streetlights are now working more than before Hurricane Katrina.”
In this case, the city confirms it is taking measures to restore some streetlights until permanent repairs can be done. City officials urge citizens to call 911 if they spot anyone attempting to vandalize city streetlights or any public property.
The Education Committee of the Louisiana House of Representatives meets Wednesday May 6th at 9:30 am. at the Louisiana Legislature in Baton Rouge.
Supporters of House Bill 166 sponsored by Representative Joseph Bouie are asked to write letters, email, and attend the hearing. The law would require that all schools taken from the Orleans Parish School by the Recovery School District that have recovered academically be returned to the Orleans Parish School Board by beginning of fiscal year 2016-2017 school year.
Under present law and BESE policy schools can determine if they want to return to Orleans Parish Schools and they can keep public schools forever.
Thirty-Three schools have achieved academic success and have recovered from failing status on tests administered to students. Under Representative Bouie’s bill, approved by the Orleans Parish School Board, these schools would finally return to local control.
The Education Committee is comprised of persons outside Orleans Parish, except Rep. Wesley Bishop and Rep. Walt Leger, added to the committee because Leger is House Speaker Pro Tem.
You are urged to write letters, emails and make phone calls to these representatives letting them know that you support this legislation. Below please find a link to a bill summary and a link to the Committee members contact information.
It is important that the New Orleans delegation to the Legislature be contacted. We have also attached their contact information.
Bill summary: https://www.legis.la.gov/legis/ViewDocument.aspx?d=931352
Education Committee and the New Orleans delegation contact information is attached below. Hold ctrl + click over each member’s name to get information for the representative.
Five years ago, the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill off the coast of Louisiana decimated the fisheries of the Gulf Coast, and the livelihoods of the people who live there – including the 17,000-member United Houma Nation, a tribe native to southern Louisiana.
But, when the Houma sought payment for damages from BP, they were denied because the tribe is not officially recognized by the U.S. government.
The United Houma Nation is recognized by the state of Louisiana — but not by the federal Department of the Interior. Federal recognition would mean a shot at fair compensation from BP, and allow the tribe to apply for disaster relief after major storms. Can you join with thousands of other Louisianans calling for recognition for the United Houma Nation?
The United Houma Nation is on the front line of climate change. Faced with increasingly severe storms, they are unable to apply for disaster relief because they are not federally recognized.
The coastal location of the Houma’s tribal communities puts them in the path of oil pipelines and drilling operations in the Gulf Coast that further erode their land, yet they cannot contribute to decision-making about land use and environmental restoration.
For more than three decades, the Houma have fought for official recognition from the federal government. Recognition would give the Houma more power to protect their land, food systems and way of life as they stand on the front line of climate change.