Saturday, October 13, 2007

St Bernard Housing Project and Community Garden

Massive St. Bernard housing project, Lower 9th

Day two in New Orleans was gorgeous, in the lower 80’s, with brilliant sun. Unfortunately my camera battery ran out on me so sadly I don’t have as many pictures from the day’s travels as I would have liked.

The community housing project at St. Bernard in the Lower 9th looks like nowhere anyone would want to live. A waste land. Big old buildings resemble a prison more than a place to raise children. But for many people this was home.

The buildings sustained minimal damage from the hurricane and the residents have been trying to get the city to reopen the project. In 2006 after their request to reopen the project went unheeded, the residents constructed what was known as Survivors Village, a tent city on the meridian of the highway. There they lived. Rallies were held to try to get the project reopened. Over the past year Survivors Village has disbanded and some of its inhabitants can be found wherever the homeless try to survive and get by without being bothered by the police.

The St Bernard housing project sits abandoned.

The size is overwhelming. Building after building. There are over 1,000 units here.
The whole thing is enclosed in a barb wire toped fencing. Brandon and I spent a bit of time wondering why the gates were open. Perhaps the lock had been cut? There were no trespassing and restricted access signs all over. The area was quiet, no one was around. It was an erie place.

The huge brick buildings sit empty, some with windows open, curtains blowing in the breeze. Anything made of metal is rusted out and ancient looking.

Next we were off to the more peaceful Meg Perry Community Garden, (managed by Parkway partners). Also know as Sun Done Garden, the soil is in excellent shape with no contaminates possibly because the garden has always been organic since it was started in the 70's. The garden is rumored to have been started by the Black Panthers in order to provide a food source for the lower 9.
The space contains a greenhouse, several large vegetable plots, and water catchment. There are grapefruit trees, okra, and eggplant to name a few of the very healthy plants thriving there. While we were there Brandon harvested basil from a plant the size of a small tree. Everything grows big here.

One interesting plant that was thriving in a small basin of water was a Water Hyacinth. Brandon told me the plant is very invasive, choking waterways and bayous. The interesting thing about the Water Hyacinth is that it is very fiberous and would make an excellent alternative to corn in the production of ethanol.

Many of the houses around the garden seem to have been repaired and in comparison to other areas the progress is apparent, but there are still an awful lot of FEMA trailers here.

I will try to post todays work tonight--last night there was no internet connection, hence this post was delayed.

till then...Suzanne