The trial and tribulation continue for the residents of Gordon Plaza.
A fund to help relocate Gordon Plaza residents, whose homes were built on a toxic landfill, must be reconsidered due to potential legal problems, the City Council member who created the fund said Tuesday. Council member J.P. Morrell delivered the news to residents gathered at a committee meeting, news that likely means they will need to wait longer for answers about their relocation process. “The fund as it’s currently structured has constitutional issues, has equal protection issues … that we’ve been unable to defeat,” Morell said. Morell said he will continue working with Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration to find another way to cover moving costs for Gordon Plaza residents.nola.com
The need to get off this polluted land and it has taken a long time even since the decision was to move them.
Gordon Plaza is a Desire-area neighborhood that was built on top of the Agriculture Street Landfill by the city in the late 70s, and advertised it as affordable housing for low-income families. The Environmental Protection Agency designated the land the neighborhood was built on as a Superfund site in 1994. In January, after years of activism from Gordon Plaza residents, the city council allotted $35 million for the city to buy all 67 homes in the neighborhood. But on Tuesday, Morell said the city’s attorneys have found that the Gordon Plaza Environmental Equity Relocation Assistance Fund could create legal problems for the city if all the plaintiff’s in the class-action lawsuit filed by current and former Gordon Plaza residents cannot access it. Angela Kinlaw, an activist with the Residents of Gordon Plaza group, replied that it’s disappointing the city had not figured this out before the holiday season. She said the city has displayed a lack of urgency in its efforts to relocate Gordon Plaza residents, adding that 12 have died since the start of Cantrell’s administration. One of those 12 deaths has occurred since money was allocated in January to buy the houses of residents. “We don’t understand why everyone else gets to go into Thanksgiving joyfully, pretending like nothing we’re talking about is an issue until we come back,” Angela Kinlaw said.
Once again the topic of the appraiser came up as there is question on how he made his estimates.
The meeting then shifted focus to the private appraiser Jim Thorns, whom residents wanted to respond to questions they had about his appraisal process. Kinlaw brought up criticisms that residents had with Thorns’ first public appraisal of a Gordan Plaza home, which was evaluated as having a brick veneer instead of solid brick construction, and was appraised as if it was in a flood zone. Residents have also questioned why Thorns used Gentilly Woods as a comparable neighborhood instead of Gentilly Terrace. Thorns said he hadn’t received requests from residents to reconsider portions of his appraisal, and he asked to have a list of questions sent to him so that he could consider them. Morell said he will prioritize finding another funding source for residents’ moving costs. The City Council meets again on Thursday, though Morell noted the council could possibly call for a special meeting. The next Gordon Plaza taskforce meeting will be at 1 p.m. on Nov. 21.
Hopefully by the New Year all can be settled and the first of the residents can be moved into new housing.