Trailer Clash

'Not in my backyard' say New Orleans residents, as local parks fill with temporary housing

All but a few dozen units in the New Orleans public housing system are locked to residents "for safety and security." Landlords are turning people out and raising the rents. FEMA-provided trailers, which can be occupied for a maximum of 18 months, are the immediate hope for those of median income and below who wish to live in New Orleans. But people who have already come back are not happyabout the arrival of the trailers, banks of which are being installed in public parks and playgrounds.

"I live near and use Annunciation Park," wrote an anonymous poster on the Times-Picayune's message boards. "Beautiful green space in this city as far as I am concerned and now it is to become a f*@&^*% trailer park. so the feds are using my tax dollars to destroy a city park that gave me a little peace and solice [sic] to force there [sic] vision of urban renewal on this city."

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The trailer across the street
photo: Anya Kamenetz

On December 13 Mayor Ray Nagin vetoed a measure by the city council that would have subjected the placement of more than three trailers on a site to the written approval of that neighborhood's council representative. But Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrill, who authored the amendment and was featured in a New York Times Week in Review article under the head "Political Willfulness," vowed to override the veto as well.

Elonwe (left) and Rosemary
photo: Anya Kamenetz
Elonwe (left) and Rosemary

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A 'Voice' Slide Show

Some are leaving, some are staying, some are trying to get back. Some don't know what they're supposed to do. On a single street, a few blocks from the river Uptown, the fates of neighbors can be very different. These are the answers they probably give to friends over at the Winn Dixie on Tchoupitoulas.

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Meanwhile, the trailers are going up, and some residents are just figuring out what to think about them. Rosemary, who lives on Laurel Street across from a baseball field that is housing about 20 of the trailers, was sitting on her front porch talking to Elonwe, a former neighbor whose landlady is now turning her out to make room for her own daughter.

"It's been handled in a way that's kind of strange," says Rosemary of the trailers. "Some of the workers, they won't even talk to us, like someone told them not to. Everybody's a little bit apprehensive—we don't know who's coming." Elonwe, who has lived in New Orleans all her life, has a different perspective. "From the point of view of a homeless person, it looks wonderful to me," she says.

According to Dallas Morning News, as of December 3, FEMA had provided only 16 percent of the 22,232 housing units requested in the city.

 
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