Federal officials released a map Tuesday (Oct. 25) showing existing and proposed sites for temporary trailer parks in New Orleans, a guide that could spell re-entry to city life for more than 2,000 families.
According to a report in the Times Picayune, city officials have already indicated the plan is subject to major revisions.
The map, which includes only two sites already under construction, comes more than eight weeks after Hurricane Katrina battered the city and surrounding parishes, and fails to settle questions about the pace of the housing-restoration effort. In the face of a laggardly timeline, officials insist housing within city limits is critical because even the workers involved in reconstruction need a place to stay.
“We say that our No. 1 priority is housing, our No. 2 priority is housing, and after that, at No. 3, we’d put housing,” said Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad Allen, the Gulf Coast director for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
To that end, crews are erecting two trailer parks that will hold 80 and 200 trailers, respectively, federal officials said. Another proposed 17 sites scattered about the city’s east and west banks potentially could hold more than 1,800 trailers, according to the coordinates provided by FEMA. At those sites, authorities are trying to negotiate leases or finalize design plans, and city officials said not all of them will become reality.
According to the newspaper, FEMA’s own arithmetic shows that those locations represent only a fraction of New Orleans’ needs. The agency has ordered about 120,000 trailers, and though not all of them will be used in Orleans Parish, Allen put the number of “damaged or uninhabitable” homes in the city at between 200,000 and 250,000.
“We need to get people out of long-term emergency shelters, and the hotels we’re using are a bridge to nowhere,” Allen said. “The No. 1 issue is that large population that was displaced because, right now, there’s not enough room at the inn in Louisiana.”
Mayor Ray Nagin’s housing director, Alberta Pate, however, said the map is not the most current version, and that two locations already have been scratched. Pate, who is heading the city’s effort to approve the trailer locations, said she hopes to release a more current list in coming days.
The Times Picayune reported that while the agencies hash out the logistics, Nagin will make the final call on locations. Allen stressed the sites are “not a federal decision” and said nothing will move forward until Nagin green-lights each one.
Nagin was expected to address trailer park locations and the pace of housing restoration at a Tuesday afternoon news conference, which was canceled. The mayor is expected to address the topic today at a town hall meeting.
That did not stop political squabbling Tuesday, particularly from New Orleans City Council members who said they were in the dark about just about everything related to the temporary trailer communities.
And, as the city and FEMA begin releasing possible locations for the trailers, they are likely to encounter resistance from nearby property owners who may not relish living near large trailer communities. Such spats in Slidell and elsewhere already have made headlines, and council members warned Pate that if they are not included in the decision-making, other dust-ups are likely.