Funds for Grassroots groups in the gulf coast-discussion
colist at comm-org.wisc.edu
colist at comm-org.wisc.edu
Sun Sep 11 13:31:21 CDT 2005
[ed: since the thread is getting very long, I am just including new
messages now. You can always find old messages in the COMM-ORG archives.
Here are contributions from Harold and Terri.]
From: Harold Simon <hsimon at nhi.org>
Hi Randy and Comm-Orgers:
In an ironic twist of fate, our cover story in the latest issue of
Shelterforce (www.nhi.org) was on residents of North Gulfport and Turkey
Creek, Mississippi fighting gentrification and displacement. For some
time after Katrina hit, we had no idea what happened to the people we
featured in the story. We still don’t know the status of the person who
appears on our cover page. We’ve posted some information on our web site
and will be posting more as we receive it. For those on the listserve
who are working in the affected areas in community organizing, housing
or community development, we’d like to hear your story. Send information
to us at shelter at nhi.org. Also, here are a few local groups that were
working in the area before the hurricane and continue to do so. If
you’re with an organization compiling a list of local groups providing
aid, we’d be glad to cross-link.
Enterprise Corporation of the Delta
Southern Mutual Help Association, Inc. www.SouthernMutualHelp.org
The Louisiana Environmental Action Network and the Sparkplug Foundation
each provide lists of grassroots organizations working in New Orleans
and more widely in the affected areas.
National Housing Institute/Shelterforce
460 Bloomfield Avenue, Suite 211
Montclair, NJ 07042-3552
From: tmcnichol at renassociates.com
Sept. 9, 2005 | Vol 4 No 16
In this issue of Spotlight on the Region, RPA joins the nation and world
in focusing our attention on the disaster and its aftermath on the Gulf
Coast. We find that there are lessons for New York in New Orleans, and
vice versa, and that hopes for a revitalized Gulf Coast may rest on a
new concept known as the mega-region.
Learning from New Orleans, Learning from New York
Among other things, New York City and its environs lack above-ground
graves, Dutch-like dikes, and a southern proximity that leaves it
vulnerable to Category 4/5 hurricanes. So we shouldn’t get too carried
away trying to compare New Orleans and New York.
Nevertheless, watching hurricane Katrina destroy a city and much of the
region around it, in large part because of a failure to adequately
prepare for it beforehand and cope with it afterward, makes you wonder:
could anything similar happen here, and are we adequately prepared? Can
we learn anything from New Orleans’ troubles? And can they learn
anything from our recovery from the 9/11 attacks?
When examining the catastrophe in New Orleans, it’s clear that there was
a massive failure of infrastructure in every sense of the word:
physical, human, and bureaucratic. The failure of the levees, part of
the physical infrastructure, was compounded by the failure of the
bureaucratic infrastructure, principally the Federal Emergency
Management Agency. The looting and violence that surfaced in New Orleans
showed problems of poverty and culture that had not been adequately
addressed. It’s clear that the state and national political
infrastructure failed to implement a solid plan to protect the city from
such a storm and handle long-term problems on the Mississippi River.
Looking at New Orleans’ fate, we are reminded that choices have
consequences. When we look at the choices we have made here and might
make in the future, what are the consequences that we see?
Could It Happen here?
Researchers at RPA, the Army Corps of Engineers and at Columbia, Stony
Brook and City universities have modeled what a similar hurricane, or
even a 100-year coastal storm, would do to our region. All of them have
concluded that even a Category 1 hurricane, more likely here than the
larger hurricanes that can hit the Gulf, could be devastating to
low-lying coastal areas in all three states.
Like the Gulf Coast, we have built up most of our barrier beaches and
islands, and filled up low-lying coastal areas with housing and critical
infrastructure, such as airports and waste water treatment facilities.
According to the US Climate Change Science Program / US Global Change
Research Program, the Northeast has experienced 20% increases in
precipitation events. Increases in extreme weather events including ice
storms, severe flooding, nor'easters, droughts, and hurricanes are also
Storms such as the ice storm of January 1998 that resulted in an
extended period of power failure for upstate New York residents, heat
waves in 1999 that caused massive energy network overloads within New
York City, and six periods of drought over the last 20 years have
increased attention on extreme weather events.
How would our emergency services respond? Would our infrastructure be
devastated the way similar systems were damaged in New Orleans? Would a
crisis affecting hundreds of square miles affect the region differently
than an attack on 16 acres in Lower Manhattan?
