[URBANTH-L]NEWS: New Orleans Fracas Over Plans to Raze Housing

Angela Jancius jancius at ohio.edu
Sun Dec 9 11:00:19 EST 2007

Associated Press
December 7, 2007

New Orleans Fracas Over Plans to Raze Housing


Protesters angry about the pending demolition of more
than 4,000 public housing units stormed a City Council
meeting Thursday in a confrontation that ended with a
prominent civil rights lawyer being hauled off in

Thursday's fracas was a taste of what's likely to come
as former residents of the aging, neglected buildings
and their advocates seek to stop demolitions that could
begin as soon as Dec. 15 in a city that faces an acute
housing shortage.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
plans a wholesale redevelopment of the city's public
housing by tearing down the old barracks-style
buildings and replacing them with mixed-income
neighborhoods. A federal judge and Congress have
refused to stop the demolitions.

About three dozen protesters gathered at the City
Council chambers to demand that the council's members
step in. But when the council took no action, the
protesters broke into chants and shouts and forced
Arnie Fielkow, the council president, to call the
session into recess.

In the ensuing chaos, a sheriff's deputy grabbed and
shoved civil rights lawyer Bill Quigley up against the
wall, where he was handcuffed. Quigley has led a legal
fight against the demolitions.

The deputy's report said Quigley refused to leave the
premises and shouted, "I'm not going anywhere."

Quigley said he saw no reason for being detained and
taken to a sheriff's trailer on the grounds of City
Hall. He was released shortly afterward and cited with
a charge of disturbing the peace.

"We live in a system where if you cheer or chant in
the City Council you get arrested, but you can demolish
4,500 people's apartments and everybody's supposed to
go along with that? That's not going to happen,"
Quigley said. "There's going to be a lot more
disturbing the peace before this is all over, I'm

The demolitions of the housing projects, decaying and
riddled with crime for years, are part of a plan HUD
Secretary Alphonso Jackson pushed for after Hurricane
Katrina hit in 2005.

Most of the units slated for demolition are vacant;
many suffered heavy damage in the hurricane. But
several hundred people continue to live in at least one
of the four major housing projects targeted.

The redevelopment plan has grown more emotional since
it was unveiled in mid-2006 as tens of thousands of
former residents and other poor residents found
themselves unable to find housing in New Orleans
because of a housing shortage and inflated rents.

Critics of the plan say the redevelopment plan will
drive poor people from neighborhoods where they have
lived for generations, but HUD denies that and says the
plan will create an equal amount of affordable housing
as existed before Katrina hit.

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