NEW BOTTOM OF THE NINTH
Urban planning and New Orleans
The Ninth Ward of New Orleans is
about to be struck by another disaster - not a natural one like
Katrina, however, but by the human disaster of modern urban planning.
The problem with urban planners
is two fold. First, they work for the wrong people, the government,
rather than for the citizens. As local governments have become
more corrupt and more beholden to the interests of a small number
of developers and other businesses, urban planning has inevitably
come to reflect these perverse priorities.
Second, urban planners believe in
sweeping physical solutions to social problems. The idea, Richard
Sennett has written, goes back to the 1860s design for Paris
by Baron Haussmann. Haussmann, Sennett suggests, bequeathed us
the notion that we could alter social patterns by changing the
physical landscape. This approach was not about urban amenities
such as park benches and gas lighting or technological improvements
such as indoor plumbing but about what G. K. Chesterton called
the huge modern heresy of "altering the human soul to fit
its conditions, instead of altering human conditions to fit the
How effective is such a course?
Some just released data on Washington DC gives part of the answer.
Few places have spent more money and placed more political and
psychological emphasis on physical planning as a human solution
than the nation's capital. Over the past quarter century or so,
billions have been spent on 'economic development' including
a massive new subway system, two restorations of Union Station,
two convention centers, a major new indoor sports stadium, downtown
urban renewal, a redevelopment of Pennsylvania Avenue, increased
tax breaks and financial benefits for developers, as well as
numerous smaller projects. Yet according to new figures from
the Center for Budget Priorities and the Economic Policy Institute,
the income of a typical citizen in the city's lower economic
quintile has grown exactly $382 in real dollars since the 1980s
while someone in the top quintile now earns $70,382 more. Further,
there are fewer jobs for DC residents and sales tax revenue -
a reasonable indicator of 'economic development' - has barely
kept up with inflation.
The jewel in the crown of local
planners - the subway system - not only turned out to have the
biggest cost overruns of any domestic public works project this
side of Boston's Big Dig, it has served as a major impetus for
new development - most of whose occupants come by car, thus masochistically
contributing to an increase in street traffic. Metro has removed
jobs, population and tourist facilities from the city and has
left the capital colony - which is not allowed to tax commuters
- with the largest percentage increase in daytime population
of any major city in the country, all by economic freeloaders.
In short, as a route to economic
development, Washington's urban planning has been a bust. As
a way to ameliorate social ills and inequalities its effect has
been precisely the reverse. And there is nothing in Washington's
approach to urban planning that is significantly different from
the national average, except for the time and money spent upon
Urban planning wasn't always like
this. Grandiose and even imperial, yes, but without the strong
tie to large commercial interests that has so altered city design
since the early 20th century. Older planners saw themselves more
as architects or sculptors on a grand scale. Thus L'Enfant's
plan for Washington was an attempt give the new nation iconographic
shape. The 19th century Central Park in New York and Rock Creek
Park in Washington were gifts to their cities' less affluent
as well as to the rich. Frederick Law Olmstead, in fact, was
a former journalist who had had written critically of slavery
for the predecessor of the New York Times with views that helped
spur the anti-slavery movement.
It is true that while Olmstead called
Central Park "a democratic development of the highest significance,"
1,600 lower income residents were evicted by eminent domain to
make way for it. Nonetheless the beneficiaries proved considerably
more ubiquitous than, say, in the case of Bush's Texas Rangers
or for the new Washington Nationals.
Modern planning was in part spurred
by the desire of the elites to recover their cities from the
immigrant politicians and riff raff who had seized urban America
in the late 19th and early 20th century. Much of what was described
as "reform," was in fact just a transfer of power -
including the power to corrupt - back to the elites.
Certainly the new zoning laws, which
coincided with the rise in urban transit, helped. Zoning laws
were created early last century before we understood the ecological
costs of a highway-dependent society and at a time when women
were expected to stay at home. These conditions have changed
but our zoning laws have not kept pace. For example, today in
homogeneous single-family, double-income neighborhoods whole
blocks may be deserted during the day. We spend our Saturdays
driving to distant malls in part because we have zoned shops
and services out of our own communities, another monument to
Among the effects of zoning - again,
with the aid of the streetcar - was to dismantle the ethnically
and socially connected - albeit not integrated - city. Where
class and ethnicity might have once been divided by blocks, now
the more successful could move safely several miles away. For
example, Washington's Georgetown, where I lived as a child, reflected
its pre-zoning origins despite segregation and restrictive covenants.
