Hogan's Alley

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Rebuilding New Orleans

Enough of the crisis has passed that the future of the Big Easy can now be considered.

1. New Orleans Must Be Rebuilt:

It is the seedbed of American music and much of its popular culture. Its unique French/Creole sub-culture of Mardi Gras, Burbon Street, ragtime, Mardi Gras Indians, the Napoleonic Code, Stanley Kowalski, all of it, is a treasure of the American nation.

It must be preserved.

2. No one should live below sea level unless absolute super-engineering of levees, canals, etc, guarantees no flooding in the face of a Category 5 Hurricane. Such guarantees would not be worth the paper they are written on.

In last Sunday's NY Times, Jason DeParle had an excellent piece on the inevitable preponderance of poor and black people left behind to suffer and John M. Barry laid out the history of the city's fruitless flood prevention efforts, which have only exposed it to further danger by destroying the protective delta silt deposits of the Delta after the last great flood of 1927.

If the low lying neighborhoods of what has been New Orleans are allowed to be repopulated, does anyone believe they will now fill with gentrifying yuppies? Only poor blacks will end up living in these tenuous sections while the soil of the city continues to sink at the rate of one half inch per year. An unconscionable outcome.

3. The only solution is to preserve the French Quarter, the riverfront and the highrise business district and to expand the building of sturdy steel and concrete multistory buildings into the flood plain. Local code must assure that essential electric, water and other infrastructure be redesigned to withstand the floods which will surely come. If those areas and new buildings are to be housing that will retain the socioeconomic patterns that were the city, permanent, assurable evacuation, transportation and sheltering mechanisms must be in place, regardless of the city's fiscal issues or political turnover.

The cost of rebuilding New Orleans will be great. The cost to our souls of simply reestablishing expendable wood frame ghettos would mean the end of America as an honorable nation. I, for one, have no desire to ever see in my lifetime a repeat of such a disgraceful failure of foresight that makes me feel ashamed of my country.