AAP students return to New Orleans to help in recovery process

May 2, 2009

Students from Cornell University’s College of Architecture, Art, and Planning (AAP) returned to New Orleans, Louisiana to assist in the continuing recovery from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The 15 students contributed over 520 hours of volunteer assistance to three local recovery-related projects in the city. In addition the group toured areas of the city to see firsthand the extent of the disaster and its continuing impact on the city and its neighborhoods.

The bulk of the team spent the week conducting a property inventory and conditions assessment for the Beacon of Hope neighborhood group in Lakeview. With the assistance of Professor Michelle Thompson (Ph.D. ’01) of the University of New Orleans, Beacon of Hope is using GIS to track the recovery efforts involving more than 7,000 properties in Lakeview and surrounding areas. 

Two graduate students worked in the offices of the MQVN Community Development Corporation assisting with, among other tasks, real property deed research and preparing a grant proposal for a new community health clinic for the mixed Vietnamese- and African-American community in New Orleans East. 

A third team of five continued AAP support of the Ithaca-based Love Knows No Bound/Temple Tikkun V'Or project to rehabilitate the flood damaged home of Pastor Jerry Darby and his wife Norma in the St. Anthony neighborhood. The team put a new roof on the Darby home. Their work followed-up on the work of a CRP student team that in January finished demolition and clean up of debris at the home and completed foundation improvements. 

In addition to their work the students attended briefing sessions to discuss the issues and challenges faced by the city’s residents in the wake of the Katrina disaster with Wade Radke and Beth Butler of ACORN; Michelle Thompson and Tina Marquardt of the Beacon of Hope staff; and Mary Tran, executive director of MQVN CDC. 

They also toured reconstruction projects in New Orleans such as the Habitat for Humanity Musicians Village, the Desire HOPE VI public housing site, and the Brad Pitt/Make it Right and ACORN Housing, Inc. redevelopment sites in the Lower 9th Ward. 

Although the focus of the trip was New Orleans, the students also toured heavily damaged areas of the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, with stops in Pearlington, Waveland, Bay St. Louis, and Biloxi, Mississippi. In Waveland and Bay St. Louis where the downtown business districts were heavily damaged, students spoke with business owners about the challenges they face in the wake of the storm. 

The AAP team was led by George Frantz, visiting scholar in the Department of City and Regional Planning, and was comprised of: Maya Barrera (M.P.S./Real Estate ’09), Tim Becker (U.R.S. ’12), Juan Castellanos (U.R.S. ’12), Germain Chan (B.F.A. ’12), Haley Cohen (B.Arch. ’10), Giselle Denbow (B.F.A. ’10), Erica Gutierrrez (M.R.P. ’10), Sebastian Hernandez (B.Arch. ’11), Amanda Huang (B.Arch. ’10), Joe Matthews (M.P.S./Real Estate ’09), Mia Ovcina (B.Arch. ’10), Robyn Stokes (M.P.S./Real Estate, M.B.A. ’10), Doug Swarts (M.R.P. ’09), Julianna Velez (B.Arch. ’12).

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