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Rebuilding. Katrina Stories. Five.


New Orleans Skyline

New Orleans Skyline

This Katrina recovery story is harder to tell. From two perspectives.

First, there is my current view. I can hardly wait until the 10 year anniversary media coverage comes to and end. I don’t know any local person who is in a good mood. We are all grumpy. I don’t think it helps to know that there is a tropical storm churning the mid-Atlantic headed roughly this way. It’ll make landfall somewhere maybe some time next week. Who knows if it will turn into something bigger.  Or, in which direction it will go. It could go into the Caribbean. Or, somewhere in Florida. Or, north to the Carolinas. Or, it could work its way into the Gulf. A photographer friend of mine who photographs second line parades just signed off of all social media and has “gone underground” until August 30th.  He’s had enough. There is a second line parade on Sunday. The first of the season. I suppose I’ll see him there.

Then, there are these pictures. I’ll talk about them more when I get to the picture portion. I don’t know all the politics of how the hospital corridor in Mid City actually came to be. First, let me say that we need this new huge multi-block development. We need new, modern hospitals. Two of the older ones were abandoned after the storm. One, Charity, is an old 1930s Art Deco building that is repairable and can be repurposed. Apparently, after the first floors flooded and the patients were evacuated the building was locked up tight. Everything is as it was left ten years ago. A ghost hospital. The other is Lindy Boggs Memorial Hospital. It too can be repaired. It is located on a newly and soon-to-be opened green belt that stretches from the French Quarter to Bayou St. John. People will be able to bike or walk through a huge swath of the city.

But.

That’s not the story of these pictures. This part of New Orleans is in a neighborhood called Mid City. It’s a huge area. Most of it flooded during the storm. This particular location flooded pretty badly. After it dried out, maybe ten people out of a couple thousand returned. The city, with help from FEMA, had the whole area condemned in order to build the new hospital corridor. There was all sorts of local protests. The few people who were there refused to be moved. You know, like the old guy sitting on the porch with his shotgun just daring the authorities to come evict him. I wasn’t in New Orleans for any of this. I was recovering from the trauma of Hurricane Katrina in New Mexico. Anything I could add is from various news accounts.

It didn’t occur to me until yesterday what really happened to this neighborhood. I was looking at Google Maps and Streetview. Normally, those things are fairly current. They are no more than a year or so old. Not for this neighborhood. Street View is from 2007. It was from pre-demolition of the neighborhood. The area was in terrible shape. Almost no storm recovery was apparent. Probably because there was never going to be. But, what really struck me is that streets were cut in two in order to create the development land. And blocked. There’s a street called Banks. It was sort of a main street between Canal Street and Tulane Avenue. Cut in half and fenced off. Today, the upper end near Jeff Davis has become a breakfast restaurant row.

Please don’t misunderstand. This neighborhood was run down and in bad shape pre-storm. But, it was somebody’s neighborhood.  It was mixed. German. Jewish. Black. They all got along. People grew up there. Families called it home.  There were a few local landmarks and a few homes in which notable jazz musicians were raised. I honestly don’t know where they went.

That’s the negative side of the coin.

There is a very positive side.

This is a hospital corridor. It’s not a football stadium. Or, an entertainment zone. It serves all of us in New Orleans. It’s added a huge talent base. It’s added a lot of jobs. Mostly good jobs. There are also unattended consequences. The people who returned to the area of the neighborhood that was not demolished and rebuilt their homes probably won’t be able to stay there. Real estate prices, for both rent and purchase, have been driven sky-high. All over the city. But, especially here. Think about it. You’re a doctor. You can buy a cool old New Orleans style house. You can walk to work in five minutes.

The main hospital opened on August 2, 2015. It is called University Medical Center New Orleans. It will employ 2,000 medical personal when it is fully staffed.

The veteran’s hospital still has about a year to go. Or, two or three. You know how that is.

The pictures.

I had a tough time with them. It’s been raining on and off all day. The temperature has cooled down a great deal. In contrast to our 124 F heat index days, today was in the low 80s. It was very humid when it wasn’t raining and dripping when it was. I worked in the rain. I sweated in the humidity. That all felt right. It felt good. It felt like the Gulf Coast. Like New Orleans. But, it took a while to figure out these pictures. Part of it, I’m sure, was my mood. And, I did what until the last possible minute. I needed the blue light of dusk.

So.

  1. A small part of the New Orleans skyline from a grassy place at the edge of the hospital complex. It’s really a pretty little pocket park in the middle of urban development. I have no idea what the hills are made of. Or, why they are there. I have my suspicions. This being New Orleans, I’m willing to bet there is all sorts of storm and demolition junk buried under them. The blue building was once a mansion. Now, it’s new medical office space.
  2. I believe the houses that were moved to Hoffman Triangle — see posts from last summer on Storyteller for more about that — are starting to return.  This house is  not among those. This house was moved from a block or so away to what was an abandoned wholesale “no credit needed” used car lot. You know the ones. These are the kinds of houses that were demolished to make way for the new hospitals. The best of them were not demolished, but moved to a place in Central City called Hoffman Triangle, which on a map really looks like an oblong.
  3. That’s the brand new emergency room entrance. I made this picture because I like the graphics. I suppose it will eventually be drenched in blood with our constant    and ongoing shootings. Many of them happen in Hoffman Triangle.
What's Left

What’s Left

ER

ER

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