Squandered Heritage Vintage

Sunday Morning

FEMA Demolition List

I spent Friday researching these houses on the previous post, Leonidas Demo Frenzy and asking how is it that they could be on a FEMA list for demolition. Logic tells you that the owner wants them demolished, that there must be some scheme or “plan”.

Today, Sunday, I decided to drive to all the properties that this very large family owns, to try and see what the houses had to say. All in all, there were a remarkable number of unremarkable properties. They were all unoccupied but clean and for the most part secured.

I did notice one remarkable structure that DOES NOT belong to the Macaluso family.

Left to rot

This is the front of the same building


After I took a look at that very clear example of blight, I worked my way back to Leonidas.

There in the hot sun was one, solitary, man unloading plywood from his truck. I knew that he must be one of the owners but I was a little anxious about confronting him about the ominous status of his property. I took a deep breath and did just that. After a minute or two of dodging the issue I finally blurted out, “What are these houses doing on the FEMA Demo list?” To which he replied “You tell me!”

We then had a nice conversation in which he told me that the City had never held his adjudication hearing. They have never notified him of their intent to demolish and that he has made repeated calls to City Hall and received no call back. He also told me that his Grandfather had built these houses and that they are sturdy and well-built. He is right about that.

What we are facing here is a new landslide of demolitions, those initiated by the City, and afterwards a potential landslide of shared remorse. I have discovered a number of unwanted demolitions and I have only begun to scratch the surface of the recent City Imminent Danger list and the FEMA list for overlap.

Many of the properties fall within the Housing Conservation District Review Committee.

The HCDRC process is flawed. The meetings are held in a back room at City Hall, in the Safety and Permits Department without any public recording device for the record, in addition little to no public notification is given. There is a set criteria for allowing demolition and that criteria is seldom mentioned or met. Even though it’s a Housing Conservation Committee, the Chair of the Committee, Nelson Savior, refers to it as the as a “Demolition Committee”. Roberts Rules of Order are as alien as an actual alien. The criteria for protocols for these meetings are outlined in the Municipal Code at Article 1: Sec. 26-1 through10. You can search the municipal code online at Pick your State It was down today but is usually very reliable.

The fabric of our City was horribly damaged by the storm, now the arrogance and indifference on the part of a few cocky city employees could cause yet another storm of unnecessary demolitions, leaving wide swaths of vacant lots, trash, and distrust and despair on the part of owners and nearby residents trying to rebuild.

This City needs to think about where we stand in this process regarding transparency and accountability for our citizens. The Executive Branch, ultimately, Mayor Nagin, and City Hall has been dodging the Citizens on these issues. It is time to stop, listen, and work with us, not against us by stonewalling us. Show us the Lists, explain to us how you create these lists. Show us the criteria for the assessments of these properties, NOTIFY the owners per the legal process required. Show us what you will do for Neighborhoods and show us meaningful leadership. We may not expect absolute solutions such as this demolition or nothing proposition. We need a closer relationship on the ground to find solutions that make real sense.

Right now, the failure of City Government is chasing us away, how much longer can we hold on?

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About Karen Gadbois

Karen Gadbois co-founded The Lens. She now covers New Orleans government issues and writes about land use for Squandered Heritage. For her work with television reporter Lee Zurik exposing widespread misuse of city recovery funds — which led to guilty pleas in federal court — Gadbois won some of the highest honors in journalism, including a Peabody Award, an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award and a gold medal from Investigative Reporters and Editors. She can be reached at (504) 606-6013.

  • jombi

    Don’t you think 2 years is long enough to wait? Did the owner say why he and his large family have done little to nothing in the past 2 years? These building are eyesores and are uninhabitable. Left alone, they will look worse than this in another 2 years. No only should they be torn down, but the owners should be fined for neglect and for the cost of demolition.
    If they are so sturdy, then why are they not being repaired so the poor indigents who so desperately want to come back can have a place to stay?

  • The properties had all the copper stolen.

  • Randall

    Jombi, Why cant restoration be a first priority instead of demolition. One city that was so eager to remove “blight” was detroit; sure is the Garden of Eden City now,LOL. Demolition should only be considered as a last resort when all other options have been considered.These are some of the oldest houses in Hollygrove and should be saved.

  • jombi

    While I agree with you, my comments were directed toward the owners who now want these properties saved. They have had 2 years to repair them. The ones that are beyond repair shoud be torn down, but properties that can be saved should be sold/auctioned to people who will repair them. If the city allows them to just sit, they will fall into a worse state and will “demolish” on their own. I live in one of these neighborhoods and am tired of these eyesores – havens for rodents, vagrants, crackheads, and criminals. I’d rather see them torn down than have to live in blight and fear until they finally fall down.
    New Orleans has a history of letting properties fall down leaving no choice but demolition (in particular, properties that have been denied demo permits). There needs to be a plan in place to keep this from happening, but it should be a transparent plan and not one forged behind closed doors. Otherwise we are in for more of the same, unless one of our public officials wants to acquire one or more of them.

  • ramdall fox

    Unless buildings burn down or have terrible termite infestation, 2 years is not that long. Many times it takes 10+ years for a house to go totally down. Before katrina there were few houses in new orleans that were in total danger of collapse and could not be salvaged and restored.While i agree that rats. vagrants etc… are a bad thing and detremental to the neighborhood, hte city should gut the house and board it up, that is much more cost effeciant and the house is saved so it could be restored at later time. We should not be demolishing salvagelbe properties like the ones on leonidis street.Yes, those houses are salvageable.

  • Carol

    The houses in question ARE needed. A large percentage of Hollygrove residents were renters. Hardworking people with jobs.

    If you are among the working poor and are not a homeowner, there’s going to be no where for you in this city. We need rental property – not just out priced section 8.

    I’ll admit, there are many properties (even some that some folks want saved) that are beyond help and need to be torn down. That can only improve the area. But these houses are not in that category. The owner has gutted them and secured them. There can be numerous reasons why work is not currently being done. Ask me. I had no problem with the insurance company, but it’s been hell dealing with the mortgage company!

    Thanks Karen for your follow up.

  • City Hall employees like the ones found in the HCDRC department are modeling their arrogant behavior after hizzoner himself – the sanitation dept. also comes to mind – and to think there is 3 more years of this makes one cringe – the city will be demolished by then if this keeps up

    This issue sounds like it could become an excellent investigative story by the Times Picayune

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