Maggie Carroll couldn’t sleep – not after what she had read earlier in the day. It was 11 January 2006, four months after the deadly floods triggered by Hurricane Katrina had swallowed many of New Orleans’ neighbourhoods.
Carroll and her husband were among the first to return after the storm and take stock of theirs, Broadmoor, a low-lying area whose raised bungalows and colourful shotgun houses had been inundated by up to 10 feet of water. The Carrolls’ home on Walmsley Avenue had been left structurally sound; its wood floors didn’t buckle. Still, the water had picked up pieces of furniture, carried them across rooms and left them ruined. It broke up the back deck and crushed the garage door, before submerging Maggie’s grandfather’s 1963 Chevy.
Renting an apartment off Magazine Street, a short drive away, for $1,300 a month, the Carrolls faced days filled with uncertainty. Then, on 11 January, the front-page story in the New Orleans Times-Picayune gave them yet another jolt. A mayoral-appointed Bring New Orleans Back Commission had sketched out a plan it hoped would open the tap of federal aid. Crafted by a team of outside consultants, the blueprint suggested concentrating redevelopment on the city’s higher, less-flood-prone ground.
“FOUR MONTHS TO DECIDE,” the headline blared. “CITY’S FOOTPRINT MAY SHRINK; FULL BUYOUTS PROPOSED FOR THOSE FORCED TO MOVE.” Broadmoor was, according to the report, among a handful of low-lying neighbourhoods “that will have to prove their viability to rebuild”. An accompanying map showed the area where Carroll and her husband had bought their first home, in 2002, covered by a large green dot. “Approximate areas expected to become parks and greenspace,” the key explained. […]