Fucked New Orleans (Demolition Edition of a Never-Ending Series):
Truly, the best and worst you could say about the four public housing projects approved for demolition by the New Orleans City Council yesterday is that they were shitholes people called "home." If you ever happened to go into the Lafitte projects (that's them in the picture there in 2006), pre-Katrina, you saw a community; yes, you might even think, "In the realm of the shit-strewn poverty dumps we call 'public housing' in the country, there are kinda quaint." And you might even enter an apartment or two that was nicely decorated, cozy, and welcoming. But, yes, truly, that was merely painted gloss on a turd. For nobody gave a fuck about doing much about Lafitte until after Hurricane Katrina. They were built in the 1940s and were models for what projects could be, and then, through cruel neglect and outright animosity, they were left to rot for a generation, with residents in them. Like the St. Bernard, Cooper, and Peete projects also scheduled to be demolished, they were, indeed, shitholes.
But, as Greg Palast and others have documented, Lafitte's shitholes were not flooded out by Katrina. And the Housing Authority of New Orleans shut them up and refused to let residents back in, citing mold, asbestos and other "safety" concerns that you can sure as hell bet were there before the hurricane. Think about it for just a sec here: you shutter up the doors and windows and cut the electricity to a home in New Orleans, where most of the year it feels like you're living in Satan's sweaty taint, and you might just get some pretty damn bad mold, floods or no. And it's a testament to either human resilience or stupidity that residents want to come back. Because, at the end of the day, a shithole to call home is better than no home at all.
See, yesterday's near riot at the City Council meeting where the plan to demolish over 4500 units of public housing was approved unanimously was not just about that plan; it was also about seeing a chance disappear to actually improve the projects rather than just wreck them and start from scratch. It was also about, once again, the poor in the city being told to go fuck themselves while the grown-ups do what they think is best for them. Like a World's Fair. Or a casino. Yeah, all those other things that worked out so well.
It was about a barrage of broken promises, like what happened when the St. Thomas housing development was leveled to make room for the much-vaunted "mixed-income" housing, where the wretched and downtrodden could learn to live with their financial betters. River Garden, as it was called, took the homes of 800 families and turned them into a space with "25 percent affordable units versus 75 percent market-rate." So seventy of those 800 families were able to return. See, for the poor in New Orleans, "progress" means "destruction." Or "progress for everyone else."
There is no will in the state, in the nation, to do something about entrenched poverty, the intractable disease that plagues so much of urban America. Hell, John Edwards is called "angry" for merely suggesting that the poor be considered in the upcoming presidential race.
And if none of that warms your heart for this holiday season, there's an article in the Guardian about the destruction wrought by the illegal drug epidemic in New Orleans. It's got this wonderful list from hell: "white crystal meth cookers instructing black crack dealers on how to cook up the drug on their kitchen stoves; an explosion in heroin use and availability that has resulted in the drug being consumed in all manner of strange and fascinating ways from heroin-laced gumbo sold for $10 a cup, to tightly-rolled marijuana blunts packed with the drug; dealers from storm-wracked neighborhoods moving into surrounding areas and clashing with established dealers (this may go far in explaining the current murder epidemic in New Orleans); and, perhaps most disturbingly, thousands of 'emancipated youths' (teenagers returning to New Orleans to live on their own, with absolutely no parental supervision) entering into the drug game in order to support themselves financially."
"Fucked" doesn't even do it justice.
(Tip o' the hat to rude reader Sheldon for the Guardian link.)