Save New Orleans Affordable Housing Fact Sheet

by on December 26, 2007 · 9 comments

in Civil Rights, Environment

 Say No to wasting Katrina millions on demolition

by Bill Quigley

1. New Orleans is in the worst affordable housing crisis since the Civil War. HUD reports that the city is 100 percent rented as tens of thousands of homes remain wrecked. There was a waiting list of 18,000 people for public and Section 8 housing pre-Katrina. When HANO (Housing Authority of New Orleans) opened the list for Section 8 in 2001, 19,000 people applied.

2. Despite this, HUD has announced plans to demolish 4,534 public housing garden-style apartments: 1,546 in B.W. Cooper, 723 in C.J. Peete, 1,400 in St. Bernard, 865 in Lafitte.

3. John Fernandez, associate professor of architecture at MIT, has inspected 140 of these apartments and has concluded “no structural or nonstructural damage was found that could reasonably warrant any cost-effective building demolition …Therefore, the general conclusions are:

• “demolition of any of the buildings of these four projects is not supported by the evidence of the survey,
• “replacement of these buildings with contemporary construction would yield buildings of lower quality and shorter lifetime duration,
• “the original construction methods and materials of these projects are far superior in their resistance to hurricane conditions than typical new construction and
• “with renovation and regular maintenance, the lifetimes of the buildings in all four projects promise decades of continued service that may be extended indefinitely.”

(for the remainder of this article, go here.)

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

David G. Urban December 26, 2007 at 5:52 pm

Ah, yes, ‘ol Mr. Quigley: another ivory-tower academic out to save the world.

His disingenuous article is bloated and absurd, and deserves a bit of puncturing. First, the plans to demolish the old public housing in New Orleans were in place long before Katrina hit. They’ve been recognized as failures for a long time; mere breeding grounds for crime and drug-use. The human misery contained in those old blocks of run-down structures is beyond comprehension, most certainly Mr. Quigley’s comfortable, upper-middle class comprehension.

The goal—and a successful process that has been underway for some time—is to transform those obsolete projects into vibrant, mixed-used, mixed income developments. Remodeling won’t cut it; some of the old projects were isolated neighborhoods that intensified the misery. In the new plans, even the streets are changed around to add inclusion, not isolation.

In other words, no one wants to put lipstick on a pig and call it a day. The job needs to be done right, and that means demolition and rebuilding from the ground up.

Before I move on to the second point, let’s hear from some of the residents’ comments, as taken from the letters to the editor of the local paper.

From the residents that Mr. Quigley claims are horrified over the demolition plans:

“Those protesting the demolition of the housing developments have their hearts in the right place, but were unintentionally assisting in the further oppression of the disadvantaged.”

“Outside activists have their own personal and national agenda, and they really do not care about New Orleanians. I am surprised that local activists have been marginalized by these outside antagonists.”

“At least the City Council showed it has guts and cares about the entire city and community. All of us should support the council and move forward together. Stop complaining and start doing something positive.”

“When I lived in San Francisco in the 1990s, large public housing towers were torn down and replaced with the same mixed housing that is proposed for New Orleans. While there was reduction in the overall number of units in San Francisco, there was a huge increase in the quality of life for residents and a significant reduction in crime for neighboring areas. I would appreciate if our local media would show everyone how the mixed-use housing in San Francisco has actually improved the quality of living for everyone, instead of just focusing on those protesting in front of City Hall.”

“Is it truly a wise use of tax dollars to return people to decrepit, unsafe buildings that date to the 1940s, and likely doom them to continuing the generational cycle of public assistance?”

Sounds to me like plenty of residents support the plan to replace the old projects. Of course, we see the film at eleven of protesters and assume the poor are being left behind again.

Are they really, though?

Let’s see: all the pre-Katrina “clients” (as those on assistance are called), are still guaranteed financial housing assistance. In fact, aid has been increased by 35%. That means a client can now get $1,447.00 towards the rent of a three-bedroom house.

Of course, Mr. Quigley claims all the low-income housing is being destroyed, never to return. That’s not true, of course, but let’s not argue over numbers.