We lived with our mother and father, he a middle level New Deal
official, on a street that included a row of black shanties,
one occupied by our mail man and half without indoor plumbing.
My public school was segregated but my streetscape wasn't. Imagine
a mid level Bush or Clinton administration official living on
the same street as their postal carrier regardless of ethnicity
and you can sense the change that has occurred.
Zoning wasn't the only thing happening.
One of the New Deal's reforms was the creation of the Home Owners
Loan Corporation, which provided federal guarantees for home
mortgages. According to the historian Kenneth T. Jackson, between
1933 and 1936 alone, the HOLC supplied funds for one tenth of
all owner-occupied, non-farm residences in the country. The FHA,
and later the VA, took over the task. By the end of 1958, the
FHA had enabled nearly five million families to own homes and
helped more than 22 million to improve their properties.
At the same time, however, the legislation
discouraged the construction of multi-family units and provided
only small short-term loans for repair of existing homes. This
meant, Jackson noted, that "families of modest circumstances
could more easily finance the purchase of a new home than the
modernization of an old one." Jackson continued:
"The greatest fears of the
Federal Housing Administration were reserved for 'unharmonious
racial or nationality groups.' The alleged danger was that an
entire area could lose its investment value if rigid white-black
segregation was not maintained. To protect itself against such
eventualities, the Underwriting Manual openly recommended 'enforced
zoning, subdivision regulations, and suitable restrictive covenants.
In addition, the FHA's Division of Economics and Statistics compiled
detailed reports and maps charting the present and most likely
future residential locations of black families." In a March
1939, map of Brooklyn, for example, the presence of a single
non-white family on any block was sufficient to result in that
entire block being marked black. Similarly, very extensive maps
of the District of Columbia depicted the spread of the black
population and the percentage of dwelling units occupied by persons
other than white."
Jackson noted that "black neighborhoods
were invariably rated 'D.'" These were neighborhoods described
with such phrases as "the only hope is for demolition of
these buildings and transition of the are into a business district"
or "this particular spot is a blight on the surrounding
"Residential security maps"
were drawn up for every block of a city. These maps were available
to lenders and realtors but were kept secret from the general
public. Some of these maps, including those for DC, Jackson found
to be missing from government archives.
The suburban bias of the FHA was
extraordinary. For example, 91% of the homes insured by the agency
in metropolitan St. Louis between 1935 and 1939 were in the suburbs.
This practice would continue into the 60s and even the 70s. Jackson
found that in 1976 the federal government had supplied three
dollars in loans for suburban St. Louis for every one dollar
to the city itself. Between 1934 and 1960, $559 million was loaned
for suburban construction in the St. Louis suburbs but only $94
million for the city itself, a suburban per capita loan in 1961
of $794 vs. an urban one of only $126.
Behind such attempts was what Richard
Sennett has called a search for "the purified community."
Describing the psychology of urban planners in The Uses of Disorder,
Sennett says, "Their impulse has been to give way to that
tendency, developed in adolescence, of men to control unknown
threats by eliminating the possibility for experiencing surprise."
This tradition continues to today
and is already driving the plans for New Orleans.
My own introduction to the impact
of urban planning came in the late 1950s as a radio reporter.
I was sent to interview a woman who was refusing to move out
of her house in DC's Southwest urban renewal area. Hundreds of
acres had been leveled around her and still she clung on like
a survivor of the Dresden carpet bombing. The project, the largest
in the nation, had begun in April 1954 and five years later some
550 acres had been cleared. Only 300 families remained to be
relocated. More than 20,000 people and 800 businesses had been
kicked out to make way for the plan. Some 80% of the latter never
went back into operation.
The design was hailed by planners
and liberals; a 1955 report for the District was titled No Slums
in Ten Years. Just as today, many liberals saw nothing wrong
with eminent domain as long as it produced a more purified community.
Not everyone was so sanguine, however. One of the leaders in
the fight against SW urban renewal was Rev. Walter Fauntroy,
later active in the civil rights movement. And in a 1959 report
of the National Conference of Catholic Charities, the Rt. Rev.
