December 22, 2007
On Thursday, over intense public opposition, the NO city council approved HUD's plan to demolish 4500 units of public housing and replace them with "mixed income development."
Photographer Mario Tama — who has been documenting one of the existing projects on and off for the past 6 months — forwarded these images to The BAG. The first two photos were taken this summer. The third, showing an early stage of demolition, was taken last Saturday.
Behind the fury is the belief that, as flawed as the original projects were, it would have been relatively straightforward and inexpensive to repair flood damage, as opposed to tearing the buildings down. With rents up 45% and homelessness having doubled since Katrina, activists see the money and power trending toward corporate developers and up-market housing, resulting in poor blacks being pushed out of the city. And, it's hard to dispel that thinking as the city has offered few options to the soon-to-be-displaced residents.
Regarding the photos, I don't think the intention here is to romanticize life in the projects. The difference between the two earlier shots, and the recent one, however, using youth as "a constant," is to reflect the fabric of life then and now, when what's happening now leaves seems to leave even less to look forward to.
(images: ©Mario Tama/Getty. 2007. BW Cooper Housing Project. New Orleans, La. Used by permission)