When the McDonald’s opened on Judge Perez in Chalmette in May 2012 I was pretty excited (especially for an environmentalist). To me it represented growth, change and recovery. In fact, you could say that McDonald’s represented hope to me:
- It was going to be open 24 hours a day in the heart of Chalmette.
- It has free wi-fi providing access to people who can’t afford it.
- It has “healthy” food (hey, it’s the south. McDonald’s has salad and yogurt!)
- It was the third location to open in da parish.
It was the last point that was most important to me. I can’t imagine a multi-national corporation investing capital/supporting a franchisee to build a new location if they didn’t think it would be sustaining. The large number of other fast food chains popping up support this logic too. Sandwiched as it is between the Lower 9th ward — which has almost nothing by way of groceries/restaurants — and New Orleans East — which is also a food desert, St. Bernard is experiencing a recovery of sorts economically, even when on a personal level people are still suffering.
St. Bernard Parish was about 50% returned as of the last census, maybe 55-60% now. It’s a changed community. Lots more green space — where houses used to be — and not everyone is home.
So many people have moved across the lake to St. Tammany Parish that its nickname is now St. Tamm-Bernard. So certainly, recovery does not mean restoration to a pre-Katrina state. That is, unfortunately, never going to happen.
But the McDonald’s made me think…and these are questions I’ll be asking in my dissertation research…
- What are your signs of recovery?
- What was the marker (or what will it be if it hasn’t happened yet) that let you know your community is in recovery/has recovered?
- What makes you feel like your home is back?
Because I feel like we have a lot of “fake signs of recovery“. Take this “lovely” social housing project for example.
Known as Marrero Commons, these houses, just a few blocks away from me on Martin Luther King Blvd are supposed to replace BW Cooper/Calliope. Until Katrina there were 1,550 units. Construction started in 2008 and people moved in four years later. According to the HANO website there are 250 units, of which 143 are public housing. Phase One cost of $158 million. Even assuming that the website is out of date, there were over 4,000 residents pre-Katrina and less then 1,000 at the 2010 census.
Or what about this lovely patch of green grass and fresh mulch on the neutral ground on Claiborne in the Lower 9th. I was workers out laying this on August 19th and 20th 2015…just in time for the President and all the media that is descending for K10.
I guess it’s important that the L9 looks good this week, but it doesn’t matter how the community feels about it the rest of the year. Are they not important enough for nice grass?
So tell me GNO folks. Have you a personal marker of recovery? What is it?