Eastern New Orleans

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Eastern New Orleans is a large section of the city of New Orleans, Louisiana. Developed extensively from the 1960s onwards, its numerous residential subdivisions offered suburban-style living within the city limits, much like the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans. Today, despite its location within the New Orleans city limits, Eastern New Orleans' character remains notably suburban, resembling typical American suburbia much more than the built environment found in the city's historic core. Starting in the mid-1980s, New Orleans East increasingly suffered from disinvestment and urban decay, and continued to suffer. The flooding occurring in Hurricane Katrina's wake, which affected almost all of Eastern New Orleans, continued this trend, particularly with regard to retail establishments, as numerous national retailers present and operating in August 2005 opted not to reopen their stores. Approximately 65,000 to 75,000 residents presently inhabit New Orleans East, representing a decline from the 95,000 people inhabiting the area as of the 2000 Census.

Landsat view of Eastern New Orleans. Note that dense development occurs exclusively in the western portion of the East; the remaining land is largely undeveloped swamp and marsh.
"Fountain of the Winds", 1930s sculpture by Enrique Alferez in front of Lakefront Airport

Eastern New Orleans is the portion of the city to the east of the Industrial Canal and north of the Intracoastal Waterway. It is often called "New Orleans East" as well, or simply "Da East". New Orleans East is a portion of the Ninth Ward of New Orleans.

Neighborhoods[edit]

The urbanized area immediately east of the Industrial Canal largely dates to the 1960s and 1970s, and includes such neighborhoods as Lake Willow, Spring Lake, Kenilworth, Seabrook, Melia, Pines Village, Lake Forest East, Lake Forest West, Edgelake, Plum Orchard, Bonita Park, Donna Villa, Willowbrook, Cerise-Evangeline Oaks and Castle Manor.

Originally named Lake Forest, as development first centered along the easternmost segment of Lake Forest Boulevard, the Read Blvd East area began growing in the 1970s and continues to develop.[dubious ] It includes the more upper-middle class and affluent subdivisions of New Orleans East, such as Lake Forest Estates, Eastover, McKendall Estates, Lake Carmel, Fairway Estates, Lake Bullard, Lake Barrington, and McKendall Place. Eastover is a gated community containing palatial homes and a Joe Lee-designed golf course. By the late 1990s, the neighborhoods of Read Blvd East were no longer majority white, but were particularly favored as the preferred place of residence for New Orleans' upwardly mobile African-American white-collar professional and entrepreneurial classes.

The far eastern portion of Eastern New Orleans has little urban development, although it too still lies within the city limits of New Orleans. It includes the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge, Chef Menteur Pass, Fort Macomb, historic Fort Pike on the Rigolets, and scattered areas of essentially rural character, like Venetian Isles, Irish Bayou and Lake Saint Catherine.

Village de L'Est is known for its Vietnamese community. The Vietnamese community is also known as Versailles, as the earliest migrants to the area, arriving in the years after 1975, settled first in the Versailles Arms apartment complex. The commercial hub for this community extends along Alcee Fortier Boulevard, within Village de L'Est. Sometimes known as "Little Vietnam", the area is noted even outside the community for the Vietnamese restaurants, perhaps most notably Dong Phuong Restaurant & Bakery.

Eastern New Orleans institutions and landmarks include the Lakefront Airport, Joe Brown Memorial Park, the Audubon Louisiana Nature Center, Lincoln Beach,[dubious ] and NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility, located within the New Orleans Regional Business Park.

Notably, Eastern New Orleans is the only extensive suburban or suburban-style region of Greater New Orleans where, since the late 1960s, all installed utilities have been buried below ground. Like the downtown New Orleans/French Quarter central core and the Garden City-inspired Lakefront neighborhoods of Lake Vista, Lakeshore, Lake Terrace and Lake Oaks, the East consequently possesses a uniquely uncluttered visual aspect, in contrast to the omnipresent wooden utility poles and spider's web of power lines found along most of the major thoroughfares of suburban Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes.

View from the tower of Shushan (now Lakefront) Airport, 1937, showing a few houses along Hayne Boulevard and mostly empty fields further south.

History[edit]

Advertisement for proposed development "Flowerdale", from the New Orleans Bee in 1914. Area was not developed as planned; the area is now under a landfill.[1]

Until the late 19th century, this area was outside of the city limits of New Orleans, although within Orleans Parish. There was little development other than in two areas. The first hugged the long, narrow ridge of higher ground along Gentilly Road, which followed the natural levee of an old bayou. Various farms, plantations, and small villages such as Michoud were sited along this ridge. The other older area of development consisted of a linear strip of "camps", clusters of houses raised high on wooden stilts, in the shallows along the edge of Lake Pontchartrain, the largest and longest-lasting of these being at Little Woods.

In the early 20th century some residential development of the area began, at first as an extension of Gentilly. Construction of the Industrial Canal began in 1918 and was completed in 1923, creating the principal geographical barrier that would separate the East from the rest of New Orleans. New Orleans East's present southern boundary was realized in 1944 with the completion of a re-routing of the Intracoastal Waterway, involving the excavation of a new segment stretching east from the Industrial Canal to the Rigolets, cut through the raw swampland south of the Gentilly Ridge and north of Bayou Bienvenue.