But if Mr. Quigley is right about the “worst affordable housing crisis” since whenever, there shouldn’t be any housing anywhere for the clients to use their financial assistance, correct?

Well, no. Log on to the New Orleans HANO website and look up the list of private housing owners willing to rent to Section 8. There are hundreds of listings waiting to be filled. Those listings, plus the new buildings going up that are designated for low income, and you’ll see the “crisis” Mr. Quigley cries about just isn’t real.

Naturally, Mr. Quigley complains it’s a bit of a bureaucratic nightmare to get through the red tape in order to get the $1,447.00; but I suppose a little effort to obtain free rent isn’t a bad thing now, is it?

Perhaps this is why the Washington Post agrees with the demolitions, the mayor of New Orleans agrees, every city council member agrees, the majority of the residents agree, even residents of the old projects agree.

The only people who don’t agree are “activists” interested less in making things better, and more in making a name for themselves as crusaders. The problem is they obstruct and cloud every issue, and nothing gets done.

The joke in New Orleans right now is that when the projects were built, the protestors came out and screamed about warehousing the poor and disenfranchised. Now that the projects are coming down the protestors are back, claiming now the projects are the best thing since sliced bread.


Frank Gormlie December 26, 2007 at 6:09 pm

Bill Quigley’s full article actually addresses David Urban’s points. Check out “Myths and Facts of New Orleans Public Housing” in his article. Just an historical note: “urban renewal” was the phrase that San Francisco used when the Fillmore District – the former African-American community of that city – was redeveloped, forcing many of its Black families out of the city. The Fillmore was drastically altered back then. Now the City is looking for ways to retain what few families are left.

David – are you a “flammer” or troll? someone who visits blogs and makes incendiary comments that are purposely derogatory and hostile just to stir things up? I’ve noticed that this seems to be your modus operandi, and when Rick Nadeau called you on it – you immediately backed off – and made it all seem like you were joking.


David G. Urban December 26, 2007 at 7:08 pm

Neither. I express my viewpoints as I see fit. I notice opposing viewpoints are not well received on this site; it seems less a forum for debate than a feel-good hug fest by people afraid to defend their points of view.

Rick Nadeau, in reference to my earlier post which was neither hostile nor derogatory, accused me of supporting “ethnic cleansing.” Is such a vile comment not “hostile and derogatory?” Did he receive a censure from the publisher? Or are liberals held under one standard and all others under another? Go back and re-read his post, then come back again and tell me who was being hostile and derogatory.

My posts are nothing more or less than you might read in the Letters to the Editor section of any newspaper. If you pretend to run a journalistic enterprise, then at least be prepared to encounter varied opinions; some of which (gasp!) you might vehemently disagree with.

And lastly, I stand by my assessment of Quigley’s article. It does NOT address the issue accurately. In the opinion of most of the people in New Orleans, the local politicians, and influential publications such as the New York Post, he is dead wrong. In fact, you might call him the flamer or the troll on that particular issue.

Really, Frank, you want your enterprise to be successful? Then open up a bit and allow those who don’t agree to have a say also. I don’t troll your publication; I read it to gain exposure to other points of view. Sometimes I learn something, and on the majority of articles I just try to understand.

Some of the articles, however, are so off-the-wall I just have to say something about it. Quigley’s article is one, and the “greatest generation” article was another; plus, of course, the nonsense about the police “beating” the protesters in New Orleans.

So there.


Frank Gormlie December 26, 2007 at 9:31 pm

David – our blog is open to a variety of opinions and thoughts, primarily of the progressive vintage, but it is not open to racists, white supremacists or fascists, and it is not open to personal attacks on authors or other persons. Your language at times has bordered on using racist terminology. If in fact your use of such terms is for shock value or to make a linguistically-tuned political point, you are pushing the envelop of decency,sir.
As our blog enters its third month, we measure success in the number of visitors, of hits, the quality of the writings and the responses, and if it seems we are doing any good.
You, at least, have been “with” us from the beginning, and I encourage you to continue your education and discourse. We only ask that you refrain from digressions from the truth and agree with us to disagree.