The answer is that we simply don’t know. We do know that our emergency
services generally functioned well in the aftermath of 9/11, although
they were hampered by inadequate coordination and communications across
political and bureaucratic boundaries. And even though disaster
preparedness and emergency management services are more sophisticated
and better funded here than on the Gulf Coast, even a minor hurricane or
northeast gale could cause enormous damage and disruption to key
infrastructure systems. But also like New Orleans, in a major disaster
we will depend on FEMA, which proved not up to the job down South. The
Tri-State Region should involve itself in the national discussions and
examinations over whether FEMA is properly organized, what its mission
should be, and who should staff it. Formed in 1979 principally to
respond to a nuclear attack and not to national disasters, FEMA’s
mission has been always been contested and debated, as have the
qualifications of those who lead it and staff it. The current debate
over how central terrorism should be to its mission takes place in that
When looking at recent major storms, we know that the December Storm (or
“Perfect Storm”) of 1992 inundated the portals of the PATH terminal in
Jersey City and flooded the Downtown PATH tunnel, putting this vital
piece of infrastructure out of service. The Nor’easter storm also
underscored the fact that we have few defenses against this kind of
In the short term, we need effective contingency plans for evacuations
and safeguarding key infrastructure sites, including PATH and subway
portals in low-lying areas. In the longer term, we must debate whether
New York needs to invest in major flood prevention systems similar to
those in place in London, Tokyo and Rotterdam. Douglas Hill, a
researcher at Stony Brook University, has proposed a system of
retractable flood gates similar to London’s Thames Barrier and to
Rotterdam’s North Sea Barrier, to protect the core of the region from
serious flooding in a storm event of this kind. Under Hill’s scheme,
retracting flood barriers would be installed in the bottom of the
Narrows, the Arthur Kill and Long Island Sound at Willets Point. Hill’s
research also concludes that in many places – apparently including New
York – it takes a major disaster and years of subsequent public debate
to convince citizens and elected leaders of the importance of investing
in systems of this kind. So now is the time to seriously consider
whether flood prevention systems are needed to save the core of our
region from a disaster like the one facing New Orleans. But we have to
consider whether the immense expense of a tidal gate system, for
example, is justified by the possible damage that a major storm could cause.
Lessons from 9/11
Although the rebuilding process in Lower Manhattan hasn’t always
advanced smoothly or without controversy, the immense civic
participation does provide important lessons for Gulf Coast residents as
they begin to rebuild their region. In general, these efforts recognized
three principles for rebuilding that New Orleans should consider: that
plans had to address the fundamental problems that the area faced before
the disaster; that the planning process had to be organized around the
active participation of the public; and that plans had to look beyond
the affected area to the broader region.
This process of civic engagement culminated in the July 2002 Listening
to the City electronic town meeting, in which 5,000 citizens rejected
the initial development plans for the World Trade Center site.
Consequently, decisions that could have required years to make were
accelerated, speeding the whole rebuilding process. As a result of these
efforts, the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan has been underpinned by
several major transportation improvements totaling more than $4 billion,
several of them now under construction.
One of the most difficult tasks facing Gulf Coast planners now is to
envision how the area can be rebuilt to capitalize on future trends, and
not simply replicate an economy that hadn’t really thrived for years.
They should look at the future of New Orleans and nearby storm-damaged
areas in the context of the larger Gulf Coast region extending from
Houston to Tallahassee. This is one of several similar emerging US
“mega-regions” that are becoming the new competitive units in the global
economy, and that are expected to attract 70% of the nation’s population
growth and 80% of the employment growth by 2050. The emergence of a Gulf
Coast mega-region creates an enormous opportunity for the area to
rebuild itself for the next economy, not the last one. But to seize this
opportunity will require that the region collaborate in new ways to link
the economies of growing places like Houston with underperforming places
like New Orleans to create advantages for the mega-region.
RPA and researchers at the University of Pennsylvania are now working on
a similar economic development and mobility strategy for the
Boston-Washington mega-region, and colleagues at Georgia Tech and the
Atlanta Regional Council are outlining a similar strategy for the
Piedmont Atlantic Mega-region stretching from Raleigh-Durham, NC to
Birmingham, AL. By placing rebuilding plans for New Orleans in the
larger context of the emerging Gulf Coast mega-region, these plans can
address the fundamental economic, environmental, social and mobility
challenges that impaired the region’s economic prospects and quality of
life before Katrina, and set the region on the course to a brighter
future following this catastrophic event.
Jane Jacobs, the esteemed and much cited writer on cities, made the wise
observation once that there is a difference between repairing a city
after a natural disaster like a hurricane or earthquake, and repairing
the structural problems that cause poverty, decay or crime. A quick
infusion of material, labor and money can fix the former, but not
usually the latter, she said.
Although Jacobs’ axiom is true in many ways, events in New Orleans show
that there is no clear separation between building long-term
infrastructure systems to protect citizens, and to enhance an economy.
In general, we in the Tri-State Region can be proud that relative to the
rest of the country we have some of the most intensive infrastructure of
all types, from transportation systems to education systems, which
enable it to be a high-producing, high-value region. But our possible
to-do list is long. We should consider tackling what needs to be done
not only because such projects could help protect us from natural and
man-made disasters, but because they could ultimately help build a more
prosperous and stable region.
– Bob Yaro, RPA President, and Alex Marshall, Editor, Spotlight on the
More information about the Colist