Tenants fight gentrification
Published Nov 28, 2005 10:08 PM
KeShawn Harris, a 20-year-old African-American
woman, fled the Louisburg Square Apartments in New Orleans with her 2-year-old
son days before Hurricane Katrina hit. In a Nov. 15 radio interview with New
Orleans Indymedia, she told of returning in October to her apartment in the
parish of Terrytown and finding her apartment still intact but being told she
was not allowed to live there.
LES Realty Trust, the owner of Louisburg
Square Apartments, claimed that it was re-modeling the entire apartment complex,
and that KeShawn had to move out. Even when she tried to pay rent for both
September and October her landlord refused to take it. A certified nursing
assistant with two jobs, working 16-hour days and with a car totaled by the
hurricane, Harris was forced to leave her child with relatives so he would not
have endure being homeless.
Other Louisburg Square Apartments tenants
were told not to worry about paying the rent due to the devastation of the
hurricane. But for those who attempted to pay, again the landlord refused to
take it. On Oct. 27, LES Realty Trust sent out evictions notices with court
appearances for Nov. 2, stating non-payment of rent. This came two days after
Gov. Kathleen Blanco lifted the moratorium on evictions.
law, when a landlord begins eviction proceedings the tenant must appear at a
hearing five days later to contest it. If the judge rules in favor of the
landlord, the landlord can remove the tenant’s belongings 24 hours later.
Adding insult to injury, the lifting of the ban on evictions on Oct 25
has unleashed an unprecedented number of evictions. In a Nov. 2 Associated Press
article, Bill Quigley, director of the Loyola University Law Clinic and the
Gillis Long Poverty Law Center, put the estimate of evictions that are going
through the Louisiana. courts at as many as a 1,000 per day. Landlords have
claimed tenants have not contacted them or had abandoned their apartments.
Quigley reported that the evictions in New Orleans are breaking down into
roughly three categories: those that are unopposed because tenants are not even
aware of them, those for which tenants are justifiably disputing whether they
should pay September rent while the city was under a mandatory evacuation order
and several feet of water, and those where tenants are willing to pay but
landlords still won’t accept rent because they want tenants
Bertha Dugas of the Louisburg Square Tenants Association told Workers
World that LES Realty Trust is doing everything it can to force the tenants out.
“You couldn’t come here to interview me. The management would call
the police. I had four cops come to my house because of my being a leader of the
Tenants have experienced harassment such as
having their lights cut off, their cars towed and police officers showing up to
their doors at night.
On Nov. 2, a court ruled in favor of the tenants
forcing the landlord to take tenants’ rent. But on both Nov. 12 and 19,
tenants began receiving “Notice to Vacate” letters from LES Realty
Trust. Under Louisiana law there is no due process and tenants must leave within
10 days of this notice.
Bertha Dugas, a white working-class woman born
and raised in Louisiana, says tenants are planning to fight to stay. “We
pay $395 a month here. It would be hard to find another apartment we could
afford. If I had the money, I would go buy a place, but I just don’t have
In other communities in the New Orleans area, tenants
are organizing as well. On Oct. 15, tenants held a protest at Forest Park
Apartments, a public housing development in Algiers. Holding letters from the
management company that they had received only three days prior, tenants were
outraged to learn about the shutting down of the property to make repairs in the
wake of Katrina. The letter also stated that starting Oct. 16 no one will be
allowed to live in the 284-unit complex because of health and safety reasons
until the repairs were completed. “All utilities will be turned off, and
all gates will be locked on that date,” the letter went on to state.
According to New Orleans Indymedia, Forest Park is not the only publicly
funded housing complex whose tenants are facing eviction. Other complexes
include Jackson Landing, Fisher Projects and the Iberville Housing Projects in
New Orleans. Many residents of these housing projects were previously displaced
when their former homes in the St. Thomas housing development in New Orleans
were destroyed in 2001 to make way for high-priced condos and a Wal-Mart
“It’s gentrification, plain and simple. They want to
push the Black and poor populations out,” concluded Nellie Bailey of the
Harlem Tenants Council, which is fighting the gentrification of Harlem, N.Y.
“In Harlem and in cities around the country the gentrification has been a
gradual process, over several years or decades. In New Orleans since the
hurricanes it has been wholesale displacement, in one foul
Next: Gentrification in Harlem.
Articles copyright 1995-2012 Workers World.
Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.
Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
Email: [email protected]
Subscribe [email protected]
Support independent news DONATE