New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward Still Struggles With Progress

Despite efforts to rehabilitate and rebuild, the Lower 9th Ward still faces a long road to full recovery.

Posted: 08/29/2011 01:43 PM EDT

While other parts of New Orleans may boast glowing recovery on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, its famously Black Lower 9th Ward still bears many scars of the storm.

Since the hurricane, a slew of volunteers, non-profit organizations and private investors have jumpstarted recovery projects in the area, but even with all their efforts combined, residents say not much has changed.

"Look around you at the Katrina houses!" said Robert Stark, a 54-year-old disabled veteran, told the Associated Press, waving at two vacant, crumbling houses. "Look at the grass." In many lots, fields of high grass grow in place of houses. "There ain't nothing new down here. Nothing new ... nothing new."

Adding to the residents’ malaise and the investor reluctance is the size of the population. Today, the Lower 9th Ward is home to just 5,500 residents—only one-third of its population pre-Katrina—which is a problem that keeps its residents from attracting investments that would be helpful to the community, like a grocery store, for instance.

"Corporate America only sees the risk side of the ledger," he said. "I'm tired of industry standing on the sidelines. There is value here, there is wealth here ... It's pent-up demand and I feel as though it is something that can be mined,” New Orleans native and HBO Treme star, Wendell Pierce, told the Associated Press.

Pierce, along with a group of investors, has plans to build a full-scale grocery store in the 9th Ward by 2013.

In addition to private projects, the city itself has big plans that include the rebuilding of a local high school and a street-paving project that will cost $45 million. Even still, as the firefighters of the Lower 9th Ward’s Engine 39 still work from a trailer, it seems that city leaders just can’t keep pace with the enormous amount of work that still needs to be done.

 

 

 

 

(Photo: REUTERS/Lee Celano)

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