Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Sample Letter #2 (Social Focus)

Despite the challenges faced by displaced communities, New Orleans East Village celebrated Vietnamese New Year successfully and with great attendance. The ceremony not only brought thousands of people into New Orleans, but also showcased plans to build a new retirement centre for aging members of the community. Church services resumed at the Mary Queen of Vietnam church within weeks of the storm, despite extensive flood and wind damage to the church and neighborhood.

The rebuilding efforts of this unique ethnic enclave is a model for all New Orleans, and is jeopardized by the proposed landfill site only one mile down the road.

Decreasing property values, decreased air quality due to dust and those associated health issues as well as the potential pollution of water ways, including the Maxent Lagoon, are a few consequences of the proposed landfill and only scratch the surface of its total, long term impact. For example, the Lagoon Maxent runs directly into the Michoud Canal, which not only winds its way through the
community but also is the site of the unique, terraced garden features of the East Village. This agricultural activity provides an outlet for many older refugees fighting the stress of displacement, as well as supplementing household meals with fresh vegetables and as surplus is sold at the weekly farmer’s market. The terraced gardens and market are not only critical aspects of the community’s well being, but a vistor's attraction for many local Louisianans and tourists alike. Entrepreneurship in the area is also important. Prior to the storm, the neighborhood had a thriving business community, which had shown steady growth: from 40 locally owned and operated businesses in 1991 to 90 in 2003.

But why would a community wish to return to a city comparing their neighborhood value to that of a landfill? To an area that will potentially suffer increased health issues, decreased property values and loss of business? To an area that up until now has been invisible in the political and media arenas. During Katrina, newspaper articles in California tracked the plight of trapped East Village residents, weeks sooner than local media. Now the Mayor’s office chooses to recognize the community, but not to help it rebuild, instead as a source of city income and quick fix solution.

Failing to recognize the potential financial, health and social consequences of this proposed landfill denies the East Village community its voice in New Orleans and New Orleans the richness and diversity the East village represents.

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