I used to live in a Voodoo City


What follows is a photographic tour of the Bywater, St. Claude and Lower 9th Ward sections of New Orleans, now five years after the storm.  Since the foundation of the city, New Orleans has always attracted the outsider’s judgmental gaze, usually directed towards a perceived laxity in morality. The laxity in this case seems to be municipal in nature–while ample demolitions have occurred, there is no presence of a revitalization scheme.  Instead the city seems to nibble at the fringes providing minor streetscape improvements, token sewer inlets and the contractor’s dream, new sidewalks.  All of this seems to occur without the guidance of a development plan.  People I’ve talked to here roll their eyes at the outgoing Nagin administration but the problems are deeper. Unless someone takes a closer look at how to make these depopulated regions self-sustaining in both a residential and commercial sense, and to knit them back to the French Quarter-Marigny-CBD tourism nexus, no one will return nor will anyone invest. New Orleans has been redeveloping 4 of its 1940s-era public housing sites in accordance with essential New Urbanist tenets: creating a community of diverse incomes using context sensitive architecture and neighborhood amenities.

Because of the abundance of urban land, there are profound opportunities to rethink the grid, to concentrate new growth along new axes, to mix residential units with commercial properties and–perhaps most importantly–to create new bus or light rail connections to connect the 9th Ward.  All of this is needed to graft the 9th Ward back into a city diced and quartered by race, class, infrastructural barriers, damage levels, and lack of coordinated reinvestment. [Look for a short post on these projects soon]

Elsewhere, further west closer to the whiter and younger Marigny, new opportunities are forming for a different set.  Contractors are going back to work, gutting industrial buildings, creating new residences like the ‘Sugar Mill’.

Tour after the jump. Continue reading “I used to live in a Voodoo City”

Trasfer Here For the Future: SEPTA’s New Silverliner V Preview

One of SEPTA’s brand spanking new ROTEM-Hyundai-built (American assembled) Silverliner V cars is on permanent display on Suburban Station’s Track 0 until October 15.  And if you’re bewildered by the LCD screens and strangely placed doors at quarter points there are about 15 SEPTA personnel on the platform prepared to guide you through the boarding and detraining process.  And in a bit of nimble PR, SEPTA prepared a handout to address the inevitable questions about their circumvention of the Buy American contract clause.  Entitled “Silverliner V Philadelphia Regional Manufacturers”, the sheet lists the regional firms that will supply components for the assembly.  Batteries from Cherry Hill, operator seats from Exton; HVAC systems from West Chester! Glass from Trumbauersville?  And true to the Regional Rail’s form, Philadelphia is not well represented in the list of suppliers.

Continue reading “Trasfer Here For the Future: SEPTA’s New Silverliner V Preview”