From the 1930s to the 1960s, Lincoln Beach, on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain, was the city's amusement park for the African-American community.

When Hurricane Betsy was bearing down on the city in 1965, Eastern New Orleans was the only section for which an evacuation was called, as there was concern that this section of the city might suffer particularly extreme effects. However other than light flooding near the Morrison Canal, damage from Betsy was much more modest than had been feared. Tragically, some of those who evacuated New Orleans East in advance of Betsy's arrival went to the Lower 9th Ward, which flooded disastrously.

Rapid growth east of the Industrial Canal commenced in the 1960s, during the administration of Mayor Vic Schiro (1961–1970). Many new subdivisions were developed in the 1960s and 1970s, to cater to those who preferred a more suburban lifestyle but were open to remaining within the city limits of New Orleans. New Orleans East grew in a comparatively well-planned and neatly zoned fashion. Some care was taken to avoid placing major thoroughfares along the rights-of-way of unsightly drainage canals, as had frequently occurred in suburban Jefferson Parish. Instead, major roads (e.g., Mayo, Crowder, Bundy, Read, Bullard, etc.) were located equidistant from parallel canals and were outfitted with landscaped medians (neutral grounds in the local vernacular). Numerous subdivisions were developed with large lakes at their centers, providing both an assist to neighborhood drainage and a scenic backdrop for the backyards of homes. From the late 1960s onwards, buried utilities were required, lending to new development in the East a pleasingly uncluttered visual appearance quite distinct from the wire-hung stop light signals, tangled webs of power lines, and forests of leaning utility poles common to suburban New Orleans. Though modern-day Eastern New Orleans was never segregated, the area originally grew to prominence as a majority-white "suburb-within-the-city". By 1980, the East had also received significant commercial office and retail investment, epitomized by the regional mall The Plaza at Lake Forest, the largest in Greater New Orleans at the time of its completion in 1974.

Billboard promoting the New Orleans East "New Town" development, 1972. Note the darker-toned 'Current Development' portion, encompassing present-day Village de L'Est and Oak Island, as well as Venetian Isles and a sliver of Irish Bayou. The light-toned portion is mostly today's Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge

However, the 1980s witnessed a sea-change in demographics, as New Orleans' growing African American middle class began moving into New Orleans East in sizable numbers. More importantly, in the wake of the 1986 Oil Bust significant poverty was introduced into New Orleans East, as many of the sprawling garden apartment complexes built in the 1960s and 1970s along I-10 to house upwardly mobile young singles began to accept large, poor, female-headed households as tenants. With increased poverty came increased crime rates, and both non-violent and violent crime became far more common than had been the case in the 1960s or 1970s. These changes were enough to induce a swift exodus of most of the white population, resulting in a New Orleans East that was overwhelmingly African-American by 2005.

Much more development further east was envisioned during the oil boom of the 1970s, including a huge planned community called, in successive iterations "New Orleans East", "Pontchartrain", "Orlandia", and, finally, "New Orleans East" once more. This "new-town-in-town" was to have resembled Reston, Virginia or the Woodlands north of Houston, but only a few small portions were built in several bursts of activity in the twenty years prior to the Oil Bust. Both the Village de L'Est and Oak Island neighborhoods were phases of "New Orleans East". The new town development would have occupied almost all of New Orleans lying east of the present-day route of I-510. Three identical interchanges along I-10 east of Paris Road were constructed in anticipation of the new town. The Michoud Boulevard exit uses one of these interchanges, but two of the three were never used. The prominent "New Orleans East" cast-concrete sign just west of the Michoud Boulevard exit was fabricated circa 1980 during the final attempt at developing this huge tract. Much of this land later became the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge, the largest urban wildlife refuge in the United States. Though the New Orleans East new town development was never realized, by the 1970s its name had been adopted by New Orleanians to refer to all of New Orleans east of the Industrial Canal.

A new international airport for New Orleans was also envisioned for the far eastern portion of New Orleans East on several occasions. In the late 1960s, formal government-sponsored studies were undertaken to evaluate the feasibility of relocating New Orleans International Airport to a new site, contemporaneous with similar efforts that were ultimately successful in Houston (George Bush Intercontinental Airport) and Dallas (Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport). This attempt got as far as recommending a specific runway configuration and site in the East; a man-made island was to be created south of I-10 and north of U.S. Route 90 in a bay of Lake Pontchartrain. However, in the early 1970s it was decided that the current airport should be expanded instead. New Orleans Mayor Sidney Barthelemy, in office from 1986 to 1994, later reintroduced the idea of building a new international airport for the city, with consideration given to other sites in New Orleans East, as well as on the Northshore in suburban St. Tammany Parish. Facing strong opposition from environmentalists, the Times-Picayune and many residents of the East, Barthelemy's idea came to nought.