Msg. John O'Grady said, "It is sad. It is not urban renewal;
it is a means of making a few people rich. Instead of improving
housing conditions, it is shifting people around from one slum
The Supreme Court disagreed. In
1954 it had upheld the underlying law and in a decision written
by none other than William O. Douglas, declared:
"It is within the power of
the legislature to determine that the community should be beautiful
as well as healthy, spacious as well as clean, well-balanced
as well as carefully patrolled . . . The experts concluded that
if the community were to be healthy, if it were not to revert
again to a blighted or slum area, as though possessed by a congenital
disease, the area must be planned as a whole."
Years later, a woman who had lived
in Southwest recalled that when her mentally ill mother had a
spell, there were always neighbors or relatives to take her in
and shield her from what was happening. It wasn't until they
were forced out of the community of Southwest and had to live
alone that she learned how sick her mother was.
Today, the new Southwest is rarely
cited as a model of urban living. It reflects the planning biases
of the 50s - cold, boxy construction and a lack of convenient
shops, thanks in part to the deal struck at the time with the
now struggling commercial mall. Many people seem to prefer less
planned communities, places whose character developed from those
who live and work there rather than being imposed from without.
In the years to come, I would become
involved in endless planning battles both as a journalist and
as an activist. Many were successful such as the effort to end
the freeways that threatened to turn DC into an east coast Los
Angeles and the campaign to save the historic buildings along
Pennsylvania Avenue that the planners wanted to trash. Some were
not, such as the effort by small business people to stay in downtown
DC. In my own neighborhood we fought off developers three times
on one site until a builder came up with a decent plan. The group
leading the fight disbanded with $3,000 left in its bank account
which was given to another group fighting yet another soon successful
battle. We stopped a ten story office building, saving instead
one of the earliest park and shops in the country. And we even
defeated the local bishop of the Episcopal Diocese, leaving the
community with a place to run its dogs for the next thirty years.
During this whole period, I only
once came across an urban plan actually designed for the people
who lived in the place being planned, and that one had a non-governmental
patron. Lady Bird Johnson had gotten landscape architect Lawrence
Halprin - the man who thought it was all right for children to
play in his fountains - to propose improvements to the then ethnically
and economically mixed neighborhood of Capitol Hill where I lived
in 60s. Colorful Mexican playground equipment began appearing
at local public schools and children in vest pocket parks found
turtle sculptures on which to climb. In a relatively short time,
Capitol Hill became not only more attractive but more fun. It
was an exception, but an instructive one: how it feels when a
planner works for the citizens and not the government. In nearly
every other instance it was either explicitly or implicitly assumed
that the plan would attract a better class of people and business
to the place being planned. The people presently there were at
best an afterthought.
An article by J. William Thompson
in Land Online speaks of Halprin's "democratic identification
with the people who built his landscapes and those who use them.
For this, to my knowledge, no award is ever given - yet it's
a quality I consider crucial to the building of great landscapes.
. . I discovered a very different side of Halprin when he led
me on a tour of the FDR Memorial in Washington, D.C., at its
opening in 1997. What struck me first was Halprin's absolute
joy at seeing the public take possession of the memorial. 'Boy,
look at all those people!' he exclaimed as we turned the corner
into the first memorial room and saw the crowds; he was even
more delighted that, as he pointed out, the crowds were flowing
through the memorial's rooms in the patterns that he had 'choreographed.'
Looking back, I realize that the memorial is successful because
Halprin had cared deeply about how users would move through it.
. . 'Equally inspiring were Halprin's interactions with the construction
crew, with whom he seemed to have bonded in an almost paternal
way. . . Somehow, Halprin had created a community of intense
purpose. He was the master builder, but every single person involved
in the effort understood that he or she was creating something
of great public value that would endure for centuries. In short,
Halprin had the power to rally the foot soldiers in the service
of a vision of democratic urban space that he himself glimpsed
But no more Larry Halprins showed
up and there then came a time when fighting city hall began getting
much harder. The city officials and the planners were learning
from the troublemakers, co-opting our rhetoric, figuring how
to get around us, using new postmodern language to disguise old
feudalistic aims. They had fraudulent "town meetings,"
and "citizen input," and "community reviews"
and endless talk but no action about "affordable housing"
and limitless "sensitivity to the issues." It was Orwell
come to the 'hood, deceitful language and behavior designed to
conceal what really was going on - almost as if they had been
taking lessons from Karl Rove. And the lawyers didn't help. What
once had been a fairly simple agreement became a multi-page document
riddled with escape hatches.
