Tuesday, March 14, 2006

arguing to inquire essay

Brenna Wade
March 14, 2006
Engl 300
Arguing to Inquire

What is the Fate of the Lower Ninth Ward?
Before Hurricane Katrina hit on August 28th, the Lower Ninth Ward was an area of New Orleans consisting of predominately lower class African Americans. It is located in the eastern downriver section of the city and was among the last neighborhoods to be developed; its current fate is yet to be determined. The area can be defined as “a remarkable human community woven together by a network rich in family history, social connections, and proximity to relatives and friends” (Gratz). The community has what “many Americans wish they were a part of; the residents realize the importance of a close-knit community where everyone works together” (Frank). Katrina devastated this community; it was the hardest area hit from the hurricane. The accurate death toll has yet to be determined at this day. Many Americans see race as playing a role in both their response to Katrina and now in the reconstruction efforts. A rather controversial issue concerning the Lower Ninth Ward is whether the neighborhood should be rebuilt for its residents or whether it should be turned into the natural wetlands that existed before the development of the Ninth Ward to protect the rest of the city from future Hurricanes.
The Lower Ninth Ward, as well as all of New Orleans, was originally a cypress swamp which served as the basis for a drainage problem. It later became the home to African Americans and immigrants who were previously laborers in Ireland, Germany, and Italy. These immigrants moved here because it was an inexpensive location for them to settle since the area was prone to flooding as well as a number of diseases. The land’s poor drainage problem was the primary reason for its slow development with the other reason being that it was predominately separated from the rest of the city. A series of canals were built around the ward in 1910 and were completed in 1923. These canals fixed the draining problem, but also caused the area to be entirely isolated (Greater New Orleans Community Data Center).
According to a 2002 census, the population of the Lower Ninth Ward was of a low socio-economic status, yet the community does not put a price on its cultural wealth. Until Katrina, The Lower Ninth Ward had a population of 14,008 and the majority of its population was African Americans (98.3%). The current population is still unknown. The average household income was $27,499 (less than half of the United States’ average of $56,644). About 36% of the population lived in poverty and over half of all children 0-5 years lived in poverty. Monthly rent was much cheaper in comparison to the city of New Orleans as a whole; $280 compared to $404. Only 30% of the population had a high school education and of that only 30% have their high school diploma or GED; another factor leading to their high rate of poverty (Greater New Orleans Community Center). Many of the homes in the area were handed down through family members and therefore mortgage free. Cars were not a necessity because friends and family members usually lived in the same neighborhood or general area. A resident of the area, Betty Lewis lives in the same neighborhood as 12 of her aunts and uncles and 19 of their children. She describes the community as a place where, “You couldn’t get in trouble without someone telling your mom. In front of whoever’s house you were at lunch time is where you went into eat”. The people that live in the Ninth Ward may have been poverty stricken, but they were wealthy in ways that many people do not understand. For instance, many musicians came from the area including Fats Domino, who had a successful life, got married, and then later moved back to the Ninth Ward. This shows how much people love the area and are not forced or constrained to the area but choose to live there (Gratz). To residents, the community is as cultural and historic a district as the French Quarter. However, because the community is almost entirely African American, the affluent fail to recognize its significance.
Hurricane Katrina hit the Lower Ninth Ward extremely hard, almost completely wiping it out, allowing many controversies the opportunity to develop. The area was on average seven feet below sea level, causing it to flood heavily which caused many of the levees surrounding the area to collapse. The residents lost not only their homes and belongings, but some lost their lives as well. The neighborhood was reopened for day visits on December 1st where many people returned to find nothing left of their homes. FEMA gave these homeowners a little over $10,000 and those whose homes had been damaged $5000, to use for rebuilding (Frank).
The people who want to preserve the culture and history of New Orleans think that rebuilding the Lower Ninth Ward is necessary. This group consists primarily of the homeowners and people who are actually a part of the community. Many of the residents see the city’s desire to bulldoze their homes as a racial tactic, as “ethnic cleansing” (Klein) which would force out much of the culture that has been instilled in the area out. The residents believe this because in 1927 the levees were purposely destroyed as a way to save the wealthier neighborhoods (Azulay). The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 had a similar impact on the area of New Oreans as Katrina has. The city decided that the only way they could save the city was by flooding the southern areas because it was mostly rural and poor (Slivka). There was false speculation among the homeowners in the Lower Ninth that the levees were destroyed again to save the wealthier areas. They think that the government is purposely trying to shut them out of the reconstruction process because many families are disbursed around the country and have no way of coming back to be a part of the process (Chen).