Richard Nadeau December 26, 2007 at 11:46 pm

For David:

A philosopher once wrote: “Those who seek to destroy monsters should be careful that in the process they themselves do not become monsters. ”

You don”t think calling people “riff raff” is hostile or derogatory? Come on David, you sound too intelligent to be so disingenuous. Who are you kidding?

Take a good look in the mirror David. Seems like all of your venom is directed at “riff raff “or “white liberals. ” And what are you – a reactionary? I really don’t care what color you are, although skin color seems to be a real obsession of yours when you talk about “white” liberals.

By the way, I am not a “white liberal.” A liberal believes that the current system is ok, just needing piecemeal reforms. Conservatives want to keep it the way it is, or even go backward to an earlier state. Some of them will have us all walking the goose step if we are not careful.

I think we need something radically different than what is. Because “what is,” David, is not working, and is a in fact a threat too humanity. Get off the LOVE BOAT, David, it’s really the Titanic. Grab a raff, or a riff-raff, if you will. And by the way, sticks and stones may break my bones, but the name “white liberal” will never hurt me.


David G. Urban December 27, 2007 at 8:26 am

In deference to Frank and his position as editor, I’ll tone it down a bit. However, I feel I must defend myself against baseless accusations and inferred charges of racism.

Let’s examine something here. My post that started this little discussion was this:

“This has to be one of the worst articles I’ve ever read. Talk about media bias. As a former resident, I’ll tell you that 98% of the New Orleans people want those damn projects gone. Even people who lived in the projects will be glad to see them destroyed. This is New Orleans’ chance to move ahead and break out of the slum mentality that has hamstrung it for so long. Some of the riff-raff are simply afraid their generational welfare lifestyle is being threatened. By the way, the NO Police did not “attack” anyone. This type of sensationalizing is cheap and stupid.”

Nowhere in that post is any mention of race or racism. I felt, and still feel, that the article I referred to was a blatant attempt to cloud the real issues of the affordable housing debate with unsubstantiated charges of police brutality.

Suddenly, out of the blue, comes Richard’s accusation: “Obviously, Urban supports the ethnic cleansing of the ‘riff raff’ of New Orleans. Clean em up and sweep them out! And who are the riff raff that are referred to – poor black people?”


Now, let’s see: ethnic cleansing is probably as despicable and vile as anything this world has ever experienced. And, according to Richard, I support this. Richard also infers I am referring to poor black people as riff-raff.

Who’s attacking whom? Richard’s bald statement, “Urban supports the ethnic cleansing of the riff-raff of New Orleans,” is libelous.

In my next post I tell Richard to, “Stop patronizing black people. It’s the worst kind of racism.” The patronizing I refer to is when Richard automatically makes a connection between riff-raff and “poor black people.” I find that type of connection demeaning and insulting and racist. I never made any reference to race in my original post, nor did I infer any.

To make my point crystal clear, I told him exactly whom I was calling riff-raff: “The riff-raff, by the way, are the animals who terrorize the city to a point where the National Guard have to be called in.”

Richard’s sole response was to Google me and refer to a book I wrote: “You need to get back to compounding, formulating, and selling industrial detergents and solvents, and things you know something about.”

That was it. No response to the article or the issue. Just a personal attack. Still, I found it amusing someone would go to that length to find out about me. After all, these blogs are only spirited discussions, and in the end, it’s only a tempest in a teapot, so to speak.

Still, I find it odd that Richard feels free to libel and attack me with impunity, and attach racial inferences to my words (when I hadn’t brought up anything at all about race), and then infer I’m racist; and that Frank apparently condones this. I mean, what’s going on here?

As I said, I’ll tone down my posts a bit. But if Frank is serious about not tolerating personal attacks, I would hope he extends protection to everyone, not just those he agrees with.

However, no one should be afraid of vigorously expressing himself either. I would like to point out that Pat Flannery, whom we all admire, is not at all shy about expressing his opinions. Witness, among many other examples, his blog of 11-29-07 where he refers to Bob Manis as “Bob ‘pay-me-to-lie’ Manis.”

I’d say that is pretty blunt, wouldn’t you?

Also, by the way, Richard: I never called you a white liberal. Re-read my post. I talk about white liberals as a group, who you can guess I don’t admire, much as I would talk about black conservatives as a group, who I do admire.


