This photo shows a tour bus on what appears to be a “Katrina Devastation Tour” in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward. Virtually nothing has been reconstructed there, and a weekend visit evidenced lots of rebuilding to be done elsewhere in the city.
I’ve just gotten back from Nola, where I was celebrating a wedding of two friends. That was terrific, and the French Quarter is still going strong (I highly recommend Broussard’s for dinner and Palm Court for music.) But I had no idea what it meant for 80% of a city to flood, and for FEMA trailers to dominate the residential landscape over a year after the deluge.
What’s going on? I don’t have a deep grasp of the dynamics here, but one narrative kept repeating: the chicken & egg dynamic of residents not wanting to come back until businesses returned and businesses not wanting to re-open until residents returned. I stayed in a middle class enclave near the University of New Orleans, which apparently had cafes, fitness clubs, restaurants, and grocery stores before the storm—but all were still boarded up. The only food I passed was a mobile cart labeled “Pizza Milano.” So it’s no wonder many houses are abandoned, or fronted by the ubiquitous (and quite small) FEMA trailers.
In this way, Nola resembles many inner-cities that seem trapped in cycles of middle-class flight and declining amenities. I imagine there might be some good lessons for reconstruction from other cities that managed to revitalize.