Abandoned Public Housing at Mazant & Law

I was feeling a little out of sorts today, which is almost always a sign that it’s time to take a bike ride, so that’s what I did with my late afternoon, and yep, that’s exactly what I needed. The bike ride never fails to either get me out of my head or let me settle into it, depending on what I need. I first rode over to the JJPL offices to drop off a check to W. in exchange for his presentation to my students about gender, youth, and prisons in New Orleans. After chatting a bit, I zipped downtown to the St. Claude bike lane where I could pedal in rhythm (except for all those trucks parked in the bike lane–sigh). I took a left and tooled around the upper ninth, stopping at Mazant and Florida to snap a picture of this public housing, abandoned, like much of this neighborhood, covered in graffiti, behind barbed wire fencing. This is part of the Florida Development Neighborhood, one of the first public housing developments funded by the Wagner Act during the Great Depression. When people are critical of things like public housing and social welfare, I want them to have to sit down and read the Grapes of Wrath. We can absolutely live in a world without a social safety net, but it’s going to look like that book–children sucking on stones for minerals, mothers giving birth to dead babies, left to breastfeed dying men instead of their children. But I digress. As I was riding around this neighborhood today–a mere two miles from the French Quarter–I thought about the many ways so many neighborhoods in New Orleans–and in so many other cities–have just been abandoned. HANO requested plans and bids from developers by November 15th of this year, so perhaps there will be a change here. They’ve been building and rebuilding this since the 1940s. I hope they’ve learned some lessons–don’t build flimsy, flood-prone structures, for one. I rode back to the Bywater and headed to the coffee shop for the book release party of How to Rebuild a City: Field Guide From a Work in Progress. What a wonderful book. Really, really wonderful. These are old issues, these questions of justice and cities and housing and people and how we spend our social wage, and folks have been struggling and building and rebuilding for a very long time. You should buy this book so you can learn what people are doing here. That’s what I did, and read it while drinking champagne and listening to Little Freddie King play his guitar. It was a good day, and I’m glad I took my bike.

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