Maybe it is time to celebrate!
Jesse Perkins fears for his granddaughter each time she plays in the backyard. Patches barren of grass mean more than just dusty clothes; she could ingest some of the toxic soil on which Perkins’ house was built. “When we see bare spots in the yard, we cover it,” Perkins said, explaining how he lays boards to limit contact with arsenic- and lead-tainted dirt. “Why can’t my grandbaby play in the yard on a property I sacrificed and worked my butt off to obtain? This is life and death for us.” Perkins owns one of the 54 houses that remain on the former Agriculture Street landfill in New Orleans’ Gordon Plaza subdivision. In 1994, the site was labeled one of the United States’ most contaminated Superfund properties by the federal government, which identified more than 50 hazardous chemicals in the soil. For more than 30 years, homeowners have pressed City Hall to pay for their relocation from an area infamous for having the second-highest rate of cancer in Louisiana.nola.com
Five Administration, yes five have had requests made for moving and a city buyout to enable the move. No one listened, or paid any attention until now.
“You’ve spoken to many mayors and other elected officials, but the Cantrell administration has heard your requests and is working to address this issue,” said the letter to homeowners. The nine-question survey was due back March 31 with promises of a community meeting to review the results. Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration said it is considering repurposing the hazardous site as an off-road bikeway, a renewable energy park, a stormwater detention pond or a park, among other options.
Residents saw the survey as a way to achieve their long time goals:
- A single payment for the house’s fair market value
- A single payment plus moving expenses
- Relocation to a home of “comparable value” inside the city limits.
There was also a space for homeowners to fill out their own preferred option. Perkins, a member of the nonprofit Residents of Gordon Plaza Inc.’s four-person board, as well as board members Marilyn Amar and Lydwina Hurst, questioned the use of fair market value to determine payments. Situated on a former dump, the worth of their property has been reduced to nothing, they said. “There’s no such thing as fair market value for us. You can’t even count fair market value while living on a landfill,” Amar said. The group has been calling for a “fully funded relocation”: compensation on what the properties would be worth on nontoxic land, plus moving expenses. When asked about being relocated to a home of “comparable value,” Amar said she distrusts city officials, given that it was the Housing Authority that advertised the subdivision to Black middle-class residents in the 1970s and ’80s. At the time, it was billed as an American dream. “I wouldn’t trust that with a 10-foot-pole,” she said of the comparable value offer. “Because you put [me] on toxic soil already, so how do I know you’re going to give me something of comparable value?”
The homeowners want all of the residents removed before any work is done in the changes planned as they fear once digging starts chemical will be open to the public.
“I do not want to be involved in that at all,” Hurst said. “I am a senior. My immune system is already compromised from illness from living back here, so I don’t need any additional factors impacting that.” And any future development should not attract people, Amar and Perkins said: no parks, schools, gymnasiums or stadiums. “I would not want anyone to be exposed to what we’ve been exposed to,” Perkins said.
The Cantrell Administration has not responded to the letter and there is hope that the city will come thorough with restitution for the homes.
“The faster they do what they need to do with Gordon Plaza, the faster they can put more money in their pockets,” she said.
This might be something we should take an interest in.
The Letter and Survey:
This letter, its accompanying Questionnaire and the related information at www.nola.gov/agstreet are being circulated solely for the purpose of soliciting information that will inform discretionary policy decisions by the City of New Orleans and shall not be construed as an admission of responsibility and/or liability or an offer on the part of the City to perform any actions therein stated or implied. March 16, 2021«
Re:Your Property Located at «
For nearly 40 years residents in Gordon Plaza have been asking the City, the State and the Federal government to address concerns at their current properties, located atop or near the former Agriculture Street Landfill. You’ve spoken to many Mayors and other elected officials, but the Cantrell Administration has heard your requests and is working to address this issue. A City task force has been exploring options for redeveloping the former Agriculture Street Landfill site and nearby properties. The City would like to have the community’s input on returning this site to a productive and beneficial use. To better understand your vision for this neighborhood, we are writing to ask that you complete the enclosed questionnaire and return it by March 31, 2021. You may also schedule a meeting with the team working on this potential redevelopment. We will gladly meet you virtually, at your home, or at a mutually agreed upon location. Due to the City’s social distancing requirements, we can only meet in person with one family at a time, in small groups.
Additionally, you may also submit your responses online at www.nola.gov/agstreet. If you would like to meet with members of the team, we will follow up using the contact information you provide. If you have any questions in the interim, please contact Cheryn Robles at 504-657-9169 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you in advance for your feedback.
APR Environmental Affairs Administrator
City of New Orleans
The City of New Orleans is working with local and Federal partners to explore the feasibility of redeveloping the existing Agriculture Street Landfill site, and nearby properties, to a productive public use. Possible uses of the site include an off-road bikeway, a renewable energy park, a stormwater detention pond, a recreational park, etc. The City is not considering returning the site to use as a landfill or an industrial use.As we explore the repurposing of this property, we need to better understand how we can potentially meet your needs, address your concerns and understand your vision for the neighborhood. An electronic version of the questionnaire is also available at www.nola.gov/agstreet. Property Owner: «
Site Address: «
E-mail: _________________________________________________________Phone: _________________________________________________________
1.How long have you owned your home in the Desire neighborhood?
2.Have you lived in the home the entire time you’ve owned it?
3.When did you first learn that the neighborhood was built on or near the Agriculture Street Landfill?
4.How many people in each age group live in your home?
a.Under 5 years old: _______
b.5-17 years old:_______
c.18-34 years old:_______
d.35-65 years old:_______
e.65+ years old:_______