Building Toxic Neighborhoods and Creating Environmental Injustices: Public Development Projects on Former Municipal Waste Sites in New Orleans

Friday, 20 July 2018: 08:30
Oral Presentation
Christopher OLIVER, Tulane University, USA
Following Katrina, New Orleans city officials embraced a neoliberal reimagining of state commitments to urban redevelopment, housing, and education, though their respective local government institutions charged with financing and regulatory oversight – the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) and the Recovery School District (RSD). While both state institutions had already begun moving to embrace neoliberal policies for some years prior, Hurricane Katrina provided a new avenue for moving further away from public responsibility for financing projects and shifting to newly developed “public-private partnerships” as part of a post-Katrina broader strategy of economic redevelopment. In this paper, I illustrate these processes by examining two New Orleans public housing developments and schools involving mainly working class communities of color. Both neighborhood developments involve a shift from public funding to public-private financing resulting in development on previously identified toxic sites - locations Lerner calls “sacrifice zones." I argue that local government officials sought out this new financing as a strategy to avoid some of the policy and regulatory constraints that would have been placed upon them through any reliance on federal funding. This creative new form of state neoliberalism served to exacerbate existing inequities by not just degrading the quality of public education and public housing but also by continuing to “sacrifice” these working class communities of color to the accumulatory excesses of past industrial development in the service of future capital investment and accumulation. To do this I will examine two public housing projects and two public schools situated upon the two largest municipal waste sites in Orleans Parish: Agricultural Street and Silver City landfills