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Trouble and Desire: Rebuilding the Ninth Ward

After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the higher parts of New Orleans escaped with minor damage, but the city's Lower Ninth Ward was hit hard. Sandwiched between Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River, the Lower Ninth was severely flooded when the levees that protect New Orleans were breached.

Of the 20,000 or so mostly African Americans who lived in the Lower Ninth, a third lived below the poverty line. Crime was rampant. This past weekend firefighters put red tags on thousands of homes thought to be unsafe, and last week, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson advised Mayor Ray Nagin against rebuilding the Lower Ninth Ward.

But advocates for the Lower Ninth point out that it had one of the highest home ownership rates in the city. Desire -- the street made famous in the Tennessee Williams' play -- runs through the ward, which was home to many artists and musicians. And generations of families and neighbors have been woven together in a close knit community separated from the glitz and revelry of the nearby French Quarter.

What should become of the Lower Ninth Ward: Should it be bulldozed and its residents transplanted, or can it be recreated in a new form?


Craig Colten, professor of geography, Louisiana State University

Pam Dashiell, president of the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association

Kristina Ford, former director of city planning for New Orleans; teaches environmental studies at Bowdoin College

Scott Cowen, president of Tulane University; member of New Orleans Mayor Nagin's Bring New Orleans Back commission

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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