Frank Gormlie December 27, 2007 at 9:43 am

Here is some more biased media reporting of New Orleans residents being attacked by police, see here.


David G. Urban December 27, 2007 at 11:24 am

I have seen the NOLA video of the New Orleans housing protest. But I’ve also researched the incident more deeply.

For example, the meeting hall was filled to capacity and then some: three hundred people or more. Both sides of the issue were represented by qualified people. For example, those opposing demolition were represented by Mr. Quigley, who was inside, and Donna Johnigan, resident council leader at B.W. Cooper, and, I believe, a former HANO Board member, as well as many others. They all got a chance to speak.

It is an outright falsehood that those opposing the demolition were locked out and refused entry. The meeting hall was jam-packed full with both proponents and opponents, simple as that. There just wasn’t room for more people.

Meanwhile, outside, protesters clearly intended to create a disturbance. You can see it on the video: pushing the gate wildly, breaking it open, threatening to storm the meeting, and refusing to obey police instructions to move back.

What you don’t see is some of the action recorded by print journalists. For example, here is one reporter’s description of the protesters (from the Times-Picayune):

“Some belittled the police, criticized politicians, and bandied about the words ‘racist,’ ‘pig’ and ‘brutality.’ One man held up a sign that read ‘F — the council, F — the cops.”

This doesn’t show up on the video. What you do see, of course, is the police tasering and pepper spraying the protesters when they force open the gates and then refuse to let the police shut them again. This is portrayed as police brutality, an affront against freedom of speech, etc…

And this, naturally, is what gets played over and over across the United States as an example of what’s going on in New Orleans. There is no real understanding and analysis of the issue: just sensational video designed to prejudice people. Which is exactly what the protesters wanted.

In my opinion, Frank, that is underhanded and biased. It is the cheapest and lowest form of debate. Instead of using rational argument and facts to advance a cause, emotional hysteria is used instead.

Overwhelmingly, the people who undertake the effort to look at the housing issue in its entirety come to the same conclusion as the majority of the residents in New Orleans, the mayor, city council, former public housing residents, and leading analysts across the nation do: the old public housing needs to go away.

As for me, I’m a former resident. Can you say that? I’ve seen first hand what the city has been through. I still have relatives there who survived Katrina, who let me know what’s really going on. I’m not so easily fooled by sensational news reporting or video.


Richard Nadeau December 30, 2007 at 8:16 pm

Well look whose into name calling. Urban called me a “name caller,” and thats unfair.

I simply asked a question – I said : “Who are the riff-raff you wan’t to clean out of New Orleans – poor black people? Did you see that question mark, David? It was a question, not a declaration. Go back and look at it. You never answered it?

I asked about a connection that even the media ( I guess you would say “white liberal” media) have discussed. And from what I saw on television with my own two eyes, DAVID, it was mostly poor black people who were stranded by their govenment during the Katrina disaster. If my compassion for them makes me a patronizing “white liberal,” as you implied, then so be it.

Your the one who accussed me of patronizing those poor suffering people .

You used inflamatory rhetoric about cleaning out the “riff raff ” of New Orleans, showed no compassion for the people being effected, and then disingenuously cried “foul” when someone addressed it and said: “who do you mean? ” I asked: Did you take a survey of the people being effected by the demolition?

Of course, no answer to that question was offered. The issue on the demographics of who is actually loosing their homes is an important one. And from what I’ve read in his posts, David doesn’t care.

You impute motives and actions to me that are frankly mysterious given your own accusations about me.

In my view, its important to get the facts about New Orleans, and specially important to get the demographic facts about who has actually been forced to leave as a result of the demolitions.

You rant about “white liberals”, a term you use over and over in your discourse, but you are silent on reactionaries or conservatives, the very people who today have real power, and are leading this country down a disaterous path of war and militarism. You do say you “admire black conservatives,” but don’t tell us why.

Your silence about these people speaks for itself. I find Urban disengenuous, and wilkl niot respond further to any of his posts, no matter how much vitriol he spills at “white liberlas.”


Leave a Comment

Older Article:

Newer Article: