New Orleans became a blank slate after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. And ever since, entrepreneurs have rushed in to experiment with new ideas for building and running a city.
The most-recommended comment on the story comes from New Orleans resident Beth Blankenship:
New Orleans most certainly did not become a "blank slate" in 2005. More than 350,000 people live here, in our homes that were either minimally damaged or have been restored since the storm, and continue the lives we lived before 2005, in the traditions of this very old, very non-blank city. We are not a tabula rasa for the entertainment of entrepreneurs, creative class-hipsters, Teach for America do-gooders and all the other folks who want to pat themselves on the back for "fixing" New Orleans. Lousy writing is fueled by lazy thinking, Ms. Elliott.
Other reactions were even more tart.
Like the Broad bus route, the Galvez bus route is pretty long and goes from the edge of Uptown to the 9th Ward, passing through the 6th, 7th and 8th Wards. Another commonality is that when riding along these routes, you'll see that we are still nowhere near being finished with rebuilding after almost seven years. Is it government corruption? Laziness? Lack of resources? Gentrification? Many 6th Ward residents and shopkeepers believe it's a combination of them all, especially one woman I met who had a lot to say...
When I stopped by the site of the proposed Marigny ball pit house today, the project's leader, Josh Ente, was grabbing lunch. His friend Matt, who was visiting from San Francisco, was busy helping take down the back of the blighted Creole cottage to the wall frames. When they're done, they plan to wrap the whole structure in batting-cage plastic and dump plastic balls on the floor four feet deep. Then anyone — adults, kids, whomever — who wants to jump in is welcome.
Yesterday's blog entry about the ball pit project drew some serious (and sometimes scathing) discussion both on Gambit's website and Facebook page. Ente said he'd read it all, including the "Brooklyn-goes-to-Bywater" remark. Turns out that, yes, he is from Brooklyn (I had no idea), and, yes, he's lived in the Marigny-Bywater for fewer than two years. Ente is a filmmaker whose recently directed Big Freedia's music video "Y'all Get Back Now."
"I understand the concerns about privilege," he said, referring to comments like the one that accused him of "hipster Romper Room BS." As we talked, behind him, in an overgrown lot marked with HANO signs and discarded tires, a woman played with a young pit bull. Whatever you think of the project, it's true that Ente has put more sweat equity into a property he doesn't own than the city has put into adjacent property it does own.
The conversation only got really awkward once ...
Josh Ente wants to turn a blighted house in the Marigny into a giant ball pit. He's got a Kickstarter, and he's raised more than $2,000 of his $2,500 goal with 12 days to go:
How will it work? For NO admission fee, the ball pit will be open to the public (or at least those members of the public willing to assume risk for the fun they'll have); supervised kids, adults - anyone, everyone - will be welcome to take advantage of this new community resource for outdoor play, neighborly engagement, and communal socializing. Open during the day and in the evening, there will be special events including live music, projected film screenings, and more, but most often the ball pit will be just an arena for glorious, glorious play. Netting will keep the balls in the pit, and foam padding on every exposed beam will make it safe and comfortable for everyone.
When and where? The ball pit will be ready to go by early May, with an official grand opening tentatively scheduled for Saturday, May 12, and will be open for about a month or six weeks - until it gets too hot, basically.
I'm not sure how I feel about this. On one hand, it's an interesting project and a creative idea. On the other hand, it just feels ... well ... what? Creative-class faux-naif? Brooklyn goes to Burgundy? I lived right there before the storm, and I bet there are a lot of neighbors who would just shake their heads at the thought of adults playing Chuck E. Cheese in blighted housing. Generally speaking, I'd rather people get in touch with their inner adult than their inner child. Yet — no one else is doing anything with the space. Is the proposal that different from the Bywater Music Box? Isn't a ball pit better than a falling-down house?
Hide your college-age children: "sissy bounce" is here to corrupt them — at least according to Christwire, the satirical website that's sort of what The Onion would be if written by Rick Santorum. (Other stories on the site include "4 Satanic and Blood Sex Driven Things Your Daughter Will Do at Coachella" and "Is My Teen Weird? 20 Terrifying New Youth Trends.")
In its "expose" of bounce music (which name-checks Vockah Redu, Sissy Nobby, Big Freedia and Katey Red), Christwire warns:
The sissy show began in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina when President Bush ordered the rescue of thousands of African-Americans caught off guard by the Biblical storm. In the well-stocked camps that FEMA generously provided, many urban youths took advantage of their newfound luxury to play around with loud music and interracial dancing. The result was an unpredictable and shocking creation that immediately was condemned as immoral. A transvestite named “Big Freddy” soon left the camps and copyrighted the act, selling it to ghetto rap clubs across the country and reaping millions.
Despite the warnings, “Sissy Dancing” grew in popularity and, through the efforts of black affirmative action students, made the transition over to the white population on college campuses.
Ouch. Not surprisingly, in our post-Derbyshire world, more than a few commenters missed the joke or just plain didn't like it. To read the whole thing in its R-rated, possibly not-safe-for-work glory, go here, and remember: "They could care less how nice these girls are or if they’re studying art history."
Comiskey Park and Playground — once a neighborhood landmark, but a blight on a tough corner of Mid-City since Hurricane Katrina and the federal floods — was reopened today by Mayor Mitch Landrieu. The park had received national attention in 2007 when a production company planned to remake the park and document the effort in a reality TV/documentary show titled ReNewOrleans. Plans foundered, and the park space — one block off a gritty stretch of Tulane Avenue — sat for years in worse shape than before.
"They left a lot of things behind," Landrieu said. "Cost everybody a bucketful of money."
Lawyers for Jefferson Parish homeowners who successfully sued Louisiana Citizens insurance company after Hurricane Katrina have been fighting several legislative bills that they say attempt to undercut, retroactively, a $95 million judgment rendered against the company for not initiating the post-Katrina claims adjustment process quickly enough.
State law requires property insurers to begin adjusting claims within 30 days. Citizens, which is a state-sponsored property insurer of last resort, failed to meet that deadline in thousands of cases, prompting the suit.
Fred Herman, an attorney for Jefferson Parish homeowners in a class action suit in state court against Citizens, is working with lobbyist Alton Ashy to fight at least three bills in the state Senate and three identical measures in the House. Both men say the bills are designed to undo state Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court rulings against Citizens.
State Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon supports the bills and does not deny that they are aimed at undoing the judgment, which he says “places a burden on 95 percent of the other homeowners in the state.” The burden cited by Donelon is an additional assessment on homeowner policies that is levied to keep Citizens afloat in the face of the judgment and other costs.
All three Senate measures have come up for consideration in committee but were delayed in the face of opposition. The House bills have yet to be considered. The three Senate bills at issue are Senate Bills 204 and 358 by Sen. Blade Morrish, R-Jennings, and Senate Bill 311 by Sen. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte.
Part of the story is about all the new fauna living in the abandoned houses and overgrown lots in the Ninth Ward (a topic we covered last year in our own cover story), part of it is about the Sisyphean task of keeping the neighborhoods clean and the growth cut back ("In the Lower Ninth, a property remains cleared for only three to six months. A Chinese tallow tree, for instance, will grow from seed to two-foot-high sapling in a summer and six feet within a year.") ... and part of it focuses on the ongoing "Katrina tours" of the Ninth Ward, which remain a sore subject with people who are just trying to live their lives.
A moment from one of those tours is under the cut ...
By now we've all heard plenty of bizarre Hurricane Katrina-related similes, metaphors and comparisons, but this was a new one on me.
It seems Minnesotans will vote in November on a Louisiana-style constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, and a group called the Public Insight Network is gathering voter opinions and putting them on YouTube. That's the background of this clip from a fellow named Mark Hayes:
"My response to one of my daughters being a lesbian would be — would be a lot like Katrina hitting New Orleans."
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