I guess we'd lose most of our old
battles if we had to fight them again today. Gone is the feeling
writer Dorothy Allison described so well: "I had the idea
that if you took America and shook it really hard it would do
the right thing." It no longer seemed possible.
This is the America that New Orleans
faces. An America whose politicians are boosted into office by
contributions, not constituencies. An America whose planners
must serve those corrupt politicians. An America resigned to
a culture of impunity in high places. An America in which the
eminent get the domain and everyone else gets what's left.
You can already see the signs in
New Orleans. The NY Times reports, "Mayor C. Ray Nagin's
commission to revive this city proposed that residents of the
districts most heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina get four
months to demonstrate strong support for rebuilding their neighborhoods
or face the possibility of having to sell to the government.
The proposal, a centerpiece of the mayor's 'Bring New Orleans
Back' recovery effort, drew outrage from residents and community
activists, who argued that many citizens - especially the African
Americans who predominated the flood-struck areas - might be
forced out of the city for good."
Four months to come up with a solution
to one of the most difficult urban problems ever faced - in part
because of the failures of the very government issuing the ultimatum.
And, of course, we don't want to
waste public funds for rebuilding in the flood plain.
In the best of all worlds, this
is true, but this isn't something that worried us so much before.
For example, David Conrad of the National Wildlife Federation
told a House committee in 2001:
- "Twenty-five year average
national flood losses (in constant dollars) have soared to $4.2
billion annually, more than double what they were early in the
century. . . Approximately $140 billion in federal tax revenues
has been spent during the past 25 years preparing for and recovering
from natural disasters
- "Repetitive loss properties
occur in all 50 states. Louisiana, Texas, Missouri, New Jersey,
New York, and Florida lead in numbers of repetitive loss properties.
- "Repetitive loss properties
have received a disproportionate share of payments for flood
losses. While repetitive loss properties represent only 2% of
all insured properties, they experienced 25 percent of the losses
and claimed 40 percent of all [national] flood loss payments.
. . Less than one percent of flood-prone properties - those with
three or more losses - received more than one fifth of all flood
insurance payments costing the NFIP nearly $1.4 billion
- "As of April 30th of 2001,
FEMA reports the total number of repetitive loss properties has
risen to approximately 91,300 nationally (up from 74,500 five
But now it's not just the Wildlife
Federation that is concerned. Part of it's because of geography
and nature, part of it is ecological consciousness, but part
is also because of the character of the victims. The LA Times
described the results of a study by Brown University sociologist
"His study found that the population
in the damaged areas was 45.8% African American, compared with
26.4% in the undamaged areas.
- "He said 45.7% of the population
in the damaged areas lived in rental housing, compared with 30.9%
in undamaged areas.
- "In the damaged areas, 20.9%
of the population was living below the poverty line, compared
with 15.3% in the areas that were not damaged.
- "The data also showed that
the New Orleans areas most affected by Katrina housed half of
the city's white residents and 80% of its African Americans."
In a time when the Supreme Court
has declared that no citizens is immune from eviction to fulfill
the dreams and ambitions of urban planners, such data is not
comforting. Neither is the "dream team" of experts
named by the Louisiana governor. It includes Amy Liu of the Brookings
Institution, a tired old holding tank of policy wonks waiting
for a new administration. While think tanks can sometimes be
productive and occasionally provide a haven for truly original
thinkers, they primarily function as the Catholic priests of
the conventional wisdom: propagating the faith, blessing the
faithful, redirecting the errant and showing up at fundraising
dinners to add a little class and offer the benediction. And
their collection plates are regularly filled by large corporations
with some distinctly non-academic goals in mind.
A recent summation by Liu of what
needs to be done in New Orleans reeks of plan speak: there needs
to be a "planning process put in place" (in case you
hadn't noticed) and that the matter was a "regional issue."
Her presentation began with the ominous declaration that New
Orleans - presumably even before the hurricane - was a "weak
city." What they used to call "blighted." Let
the wild rumpus begin.
The dream team also includes architect
Andres Duany who has gotten a lot of favorable press for promoting
"new urbanism." Some years ago I checked out an example
of Duany's work in suburban Kentlands, Maryland:
Wandering around Kentlands
recently, I accidentally drove into a adjacent conventional development
of suburban townhouses. What immediately signaled my error was
not just the comparative blandness of the architecture but the
rows of cars parked perpendicular to their respective abodes.
