Saturday, August 29, 2015

Gentrification’s Ground Zero | Jacobin

Gentrification’s Ground Zero | Jacobin:

Gentrification’s Ground Zero

In the ten years since Katrina, New Orleans has been remade into a neoliberal playground for young entrepreneurs.

his week marks a decade since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. In those ten years New Orleans has, with unprecedented swiftness, become the most neoliberal city in the United States.
This development is not entirely surprising — one need only look at the harrowing weeks and months after the storm to see that reconstruction would be used to implement a series of revanchist reforms that further deregulated labor, undermined unions,diminished educational and employment opportunities for working-class people, and excised public and affordable housing from the speculative urban landscape.
Members of the redevelopment team hurriedly pitched strategies to “reduce the city’s footprint” through planned shrinkage and more “responsible” zoning practices — strategies that would have virtually erased many of the city’s low-income black neighborhoods.
Long before the floodwaters had receded, any chance of progressive reconstruction — rebuilding as a restorative public works program aimed at meaningful redistribution — was stamped out by policy wonks and TV commentators, liberal city councilmembers, feisty NGOs, speculative real-estate developers, and boutique hotel owners.
At the same time, it would be a mistake to view the crisis — brought on by the state’s gross mismanagement of Hurricane Katrina — as inaugurating something entirely new. Rather, the crisis expanded the ability of city elites to rapidly entrench policies and governance models that had been on the docket for years.
For nearly four decades, New Orleans governing officials have exploited intentional loopholes in federal urban aid policy to reorganize the city around private interests at the expense of public benefit, deploying decentralized forms of urban aid, such asCommunity Development Block Grants, as a mechanism to leverage speculative growth.
Since the 1970s, successive mayors have diverted federal dollars earmarked for low-income neighborhoods to finance hotels, tourism centers, and corporate headquarters, legitimizing their actions as a response to federal retrenchment or as facilitating trickle-down growth.
Investing in the highly uneven tourism sector, city officials and their private sector beneficiaries pushed for containment, and then Gentrification’s Ground Zero | Jacobin: