Friday, December 21, 2007

Public Housing Debacle

I've been on Christmas break for a few days and have not been checking the local news. Big surprise when I did this morning. I noticed that the fight over the demolision of four New Orleans Housing developments became quite heated yesterday.
It's a shame that things have deteriorated to this level. I believe that it has gone to that level is partly related to "outside agitators". (I see nothing wrong with the term "outside agitators", unlike some folks who think it's a racist term. I think anything can be termed "racist" if it's used in a racist way.)

Anyway, at this time I am torn about what's going on in the city. I've been trying to study up on this story and get a good background on it, but the more I dig, the more small facts are either misrepresented or missing. It's difficult to peel off all the bullshit and hysteria related to these protests to get to the core of the issue.

So far, I've done a history of the projects in questions. Here we go:


The St. Bernard Housing Development was the fifth of ten such developments built between 1940 and 1960. Initially, there were 744 units in 74 buildings constructed on 30.9 acres of land. The boundaries were St. Bernard Avenue to Gibson Street and Senate to St. Denis Streets. The architects used the same principles of design of most "housing projects" of the times. Two and three story brick apartment buildings encircled parking lots and playgrounds.

In 1946, a gas explosion on the southside of the development killed seven people and injured 38. Fourteen buildings were demolished.

In the 1950's, The Housing Authority needed to relocate 700 families. Through the 1949 Housing Act, the St. Bernard expanded, adding 720 more units. It is regarded as one of the largest housing developments in New Orleans.

Scattered sites were first introduced to New Orleans in the late 1960s as an alternative to higher concentrated family dwellings. The idea was to have families "scattered" throughout existing neighborhoods to reduce the number of units in one location. One of those sites is the Imperial Scattered Site Housing Development, just to the west of the St. Bernard development. In 1968, the Housing Authority of New Orleans purchased 54 two-bedroom houses and in 1972, bought 200 more.

The St. Bernard Projects are one of the Housing Projects of New Orleans. Located in the city's 7th Ward, the complex was built over a few decades, beginning in the 1940s and has the distinction of being the largest housing project in the city. Like most public housing developments, it was not a very safe complex but by the standards set by other facilities in the city, like the Magnolia Projects, it was one of the city's safer projects until planned closures began and residents of 'rival' housing projects were moved into the St. Bernard.

It has been closed since Hurricane Katrina, much to the dismay of residents and activists.

Survivors Village,
a tent city created by residents of New Orleans housing projects, was established on June 3, 2006 to call attention to what participants and supporters say are violations of the UN International Policy on Internally Displaced Persons.

C.J. PEETE (aka Magnolia)

From 1952 through 1978, the manager was Cleveland Joseph Peete. In the 1980s and 1990s conditions in the projects declined severely. In 1998 demolition of portions of the projects began as part of a Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) revitalization plan. There are plans to redevelop the area along the lines of what had been done with the St. Thomas Projects.

By 2005, only the 1955 expansion had been razed. The majority of the remaining buildings were vacant and fenced off, with only a portion still occupied, when the area flooded in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (see: Effect of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans). Redevelopment work has been delayed in the aftermath of the disastrous flood which devastated the majority of the city.

It is one of the most notoriously dangerous housing districts in the United States and ranks even globally. This section of New Orleans has a local crime rate higher than many full municipalities in the US and has a significant influence in New Orleans' extremely high murder rate.

Here's a slide show put together by a C.J. Peete resident
.....…do you really want people to move back here?
(beware the language for the crap rap that plays during the slide show)


The project was built between 1939 and 1941. The original boundaries were South Dorgenois, Erato, Calliope (now Earhart Boulevard) and South Prieur Streets. In 1941 rents ran from $8.25 a month for a one bedroom apartment to $22.00 a month for a three bedroom.

There are 690 apartments in the original development. In 1949, a gymnasium was added at Broad and Calliope Streets.

In 1954, a twelve block expansion added 860 new units. The expansion pushed the western boundary of the Calliope back two blocks from Erato Street to Melpomene Avenue (now Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard).

In May 1981, the Calliope was renamed the B. W. Cooper Apartments. Mr. Cooper worked for the Housing Authority of New Orleans for 33 years and served on several civic and social organizations until his death in 1974.

The Calliope Projects (or simply Calliope to the locals) are among the most notorious in Uptown New Orleans and the United States along with the Magnolia Projects. The drug trade and subsequent violence from it were two of the primary reasons New Orleans was nicknamed the "Murder Capital of the U.S."

A popular nickname for these projects is "CP-3" meaning "Calliope Projects--Third Ward".

Notable residents have included Master P and brothers C-Murder and Silkk The Shocker, as well as the Neville Brothers.

Most of Calliope is closed due to damage from Hurricane Katrina. As of January 2007, a small section of Calliope has been reopened to residents.

In 1941, the Lafitte 896-unit housing development was completed. Lafitte was to house African American tenants while the nearby Iberville development accommodated Caucasian tenants.

Low-income families, including residents of the Lafitte Housing project, will be able to return to new homes as part of a $350 million development project to revitalize the predominantly African-American Tremé neighborhood. The construction of 1,500 new homes on the site of the Lafitte Housing Project and scattered throughout Tremé will preserve all 900 subsidized housing units that existed pre-Katrina, while renovating and building an additional 600 vacant properties as affordable homes.

Here's a link to more New Orleans Housing Projects photos

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