After Sandy, Learning From New Orleans: D6 and Beyond

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After Sandy, Learning From New Orleans: D6 and Beyond

from their neighborhoods. These were people who were every day looking for work. They were living by the hundreds in this hotel. I remember arriving at this hotel and right behind the hotel there was this splendid Bourbon Street restored in all its glory: electricity and optimism. Right next door to this hotel were hundreds of local people who couldn’t find work, who were desperate and in the midst of this, this hotel told the Department of Labor under the Bush administration then that they couldn’t find local workers ready or willing to do the work, so the hotel got certified as a guestworker employer and sent recruiters out to Bolivia, to the Dominican Republic and Peru. They brought in guestworkers and wages fell from $14 an hour to $6.09 in the course of a few months. These were the images from post Katrina New Orleans

What happened to public housing?

Of all the stories of heroism after Hurricane Katrina, the stories of the residents of public housing who refused to vacate, who refused to give up their right to remain on their land and in the community in New Orleans and just asserted their right to be who they are, to stay with the people they love is one of the most remarkable stories.

The fight over public housing is not legend; it’s really a fight over the soul of New Orleans. These were buildings, four developments in particular, that are vast and extremely valuable tracks of land. After Katrina, developers and corporations and government officials had the perfect opportunity to take it over. What ensued was a massive debate about the value of public housing and an incredibly cruel corporate campaign to displace thousands of African-Americans.

The displacement of these people was not just an issue of housing. It was also an issue of voting power, and what happened to public housing now is widely known. The residents essentially lost and public housing was destroyed and is still undergoing destruction and redevelopment.

A story that is very instructive to post-Sandy New Yorkers, I think, is what happened years after public housing was initially brought under the wrecking ball. Two years ago in a public housing development called BW Cooper, the last of the big four