September 17, 2005

Want to know what the future of New Orleans might look like?

You might want to take a look in Florida, at Punta Gorda and its satellite town of Hurricane Charley evacuees, FEMA City. Almost a year after the hurricane blew through, most of the low income working people dispossessed by the storm are still in the FEMA trailers. And back in Punta Gorda, the powers that be are rebuilding the town in a way that only leaves room for the well-to-do.

"You almost hate to say this because of the difficulties so many people have had, but Charley tore down some buildings that needed to come down and cleared areas for much higher kinds of uses," said City Manager Howard Kunik.

An old, damaged Holiday Inn on the town's waterfront, for instance, has been demolished and will be replaced with an $80 million condominium-hotel complex, and other upscale projects are moving forward. Many residents are excited by the changes, but others -- especially the poor and some in Punta's Gorda's long-standing African American neighborhood -- worry they will be permanently priced out of their old home town.

Those fears were stoked last month when the city made clear that it plans to tear down a public housing complex on the waterfront to make way for much higher-income people.

"That land was just too valuable to have poor people on it," said community leader Isaac Thomas. He said that the local government is trying to help him and other black leaders save some of the modest but historic homes in the African-American East End, but that "it's a really uphill fight."

As we noted the other day on Magpie, the vultures are already starting to circle around New Orleans.

Via Washington Post.

Posted by Magpie at September 17, 2005 06:36 PM | US News | Technorati links |