New Orleans – Unfinished Business

Here are some pictures of buildings that are damaged in the downtown area and have yet to be fixed. The most recognizable of these will be the Louisiana Superdome.

This boat was across the street (Poydras) from the Superdome. Can you read what’s painted on its side? That sums up a lot of residents’ feelings towards the storm.

The hole in the roof of the Louisiana Superdome.

This is the best shot I could get of the construction going on inside of the Superdome. Security wouldn’t let me in. I thought I was a nice guy, but maybe I’m not that nice.

This is in the Superdome parking garage. I wonder why people who wanted to couldn’t get out?

Large puddles of standing water remain on the interior of the upper levels of the Superdome parking garage. The lowest level still has about 3 inches of standing water, but the pictures were too dark.

This traffic light is at the corner of Poydras and S. Claiborne, on the site of the Superdome.

The New Orleans Centre is a shopping complex connected to the Superdome by a pedestrian bridge. It sustained heavy damage and looks abandoned. This is its main entrance.

I was actually able to get inside the New Orleans Centre. What I saw brought me to tears. This is a little girl’s outfit.

A boy’s bike at the New Orleans Centre.

The Hyatt downtown. The lighter colored windows are the broken ones.

The remains of the building downtown that the 5 men I talked to lived in.

This was right across the street from my hotel. This used to be an auto mechanic shop.

This is a pic of Canal Street, one of the main strips of downtown, especially during Mardi Gras and other Festivals. This pic shows how some things have recovered while others have not. Notice that the building on the right is back in business while the one on the left (and connected to it!) is abandoned and not yet fixed.

This was a store during Essence Festival 2005.

Some businesses have pledged to return.

All of the pictures I took of damage can be seen on my Flickr site.

One Love. One II.

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About Garlin Gilchrist II

I am the City of Detroit's first ever Deputy Technology Director for Civic Community Engagement. My job is to open up the city's public data and information for the consumption and benefit of all Detroiters. I currently live in Detroit, my hometown, with my beautiful wife Ellen and our twins Garlin III and Emily Grace. I'm from Detroit. I created Detroit Diaspora, and was formerly the National Campaign Director at I also co-hosted The #WinReport on "The Good Fight," a an award winning, nationally syndicated radio show that was one of Apple's Best of 2013. After graduating with degrees in Computer Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Michigan, I became a Software Engineer at Microsoft. By day, I helped build SharePoint into the fastest growth product in the company's history. On my personal time, I sought out opportunities to connect my technical skills with community building efforts across the country. This led to my co-founding The SuperSpade: Black Thought at the Highest Level, a leading Black political blog. I served as Social Media Manager for the 2008 Obama campaign in Washington, and then became Director of New Media at the Center for Community Change. I spent two years creating and implementing a strategy for the Center to take it's 40 years of community organizing experience into the digital age. I speak before diverse audiences on effective & responsive government, empowerment in revolutionary new organizing spaces, increasing civic engagement & participation through emerging technologies and protecting civil rights in the age of the Internet. Full bio here.

6 responses to “New Orleans – Unfinished Business”

  1. FLAMEZ says :

    I grew up in New Orleans. My heart is broken to see this and know that our government cares nothing of the this wonderful city’s culture and mostly its people. The people make the city of New Orleans what it is. I bet if this would have been Crawford Texas it would have been restored by now.

  2. Tone says :


    I’ve been keeping up with your account of your trek through the Katrina aftermath and for a while I didn’t really have anything to say.

    Even now I find myself at a loss for much more of a response than “wow”. But, I will say this. I appreciate the conversations, personal stories, and pictures you’ve shared because it humanizes what’s going on down there.

    It’s easy for someone like me- with no formal familial ties to the region- to get desensitized to the devastation shown in the media. Most of the coverage that I’ve been exposed to- with the exception of NPR- uses broad strokes to make general claims about Katrina victims as a whole. But that doesn’t work because Katrina victims aren’t a monolithic group, and there isn’t a generic Katrina experience. Many people’s stories get loss in the process.

    These types of accounts, like you’ve presented here, are necessary to fill in details and give some insight into some of the variety of experiences people have down their and carry on there stories.


  3. t.HYPE says :

    this is a somewhat theoretical response, but I’d be interested in entertaining a conversation as to the responsibility of a government (ie. FEMA) to its people.

