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Conservatively liberal, moderately well-educated, and highly opinionated...

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Monday, January 02, 2006

And on the West Bank...

Several times a year - for twenty years - I’ve been coming back to New Orleans to visit friends and my “second family”. I’ve been back for weddings, funerals, Mardi Gras, St. Patty’s Day, and just because. And for twenty years, I’ve looked at the city but not seen.

This time, I saw… and it broke my heart.

I expected the devastation across the river, and while it’s true that the full magnitude of the disaster can’t be appreciated without driving (and driving and driving) through miles of abandoned and damaged neighborhoods, that was, at least, a known entity. It didn’t prepare me for the West Bank.

Algiers – for how long has street after street been falling apart? You can’t even drive down McArthur without an off-roader! And what’s with the bottom end of Kabel Drive???

There are blocks of blighted, abandoned buildings along Gen. Meyer – never the best street even 20 years ago. Now, it’s like a war zone. Yes, some of it is attributable to the storm, but it’s more than that. Much more. And why are abandoned business buildings still standing there (like Schweggeman’s)? Who’s driving the planning bus?

It’s one thing to try and rebuild from Katrina. It’s another altogether to try to restore vitality and economic stability that’s been bleeding out for two decades.

Oh… this was a very hard visit, Algiers. I’m so sad.


  • At 10:10 AM, Blogger Raven said;

    I can tell you straight that Kablel has been a wreck for at least two years, probably much more than that. It's still not the worst street though. Huntlee near DeGaulle is terrible, Witney between Degaulle and the Expressway has a huge bump that could probably flip an SUV and you need a dental plan to drive on L.B. Landry between DeGaulle and Meyer.

    I could sit here and go off on the roads in Algiers all day. Too many easy targets. I always tell people that you know when you've entered West Jeff because the roads are actually maintained.

    Sad, but this is a problem we can't blame on Katrina.

  • At 10:13 AM, Blogger Polimom said;

    No - definitely not a Katrina issue. Which brings some larger issues to the surface, dontcha think?

    The street itself was probably the least of that end of Kabel Drive's problems, actually.

    It was, frankly, third world conditions.

    (btw Raven - I have a pic to send you)

  • At 10:23 AM, Blogger Ray in New Orleans said;

    That was my experience too. Driving around my old neighborhoods in Old Aurora (Huntlee, Ken Court, Plymouth, Bocage), these neighborhoods have all seen better days, and it's not all from the storm. Even St. Andrews and Alice Harte were looking run down.

    The Village Aurora mall is a dump.

    I guess once all the oil people pulled up stakes and fled to Houston and Atlanta in the 80's, Algiers was left to rot.

    We had tossed around the idea of trying to find housing on the Westbank if we get a chance to move back, just because I thought the old neighborhood would be comforting to me, but it was just depressing. And my wife totally nixed the idea after seeing it...she said it reminded her of East Fort Worth blight.

  • At 11:42 AM, Blogger TravelingMermaid said;

    Well now I feel thoroughly depressed to hear the opinions of former Algerines.

    Polimom, I planned to go to the Crown & Anchor to see you but it didn't work out. Sorry I missed you!

  • At 11:49 AM, Blogger Polimom said;

    Ah!!! Sorry I missed you too! It was a small gathering, but I was really warmed by it. We had fun. (Next time, I'll broadcast a bit more widely and maybe we'll have a big bash!)

    I'm so sorry this post brought you down. It was very hard to write. So hard, in fact, that I considered not doing it at all, and simply letting the blog go away altogether. But that didn't feel right either.

    I cried myself to sleep most nights - the worst was New Year's Eve.

    Certainly, the reason I wrote it wasn't to make anyone feel worse. It's already so very hard. But it was also very hard to understand... and I care tremendously.

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