New New Orleans

Kirsten Watson Issue: Section:

“Nearly every house in Lakeview stands new and shiny while in the Ninth vast areas
of empty lots still stand empty waiting for a new house to fill the gaps”



This house sits alone where many used to stand – rebuilt and occupied – up against the levee wall that once failed it.

The N. Claiborne bridge over the Industrial Canal.

 

There are not many signs of this neighborhood coming back. But here is one.

 

The Bridge over the Industrial Canal hovers over this house.

 

The Brad Pitt Make It Right Houses in the Ninth are well on their way.
 
During my time driving around this neighborhood I literally saw only a small handful of rebuilt occupied houses that were not of Brad Pitt’s doing. There was, however, lots of activity over in his famous Make It Right project. The debris in the Ninth has been cleaned up and only a few destroyed houses still stand.

 

Enter Lakeview in 2005 after the water subsided– this is the first house I ever lived in. It is located at 6595 Wuerpel St. not far from the levee breeches.

 

The debris piles 2005.     West End Blvd. in Lakeview March 2010

 

A reminder of the early days after the storm. We lost almost every street sign and many residents got together and made their own street signs with their own special New Orleans flare. Each sign made was a different shape and painted with the street name on it. They still remain today despite the fact that new signs have been installed.

 

In 2005, my mom and I had tried to drive up to the Lakefront where Lake Pontchatrain is to see what we could see – we were greeted by gates and armed National Guards and promptly told to turn back around. I have not been up to the Lakefront since then. In 2010, you can drive through a very limited amount of the Lakefront and West End Park where the Municipal Yacht Harbor and the Southern Yacht Club remain. But at least you can go and sit by a segment of the lake. Lots of detours and construction going on though.

The Lakeview area is completely transformed 5 years later – almost every house has been either torn down and rebuilt or completely renovated and there are VERY few for sale signs in the yards. I have not been back here since I viewed the destruction back in December 2005. However, the difference between progress in Lakeview and the progress in the Lower 9 (the neighborhoods behind the Industrial Canal where another breech in our levee system occurred) is drastic.  Nearly every house in Lakeview stands new and shiny while in the Ninth vast areas of empty lots still stand empty waiting for a new house to fill the gaps.
 
The Former Magnolia Housing Projects on Louisiana Ave.
 
A place of our past where one would not want to venture, the Magnolia was the stomping ground of a major criminal element. In 2010, it is now gone, privately owned and rebuilt and the results are amazing. I spoke with a site worker who advised me that in order to live here one does have to show proof of having a job and go through the application process. It will still be available to low income folks for about $350/ month but it is no longer Section 8 housing. A separate three story building that is located behind these will be for the elderly welfare recipients that lived here before the Magnolia was torn down and they will not have to hold jobs to be put back in.

Progress is being made on a daily basis. It is quick for some and slow for others but it is being made. New Orleans has risen again and hope can be seen throughout. I was fearful that our national recession would be the icing on the cake for my hometown – as if the hurricane and levee failures were not enough - but in my visits around town and in my conversations with my fellow New Orleanians I have been told that while the rest of the country is falling apart New Orleans has been booming. One individual told me that there are more jobs available in the city than there were even before Katrina came to visit. So, while many of our people have moved to other locations others have been flocking back, even those who did not reside there before, because now more than ever the Spirit of Louisiana is burning like a beacon in the night beckoning us to come and join her.

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