No individual can hold our government accountable and public officials accountable alone. The Lens serves as that ever-present watchdog, working on our collective behalf and serving our community at all times.
Cashier’s check in hand, local developer Peter Gardner showed up at Tuesday’s sheriff’s auction eager to bid on real estate – in particular a raised cottage on Governor Nicholls Street in the Seventh Ward. Dozens of rundown properties are offered to the highest bidder at bi-monthly auctions held in the lobby of Civil District Court and hailed by City Hall as a key strategy in the fight against post-Katrina blight. Ten percent of the sale price is required at the time of the auction.
Consultants who helped former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin secure $75 million in federal Katrina recovery grants for the construction of a new Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Lower Mid-City initially questioned the legality of using federal disaster recovery grants for a project that would not be complete until seven to 10 years after the storm, newly obtained e-mails between project planners show. The e-mail dialogue (pdf) spans the month leading up to the March 2009 approval of the largest single-project appropriation of Katrina recovery dollars to date.
The federal government gave New Orleans more than $6.5 million to build or repair affordable housing last year, resulting in 63 rental rehabs and 150 blighted property renovations, according to the draft of a federal report released for public review this week. Another 81 blighted properties were expropriated using the federal grant money, according to the Consolidated Annual Performance and Evaluation Draft Report released for public review Monday.
By Karen Gadbois – Staff writer – Three years after getting a piece of taxpayer-owned property for free, a New Orleans non-profit has yet to make improvements to the blighted site or fulfill promises made when it took the donation – and it apparently tried to sell the six-unit apartment house for $230,000 in pure profit. The Galilee Housing Initiative and Community Development Corporation took ownership in March 2007 of 2318 Chippewa Street in the Irish Channel via a donation from the Housing Authority of New Orleans.