New Orleans Awaits Decision on Ninth Ward
HOWARD BERKES, host:
And now, and update on New Orleans and it's recovery after Hurricane Katrina. Tomorrow, displaced city residents can begin casting ballots in the runoff election for mayor. Satellite polling stations will be open around the state of Louisiana two weeks before voters in the city choose between current mayor Ray Nagin and challenger Mitch Landrieu. Also tomorrow, some of the displaced voters will find out whether they can go home. As NPR's Cheryl Corley reports, this will depend on the results of water purity testing.
CHERYL CORLEY reporting:
Mayor Nagin says sewer, power and natural gas systems are in good enough shape to return service to most of the city's devastated Lower Ninth Ward. If the water results are just as good, the city will lift it's look and leave curfew and will allow people to stay where they have homes in the southern half of the Lower Ninth Ward, between Claiborne Avenue and the Mississippi River. The area includes the historic Holy Cross neighborhood. Stephanie Bruno, with the Preservation Research Center Of New Orleans, says it's on ground as high as the French Quarter and suffered less.
Ms. STEPHANIE BRUNO (Preservation Research Center Of New Orleans): With look and leave listed, it means that the people in Holy Cross, there are two things they could do: one, if they've been able to be renovating their houses and their houses are almost ready to be moved into, they can move back into their house. And that wasn't certain until we heard this news. The other thing is, if they've been living out of town or living with a relative somewhere and wanting to get a FEMA trailer in New Orleans at their property so that they could work on their house, bit by bit, they're now gonna be able to do that.
CORLEY: Lower Ninth Ward resident Carrie Cummings(ph) has already been working on her house. She stopped to talk in a parking lot after attending a community meeting. Cummings lives in the Holy Cross neighborhood and she paid off the mortgage on her home a year ago, just before the hurricanes blasted the Gulf Coast. Now she's living with relatives nearby. Cummings says she's happy residents will be able to return permanently to the Lower Ninth. But she thinks the process took too long. She says because of it her home is in worse shape than it was after the hurricane.
Ms. CARRIE CUMMINGS (Holy Cross Resident): Everything is gone out of there. The tub is gone. The sliding doors all are gone. Every door in the house is gone. So now I really have to start all over from scratch, because someone has came in there and vandalized. You know, we didn't have anything anyway, so now we're really starting from scratch.
CORLEY: Cummings is now hoping to get a FEMA trailer placed on her property so she can rebuild. For Patricia Collins(sp), it's a wait and see situation. She lives in the northern half of the Lower Ninth Ward which is still in shambles. The floodwaters that poured through the area when the industrial canal levee broke moved hundreds of homes off their foundations. Collins home is still standing and she wants some definitive word about her section of the Lower Ninth Ward.
Ms. PATRICIA COLLINS (Resident, Lower Ninth Ward): So in my situation I have gutted my home and the only thing I can say I can really do is board it up and make it secure until they tell us what we're gonna do and that's the hard part, not knowing what you're gonna do. You can't really plan for your future until you know what you're facing.
CORLEY: Collins says she's tempted to just move on with her life, since she doesn't know if she'll be able to rebuild. Mayor Nagin says, based on what's happened to New Orleans, the city is moving as quickly as it can to let residents know where they stand, especially since hurricane season is now less than a month away. Cheryl Corley, NPR News, New Orleans.