Algiers! Are You Ready?
They’re talking about you out there in the world, Algiers. Did you know that? It’s still a whisper – a subcurrent – but the spotlight is slowly turning your way. Are you ready for this?
For years, Algiers was a forgotten stepchild of New Orleans, so much so that many residents across the river didn't realize it was part of their city. Today, the district is the largest section of New Orleans that is relatively intact, and it has become a bustling nucleus of reconstruction, with a far loftier position in the civic structureThe charter schools are starting there in Algiers, and for the first time in memory (mine, at least!), Orleans Parish schools have a chance at success. Yes, it’s a new idea there… but it’s only one of many “firsts” that are heading your way. Do you have what it takes?
“Of course there are kinks in anything new. There would be kinks if we restarted the old school system,” said Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson. “In many cases, there are kinks in everything we're doing in rebuilding New Orleans. And so be it. We can deal with it. We have to move on; we have to rebuild our city."Ethnic and racial tensions have existed there in Algiers, precisely as they have throughout the city… but these visions of tomorrow call for reaching out to one another. Nobody on the West Bank, I’m sure, will resist new approaches for the poverty-stricken or crime-ridden parts of town. But lack of resistance is not the same as active acceptance. Algiers can be a model. Can you step out of the box, and embrace the new future?
The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development has already declared River Garden a model, announcing plans last week to develop mixed-income communities at the former Fischer public housing complex in Algiers and at C.J. Peete in Central City, rather than salvage the crime-ridden complexes that clustered the poor in run-down, barracks-style housing.Throughout the immediate post-Katrina days, people throughout Algiers reached out to one another and bound communities tightly. This devotion was an astounding thing to watch, particularly in the face of modern societal distance from one another. But those were limited to immediate surroundings. Can these micro-neighborhoods forge with one another, now that the immediate crises have passed?
At a recent town meeting in a church cafeteria, returning residents thanked those who had stayed behind. Their words sounded quaint against the backdrop of devastation across the river."Warren Muenster came by my house every other day and watered my plants!" one elderly woman told the crowd, eliciting a smattering of applause. Another man stood when she was finished: "I want to thank Vinny for crawling in my kitchen window and saving my goldfish."Change is good, but it’s rarely without pain. Get ready, Algiers. Show the world that New Orleans, in the form of Algerines, has what it takes to come back. Step forward to meet the future, and make a difference. Everybody's watching...