FEMA Demolition List

I spent Friday “researching”:http://www.crt.state.la.us/culturalassets/fema106/readnotice.asp?NoticeID=64 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”:http://www.squanderedheritage.com/2007/05/15/imminent-danger/ 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”:http://northwestcarrollton.com/2007/06/28/city-demolitions/ and nearby residents trying to rebuild.

This City needs to think about where we stand in this “process”:http://squanderedheritage.com/2006/12/12/squandered-resources/ 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?

Karen Gadbois

Karen Gadbois co-founded The Lens. She now covers New Orleans government issues and writes about land use. With television reporter Lee Zurik she exposed widespread misuse of city recovery funds and led...