The people in the Ninth Ward are not being fairly represented because many are still displaced around the country. A system for bulldozing houses was created stating that houses on the city sidewalks will have ten days notice that they were going to be destroyed and that homes tagged as unstable will have thirty days notice (Cotton). Some say that the bulldozing is being used as an instrument for “land grab” and is too much in the favor of business owners. The wealthy and affluent people of the community are the only one’s having a say in the city as a whole which isn’t fair to those who live in the areas like the Lower Ninth Ward. “I don’t trust people making the decisions because they’re not from down there – the Lower Ninth Ward” said the president of the Lower Ninth Ward Economic Development Association, Ruston Henry (Burdeau). The Ninth Ward is a true community and the residents will fight to keep their neighborhood alive. (Frank).
Those opposed to reconstruction see the issue much differently. They argue that rebuilding the area is unsafe and a waste of money. These officials say that they are keeping the residents best interests and opinions in mind but the homeowners themselves do not agree because none of these officials seem to be on their side. The director of Homeland Security, Terry Ebbert, said that most houses in the Lower Ninth Ward “will not be able to be restored” and other officials say that “it would be a mistake to rebuild the Ninth Ward”. It is said to be a mistake because the area is so likely to be flooded again. The Lower Ninth was devastated by Hurricane Betsy forty years ago, showing that putting money into rebuilding is pointless because another hurricane is likely to destroy it again (Connolly). Russel Henderson, who formed the Rebuilding Louisiana Coalition says “It would be negligent homicide to put people in the Lower Ninth… If you put people back in there, they’re going to die”. A geography professor at LSU states that putting homes in the Lower Ninth back for sale would be to “put them back in harm’s way” (Connolly). The city claims that the houses are simply unsalvageable and have to be torn down for safety reasons (Chen). Others say that the cost of levees capable of withstanding another category 5 strength hurricane would cost too much, with estimates at over 32 billion dollars (Death of an American City). The United States government, however, had no problem with spending money on the rebuilding of the World Trade Center. When that was devastated by terrorists in 2001 seven different plans were created for the site. They chose the design to best represent the twin towers and refer to it as the “Freedom Tower”, the tallest building in the world at 1,776 feet. The skyscraper itself will cost $1.5 billion dollars (Johnson and Ross). This shows how money is no object when rebuilding situations concerning the wealthy and affluent, yet when it comes to rebuilding areas concerning the poor it is matters immensely. "The new Freedom Tower design incorporates standards the police department had sought to protect the building against bomb blasts, which our counterterrorism experts agree present one of the greatest threats to such iconic structures," said NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, showing how the WTC was given protection, shouldn’t we give New Orleans and the Lower Ninth Ward the same thing? (Hirschkorn).
Environmentalists also have an opinion on whether or not to rebuild. Rather than rebuilding these people want to restore the natural wetlands that used to be in its place. Louisiana has “the highest rate of coastal land loss in North America. An area the size of the Wembley stadium is lost to the sea every 20 minutes” (Lambourne). This has been a problem for environmentalists for a while and Katrina only made it worse. Before the canal and levee systems were put around the Mississippi River, sediments were brought down to replenish the land. When the levees and damns were built it blocked the sediments from falling, which led to an extremely high rate of subsidence. Because most of the city is below sea level, the sediments are needed to build the land back up and if the Lower Ninth is bulldozed, the land will have a chance to repair itself and start protecting the city again. Geologist Professor, Shea Penland says “If you want New Orleans back… you’re going to have to bring the land back that protects the city from the raves of hurricanes. If we don’t incorporate that then the city will be faced with extinction”. Sacrificing the Lower Ninth Ward would be saving the rest of the city. In order to protect New Orleans from a category 5 hurricane, this barrier system would have to stretch from Mississippi to Texas which, although time consuming, would guarantee the city’s survival (Lambourne).
Interestingly, some locals of the New Orleans area do not want to stay there anymore. Many homeowners feel as though they have been betrayed by their own city. They “don’t have any use for New Orleans” and “don’t trust New Orleans anymore” (harden). These people suggest that things could be such as providing compensation for property owners in order to achieve a median between all parties (Connolly). Joan Howard, a resident of The Lower Ninth Ward says “I know they are going to have to tear my house down…but I believe it’s only right that they build me another house—if I decide to go back. I know it’s like a war zone down there, mister. Everything is destroyed. But I got the flood insurance” (Harden). Lolita Glass, who also grew up in the Lower Ninth said “This is a natural disaster, it’s nobody’s fault” but “you’re not giving us anything. What we rightfully deserve as citizens of this country is the same protection we give to other countries” (Connoly). In the instance of September 11th, all victims were given adequate compensation so why can’t we provide the same to those victims of the hurricane? They are angered that the Mayor pleaded for the city to return home, however, gave them no place to stay when they did come back (Azulay).
The controversy of whether or not to rebuild the Lower Ninth Ward is an issue that many people hold dear to their hearts. There is plenty of reasoning to both sides of the argument and the deciding factor will depend on which side is persistent and presents the best evidence. Hurricane Katrina has shown how much the Government is needed and how necessary it is for the Government to make the right decisions based on the best interest of its people (Dreier). Whatever decision is made, the residents of New Orleans want to be informed so that their city can finally grow back into the cultural landmark that it once was.





