At Kentlands, with its garages and off street parking, the automobile
is far less intrusive.
At the same time there
was a similarity between the two developments not apparent in
the generally well-deserved praise of Kentlands and similar efforts.
In neither place, it seemed, was there a story. Nor was there
any sign of serendipity. In the traditional development, individuality
was limited to the minor variations of vehicle choice. In Kentlands,
despite the architecture evoking an assortment of historical
styles, it all had the unity of a well-planned, cute HO-gauge
railroad layout. Nowhere was there cause to ask, "Now how
did that come to be there?" Or "What's that for?"
Kentlands, like the St. Petersburg described by Dostoyevsky,
is a totally "abstract, premeditated city."
As architect John Wiebenson
noted, "When you zone out the bad stuff; you also zone out
serendipity." And as planner Terry Fowler argues, children
especially -- but also adults -- need unprogrammed places to
play. Yet I suspect that for the first generation of Kentland's
children some of the fondest memories will be that of playing
in the mud and mess of a new construction site. For the moment,
Kentlands reminds one of Arthur Schlesinger Jr's remark that
a community without history is like a person without memory.
Why do we tend to be more
impressed by such new developments than we are by the communities
they deliberately copy? Patrick Hare suggests that Kentlands'
real advantage is better marketing. . . We have in recent decades
been so intent on making our cities neat and orderly that we
have forgotten that the major contribution of the city is its
explosive and random potential for opportunity. Our goal has
been physical order and fiscal benefits; the results have been
social disorder and huge deficits. This was a big mistake, but
in the end, it was not the fault of the physical form of the
city or its economy or even its size, but rather it came about
because too few were allowed to decide too much. Without functioning
citizens you can not have functioning cities. As Shakespeare
said, "The people are the city." And as Jane Jacobs
added: "Cities have the capability of providing something
for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created
Another expert - west coast architect
Peter Calthorpe, who has done interesting and admirable work
on high density communities - is the most hopeful of the lot.
Calthorpe, for example, has designed "pedestrian pockets,"
which he describes as balanced, mixed-use areas within a 1/4
mile walking radius of a light rail station. The uses within
the zone would include housing, offices, retail, daycare, recreation
and open space. Up to 2000 units of housing and one million square
feet of office can be located within three blocks of the light
rail station using typical condominium densities and four-story
It sounds like a lot but psychologists
have found that it is the perception of crowding rather than
actual density that really bothers people. Noise, traffic and
lack of open space can create claustrophobia even in low density
areas, while one can feel quite uncrowded in the pleasant densities
you find, say, in San Francisco or in many European cities.
Calthorpe, like Duany, however,
remains a physical planner accustomed to more upscale issues
who is being asked to solve what is in many ways primarily a
social and political problem.
Further, none of the aforementioned
experts has any notable experience in how to deal with being
screwed by experts - the problem that immediately faces the good
folk of the Ninth Ward.
Yet despite the apparent immutability
of imperial planning, and despite the growing disaster of disaster
recovery, there are some things that might help. They're offered
here not as more expertise but as a note in the Ninth Ward suggestion
box from one who has spent a good deal of his life fighting planners
and their ilk:
- Get your own experts, pro bono
or supported by foundation grants. Nothing helps even the game
better than to have competent and sympathetic architects, economists,
anthropologists, public health workers, and historians who can
take on the experts forced upon you. Instead of just criticizing
plans, you can then present alternative ones. It changes the
whole debate, deflates the advantage of the official plans, and
forces everyone to think a little differently. Further, the media
- which always thinks experts are better than ordinary citizens
- will pay more attention to your experts than they will to you.
- Have some of your experts work
out the alternative benefits and costs of rebuilding, staying,
or moving. Don't trust the city or city-planners for this information.
It's complicated. For example: what if some of the rebuilding
featured modular housing that could be moved if things don't
work out as anticipated? What if a new planned community works
out better than anticipated? Will people be able to change their
- Get everyone involved. Keep the
planning open and welcoming. Plan for everyone and with everyone.
Don't just use the best known local civic organizations. Even
elementary school children can help plan a community. Seniors
and the disabled have perspectives that get easily ignored. And
asking alienated adolescents what they would like is a lot smarter
than finding out later what they don't.
- Do a community inventory and biography.
Before discussing what you want, find out what you have. Don't
try to imitate a conventional city plan with its emphasis on
physical form. Instead, tell the community's story -- where it
has been, what it is, what it has and doesn't have and what it
would like to be.