    I don’t care what country you’re in, government NEVER does things in a timely and efficient manner. Bureaucracy is the antithesis of efficiency. I remember hearing people say that if what happened in New Orleans happened in some rich white area, the government would have stepped in right away. Yeah right. Before the government ever lifted a finger, those rich folks would have all their celebrity and big business connections on the phone sending down contractors and planning benefit concerts. The government would write a couple of grants and send a few national guardsmen for free labor and “all would be well.” The difference is, when poor folks get in a jam, we don’t have anyone to call but the government and God help you if that’s all you’ve got to depend on. The story plays out the same way the world over. It’s only because we’re in America that we want to believe it is any different.

    Go back and read articles on the aftermath of the Asian Tsunamis. You’ll see exactly what I’m talking about.

  4. Y. says :

    I’m absolutely speechless.

  5. ms mimi the mocha soulchild says :

    I work in government, and have been legislative staffer in two political offices, one where I currently reside. I also live in earthquake territory.

    I hear T Hype’s point about government being ubiquitously poor in our response to any kind of disaster. In my city, and county inoperability is a huge problem (For lay people it means the emergency radio systems cannot even talk to each other.) It is no different in many of our major municipalities all over the nation.

    In a televised speech, SF mayor Gavin Newsome recently advised Sann Franciscans that in the event of a major earthquake on a magnitude 6 or higher, they shouldn’t expect a response for government for at least three days.

    Disaster preparedness and infrastructure development has always ended up on the low end of the congressional and state appropriation list. The money has simply, always been used to invest in what has been seen as more immediate needs.

    When I worked for the state it was a running joke that the legislature always gives unfunded mandates for municipalities and special districts to retrofit, but keep extending the deadline. Mother nature has no deadline.

    If we cannot handle systematic but predictable natural disasters, how on earth would we be able to respond to a semi-successful terrorist attack at a nuclear power plant, a bridge, or a rapid mass transit system?

    The Department of Homeland security has been pitiful responding to the real needs of many terrorist targets– our ports, railways, power plants, schools… the list goes on and on. Per capita, local jurisdictions are getting funded at a rate that suggests they buy a few radios, some police overtime and a box of handi wipes. If this is the response to the what the Bush administration labels as “the single most pressing threat to our national security”, imagine what the response has been to basic public safety needs.

    I am utterly stunned by the aftermath here, because it was so indicative of the wealth divide in this country.

    It was clear, that the plan was inherently flawed from beginning to end for evacuation, and is equally flawed in terms of equity in the recovery process.

    In some ways perhaps it is befitting that New Orleans, the mother, of the south and the Midwest as we know it, sold by France for a meager 15 million dollars will emerge again as a determining agent in this nation’s history, once again. Without the Louisiana purchase, America would not be a superpower.

    It will be interesting to see what her role will be now on the world stage.

  6. Garlin II says :

    I believe that systems can be designed to help people deal with disaster, be it natural or a terrorist attack, or whatever. Chaos is just that, and I don’t see it as realistic to expect choas to be handle perfectly, or even extremely efficiently for that matter. What I do expect is for some sort of planning to take place. If this planning doesn’t take place, then what am I paying taxes for? The simple analogy here is the Fire Drill. This is a prime example of a plan being put in place such that in the event of a fire people in a given place will have some idea of what to do. This does not mean that in the case of a fire that the plan will succeed flawlessly. It also does not mean that people will follow it. What it does mean is that somebody put effort and thought into trying to figure out a way to manage chaos, an activity that I do not view as futile. I guess I am looking to work with my government so we can design the fire ecacuation plan and have fire drills. It’s not up to them to force me to follow it, but I elect them to help me come up with a plan.

    Given that I see part of the government’s inherent job as manageing chaos, I do question sometimes the necessities or the beurocratic financial sinkholes known as the Department of Homeland Security (and it’s child-by-marriage, FEMA). If and since they do exist, they need to be working on that fire drill we’ll need during the Seattle earthquake or volcanic eruption, whichever comes first.

    100% reliance of the system is ignorant and not in your best interest, especially when that system is not well designed or implemented. However, I think that we can change things in ways that make it more effective. In this case, the design change needs to be transparency. People need to make their priorities clear to their elected leadership. We need to see where resources are going and how they are being appropriated. At that point, we can evaluate and determine what programs/departments are needed or not needed, and we can then act accordingly. If the elected official does not meet the demands made clear by people, then we need to VOTE PEOPLE OUT OF OFFICE.

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