Works Cited

Azulay, Abid. “New Bankruptcy Law Could Sink Katrina Survivors-Lawmakers, Rights Groups.” Common Dreams News Center 15 Sept. 2005. 23 Feb. 2006 <http://www.commondreams.org/headlin05/0915-02.htm>


Burdeau, Cain. “’Big Easy’ Thinking Big in Rebuilding Plan.” Northwest Herald 11 Jan. 2006. 23 Feb. 2006 http://www.nwherald.com/MainSection/other/159393834754286.php


Chen, Michelle. “New Orleans Homeowners Fight to Save Homes from Bulldozers.” The New Standard 06 Jan. 2006. 25 Feb. 2006 <http://www.newstandardnews.net/content/index.cfm/items/2731>


Connolly, Ceci. “9th Ward: History, Yes, but a Future?” Washington Post 3 Oct. 2005. 25 Feb. 2006 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/10/02/AR2005100201320_pf.html


Cotton, Deborah. “From the Ground Up: Attorneys Advise Residents Regarding ‘Bulldozing Campaign’ in the Lower Ninth Ward.” Katrina Help Center Feb. 2006. 25 Feb. 2006 <http://www.thebeehive.org/Templates/HurricaneKatrina/Level3NoFrills.aspx?Pageld=1.5369.6532.6887>


“Death of and American City” New York Times 11 Dec. 2005. 23 Feb. 2006 http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/11/opinion/11sun1.html?ei=5090&en=4b8c42aa8c1afdad&ex=1291957200&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss&pagewanted=print

Dreier, Peter. “Katrina in Perspective.” Common Dreams News Center 15 Sept. 2005. 28 Feb. 2006 http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0915-27.htm

Frank, Thomas. “Rootedness May Save Lower Ninth.” USA Today. 05 Dec. 2005. 23 Feb. 2006. <http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2005-12-05-new-orleans-lower-ninth_x.htm>

Gratz, Roberta Brandes. “In New Orleans’ Mud, A Ward Determined Not To Slip Away.” Common Dreams News Center 7 Nov. 2005. 23 Feb. 2006
<http://www.commondreams.org/views05/1107-28.htm>

Greater New Orleans Community Data Center. Copyright 2000-2005. 23 Nov. 2005. Knowledge Works. 23 Feb. 2006. < http://www.gnocdc.org/ >

Harden, Blaine. “The Economics of Return.” Washington Post 19 Oct. 2005. 23 Feb. 2006 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/10/18/AR2005101801910.html


Hirschkorn, Phil. “New WTC Tower Design Made Public.” CNN.com 29 June 2005. 12 March 2006 http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/06/29/wtc.tower.redesign/index.html


Johnson, David and Shmuel Ross. “World Trade Center History.” Pearson Education Inc. 12 March 2006. http://www.infoplease.com/spot/wtc1.html


Klein, Naomi. “Purging the Poor.” Common Dreams News Center 23 Sept. 2005. 23 Feb. 2006 < http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0923-24.htm >


Lambourne, Helen. “New Orleans ‘Risks Extinction’”. BBC News 2 Feb. 2006. 23 Feb. 2006 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4673586.stm


Slivka, Judd. “Another Flood that Stunned America.” U.S. News and World Report 12 Sept. 2005 23 Feb 2006 http://www.usnews.com/usnews/news/articles/050912/12leadall.b.htm

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home