Mardi Gras beads and hurricane debris.
Mardi Gras beads and hurricane debris.

Iberville Housing Projects.

They were built in 1940 as part of the Wagner Act,  a Federal plan to subsidize housing for  low-income families. They were low-rise, built of brick in the super block configurations that were considered attractive and modern in their time. By the 1970s most of them had deteriorated to the point where they were uninhabitable. But, families still lived there. I call the area Treme, but it is really located in the 4th Ward and is a sub-district of Mid-City. Treme is located in the 6th Ward.

They were closed after Hurricane Katrina, but were the first to re-open because they did not flood. They remained in terrible shape and spawned a large amount of crime. The 2000 Census said that there were about 2,450 people living there. In 2010, there was roughly half that number. The mayor at the time was Ray Nagin. He wanted to redevelop them as early as 2003. Hurricane Katrina pushed the process along. In May of 2009, he announced a plan to demolish all of the housing projects throughout city and redevelop them into mixed use housing. Demolition began in 2013. The former mayor is a guest of the Federal prison system. For ten years.

Another statistic. Prior to Hurricane Katrina there were 3,000 occupied housing project units throughout the city. As of the early 2015, there are 706 new replacement units.

In January 2015, the remaining housing units of the Iberville projects were added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Many of the residents who lived there never came back. I’ve been reading quite a bit about where they went. Well, housing project residents in general. They are scattered all over the country. Even when they returned, rental property was scarce. And, expensive. It’s only gotten more expensive. Many relocated somewhat locally. To Jefferson Parish, on both sides of the river. Some live in St. Bernard Parish. Some live further upriver. They might come back for second lines and Mardi Gras. There is a good, but very long piece at www.slate.com. about just this issue. I can’t seem to copy the direct link. If you are interested go to their history section and look at the story for August 25, 2015. It’s yet more Katrina coverage. But, this is worthy of your time. You’ll come to understand why my photographs of the ruined places and second line parades are very intertwined.

The pictures. I liked the gallery approach well enough that I repeated it. It should work a little better for you. Storyteller should upload faster. Anyway, the pictures:

  1. You know what those are. Mardi Gras beads. They are hanging on a piece of fence that surrounds what used to be a small strip mall. There was food store, a drugstore and a doctor’s office there. The doctor made a big deal of accepting all kinds of payment vouchers. I don’t know what the plans for the little mall are, but it’s pretty well covered in graffiti.
  2. Rising. Construction goes on. The brick building is one of the original remaining structures. One of the historic ones. It’s been cleaned up considerably.
  3. Most of the entire project remains behind fences. Please open the picture. When you do, you’ll be able to see the old buildings on the left. The newly built structures are on the right. Wasn’t I clever? I composed the picture so the fence post would divide the old and new. Pat. Pat. Pat. Right on my back.
  4. Fences. Yeah, well…

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