Damaged houses in Eastern New Orleans after Katrina

In 2005, the majority of Eastern New Orleans flooded severely from Hurricane Katrina and associated levee failures (see: Effect of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans). Recovery initially unfolded slowly. By early 2006, only a handful of businesses had reopened, mostly those sited along the historic Gentilly Ridge (i.e., the Chef Menteur Highway corridor). Utility service was fully restored to the area during the course of 2006. As of January 2007, still less than half of the pre-Katrina residential population had returned, and many were living in FEMA trailers as they gutted and repaired their flood-devastated homes. Some residents returned on weekends to repair their property, while others gave up and abandoned the area. By November 2006 only 40,000 residents had returned to New Orleans East, compared to the 96,000 that had inhabited the area before the levee failures. However, consistent with the ongoing recovery in New Orleans' population from its post-Katrina trough, Eastern New Orleans' population likewise continued to increase. By 2010, more than half of the East's pre-Katrina population had returned. The returning population was more affluent: determined to permanently reduce the neighborhood's quantity of multi-family housing, eastern New Orleans homeowners lobbied against many rental developments proposed in the post-Katrina era. As a consequence far less multi-family rental housing is available now in New Orleans East than existed pre-Katrina. Essential neighborhood services became scarcer as well after 2005. Only one grocery store reopened, post-Katrina, and the national retailers who had flocked to the East in the 1960s and 1970s, and even into the 1980s and 1990s, were slow to return. Furthermore, neither Methodist nor Lakeland hospitals reopened after Katrina, leaving the East without a general hospital and bereft of ER care.

In the years following Hurricane Katrina, the pace of recovery in Eastern New Orleans has accelerated, though the area still faces challenges. Many retail shops have opened, with a particular concentration emerging at the intersection of I-10 and Bullard Avenue. This commercial node, largely populated by family-owned businesses, is now enjoying the long-awaited return of national retailers, with Big Lots and Wal-Mart leading the way. Consistent with the East's eve-of-Katrina concentration of African-American entrepreneurship, black-owned franchises, such as the USA Neighborhood Market, have also appeared. To the west of Bullard, along the Read Boulevard corridor, a new CVS Pharmacy has opened across Lake Forest Boulevard from the recently completed Daughters of Charity Health Center. Significant public investment has lately transpired in the East as well, including the under-construction New Orleans Community Hospital, the new regional public library, ongoing improvements to Joe Brown Memorial Park, and the construction of half-a-dozen new public school buildings. Efforts to secure high-quality private investment on the site of the former Lake Forest Plaza mall continue, and the city recently issued a Request for Proposals addressing the shuttered Six Flags/Jazzland amusement park, a prominent location that has yet to return to commerce.

Geology[edit]

Because Eastern New Orleans, and particularly Michoud, rests on the edge of a fault line, the land and the levees protecting it are sinking. Recent geological studies project the rate of sinking to be around two inches per year.

Education[edit]

New Orleans Public Schools operates district public schools and oversees some charter schools, while the Recovery School District has some directly operated schools and charter schools.

Marion Abramson High School was located in New Orleans East.[1] It closed in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina.[2][3] The Abramson Science and Technology Charter School opened on the grounds of the former Abramson High School in 2007.[2][4] In 2010 Sci Academy (New Orleans Charter Science and Math Academy) moved to a group of modular buildings at the Abramson site from another group of modular buildings. As of 2010, most students come from East New Orleans and Gentilly.[5] The Abramson campus property is adjacent to the campus of the Sarah T. Reed Elementary School.[6]

The New Orleans Public Library operates the East New Orleans Branch.[7]

Notable residents[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Where Are they Now - Terrence Jones Jones Makes Mark As Tulane QB." CBS College Sports. November 2, 2004. Retrieved on March 17, 2013. "As he stands at the blackboard of his freshman English class at Marion Abramson Senior High School in New Orleans East, all eyes are on first-year teacher Terrence Jones as he explains how to diagram sentences, interpret poetry and understand classic literature."
  2. ^ a b Vanacore, Andrew. "Records show glaring faults at school with ties to Turkish charter network." The Times-Picayune. July 15, 2011. Retrieved on March 17, 2013.
  3. ^ a b Borden, Sam. "For the Ravens’ Jones, a Trip Home and 2 Trips Into the End Zone." The New York Times. February 4, 2013. Retrieved on March 17, 2013. "Jones grew up in New Orleans East and attended Abramson High School, but his family’s house and his high school were destroyed in Hurricane Katrina."
  4. ^ Stewart, Marilyn (Contributing Writer). "Sixth-grader at Abramson wins state science fair." The Times-Picayune. April 21, 2011. Retrieved on March 17, 2013.
  5. ^ Chang, Cindy. "Sci Academy a bright spot in New Orleans school landscape." Times Picayune. Sunday November 7, 2010. Retrieved on August 3, 2012. Alternate, Archive
  6. ^ "RSD TO HOST MEETINGS FOR PARENTS OF ABRAMSON SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY CHARTER SCHOOL STUDENTS." (Archive) Louisiana Department of Education. July 18, 2011. Retrieved on March 17, 2013.
  7. ^ "Branch Libraries." New Orleans Public Library. Retrieved on March 31, 2013.

External links[edit]