- Fight to make any buyouts voluntary
as has occurred in a number of flood damaged communities. The
land does not have to be taken by eminent domain. People who
have suffered as much as the hurricane victims have should be
allowed to return home even if it is not the most practical solution.
But they should also have an escape route if it turns out they
made a mistake.
- If the city insists on eminent
domain, fight to raise the ante. Demand additional payments above
the typically short-counted appraisal value of the property -
such as a cut of future sales of the property to developers or
a percentage of future property tax revenues.
- Don't dismiss the building of
a new community. Key to such a plan is location, jobs, and transportation,
and whether it is designed for the residents or to get them off
someone's back. At the same time, remember that the last time
a planned community for those at the bottom really worked was
with Roosevelt's Greenbelts and with Levittowns and similar developments
after World War II. We have lost both the skill and the will.
- Whether in the old city or in
a new place, look into forming cooperatives and credit unions.
These are sound ways that people left to fend for themselves
can build their own economy.
- Look into co-housing, in which
housing costs are lowered by sharing certain facilities among
residents. Study alternative housing approaches including modular
and grow homes (housing designed to be expanded over time). Investigate
the creation of a land trusts to accomplish your goals.
- Campaign for shared equity programs
in which federal, state and/or local government become equity
partners with homeowners. This simple scheme has among its virtues
that when it comes time to sell a house the value will have likely
increased and both the government and the owner will come out
- One of the inevitable results
of oil depletion will be a rise in food costs. It will become
less economical to ship a carrot two thousand miles to your super
market. This increases the attractiveness of grow-your-own projects
even in an urban setting, either as a part of co-housing or as
community gardens and agriculture centers.
- Those who decide to stay or rebuild
should demand adequate safety equipment such as readily available
inflatable rafts or cheap fiberglass rowboats stored in such
places as house basements, churches and fire houses as well as
barges that serve some dry land purpose (such as storage or even
offices) but which turn into rescue craft in times of floods.
It is highly likely that the death toll could have been drastically
reduced if the Ninth Ward had adequate rescue vessels available.
It needed life boats as much as any ship on the ocean.
- Check out all the angles. You
can rest assured that the mayor and governor and their planners
won't tell you about them. Here, for example, is a recent announcement
from the EF Schumacher Society:
"The Dudley Street Neighborhood
Initiative one of the most innovative and well-respected planning
and organizing nonprofits in the country, has lead the revitalization
of Boston's poor but diverse Dudley neighborhood through the
use of a community land trust. In the mid-1980's residents of
Boston's Dudley Street neighborhood were concerned about a plan
to redevelop the area, a move that could potentially gentrify
the community and displace a majority of its then residents.
[According to Gus Newport], 'When this planning process became
public, the community came out in large numbers to voice its
opinion as to what the planning process ought to be, and why
a method had to be imposed that would assure the community¹s
input in all pertinent planning decisions and protect current
residents¹ ability to enjoy the improvements into the future.'
"In 1988, DSNI became the only
community group in the nation to win eminent domain power to
acquire vacant land for development. They formed a community
land trust to hold the land and involved the neighborhood members
in the process of planning the use of that land. Since then,
approximately half of the 1,300 vacant lots it took control of
have been developed with 300 new homes, 300 rehabbed homes, a
Town Common, gardens, urban agriculture, a commercial greenhouse,
and parks and playgrounds. Neighborhood residents purchase the
homes and lease the land on long term leases. The homes have
a cap on resale prices so that they remain affordable to future
resident-owners. This permits lower income members of the Dudley
Street area to build equity in the replacement values of their
homes, through not in the land value which is held by the community
as a whole."
- The city should loosen zoning
rules to encourage accessory apartments, letting people construct
units that would help them pay their mortgage and help others
find a flat they can afford. LA, for example, has some 40,000
illegal apartments because people really find them useful.
- The city should use its own land
- such as surplus school buildings - for city owned affordable
housing instead of selling it to a developer.
Above all, the people of the Ninth
Ward and other flood areas must fight constantly against those
who would make them pawns in one more attempt to replace real
community with paper plans, one more effort to have physical
forms serve as proxy for improved social conditions, and one
more scheme to make people involuntary servants of economic ambitions.
Those who have survived the worst that nature has to offer should
not now be punished with a gratuitous tropical depression of
human will, responsibility, and decency.