My Saturday was jammed pack with events within walking distance of each other in the Treme neighborhood and since the weatherman was totally wrong, well lets say the wind blew the storm in another direction. The news had the entire city on alert, but we all said “Lessen Bon Ton Roule” to the grey storm clouds that hung over the city and prayed that the rain will hold until our festivities were over and it did just that.
After I was done with assisting with the party cleanup at The Tricentennial Treme Neighborhood Cleanup, I decided to walk it on out to the Treme/7th Ward Arts and Cultural Festival. An added plus to walking was I would finally get to see entire beautification that took place by what was the Lafitte Project. Actually, it’s now named “The New Faubourg Lafitte,” what is left of the Lafitte is a couple of the old red brick buildings stood surrounded by flimsy fencing as if it wasn’t it was our treasured culture. I honestly think they are only holding onto it to distract us from what is going on in the other buildings.
The New Faubourg Lafitte are luxury
townhomes, apartments, gone are the red prison bricks and concrete of the Lafitte Project, the townhomes are painted in various muted colorful shades. Windows once covered with security bars are replaced with black French shutters, balconies that were used to hang clothing to dry are now dressed with wicker patio sets and potted plants. I was told the head busting slippery linoleum covered concrete floors were donned with the finest of hardwood floors, actual tilework in the bathroom, high end stainless steel appliances and washing machine and dryers in each townhouse. I wonder if HUD would let me in, I could use that type of living. Geez
Unlike, what was once the Lafitte Project housing low-income families, these newly renovated townhomes are mixed income and there’s a credit score you must have in order to qualify to live there.. In addition to renting the units there are some units available for sale, which may lead me to think why it’s a ghost town in just about every former housing development.
In 2011, the first homes were constructed on a 27-acre site between the TreméLafitte and Tulane-Gravier neighborhoods of New Orleans. The project includes the replacement of subsidized housing from the old Lafitte housing project with affordable new homes on a redeveloped site, as well as the addition of 900-1000 units that will be constructed on infill lots in adjacent neighborhoods. The homes range in size and cost, and 600 new units will be for sale for working families and first-time homeowners. The new construction reflects the character of the existing communities, and is a result of the mobilization of a spirited local residential council in response to a HUD mandate that their homes be demolished in the wake of two devastating hurricanes.
Now, does that sound like those sitting up high sent out letters telling the prodigal New Orleans children to come back home so that they could reap the harvest of the renovation?? Can you envision some big time developers with open arms, telling Katrina victims to come on home, look what we have done for you! Here’s a little something to make up for the trauma you endured. The government backing them, offering programs to assist with healing of the mind, body and soul…No, it doesn’t and it seems as if the one’s who didnt return are all, but forgotten, but I bet you they remember.
The flip side of gentrification is everything is so beautiful and of high quality, it’s nothing like before. I’m not sure if it’s the city who’s contributing to ensuring that what was once the project was all but washed away. I think if you lived in any of these projects in New Orleans you would not be able to identify which court you lived in.
The once waterless, trash filled hole of what is a pool is filled to the top with clear blue water that smells of chlorine awaiting the splashes and sounds of happy swimmers. The walls of the building display a colorful mural of people from all cultural backgrounds living in harmony.
The park itself is a greenway, the lush green grass is well manicure and it seems to never end. Native wildflowers of all colors cover the tree-lined pathway like a beautiful bedspread. The air fills your soul and nostrils with what has to be the smell of New Orleans before all the air polluting plants came along.
I must admit that walking in the park, seeing all the care taken to make everything so beautiful, leaving a big group of volunteers committed to keeping the neighborhood clean and seeing the men on the basketball court teaching the younger generation brought cheer to my soul, but then those two old project buildings came to mind and I was reminded that some may never come back home to finally live as they deserve. Katrina put them out the wealthy are paying top dollars to ensure their gentrification project is completed.
As you can see from my pictures, it is beautiful, but there’s something very wrong with my pictures as well, there’s no people. Where are the kids? Where are the grandmother sitting on the steps talking to her neighbor? Where is the coming and going of New Orleanians living in these townhouses? I remember walking, not just in this project, but any I have visited and as I walked I can remember the sounds, voices of my people and around hear you can here a pin drop. The only people I saw or heard along my walk, where the ones on the court and that doesn’t sit well with me.
Although very beautiful not seeing my people in yet another New Orleans neighborhood that was home to so many black families and see not even a fraction of them, hurts my heart. Gentrafication is real in New Orleans…