Constant funerals for relatives and neighbors. Fears of developing cancer. Breathing trouble and brain fog. Inability to afford relocating. Waiting on the City of New Orleans to deliver on a pledge.
This is how people describe living in Gordon Plaza, a Desire subdivision built atop a former landfill decades ago. They spent Monday inside city council chambers, hoping to hear that city administrators were finally ready to fund the mass relocation of residents, as promised.
But city leaders said they're not there yet. Chief administrative officer Gilbert Montano told a New Orleans City Council panel that his office must still hire a legal team to send appraisers to the Gordon Plaza properties.
Montano's timeline left council members accusing administrators of delay tactics -- at homeowners' expense.
"I think bringing in this third party is you're just looking for somebody to blame when you're not really giving the people of Gordon Plaza," Council President Helena Moreno said.
"Having a lawyer sub to an appraisal and then give a lowest offer is just going to drag this process out even more," Councilman J.P. Morrell said.
Montano maintained he is open to faster alternatives but thought outsourcing the appraisal work would expedite the process.
"We're not using this as a delay or stall tactic or a screw-anyone-over tactic," he said. "If there's a better way or vehicle the city can utilize that the residents can come up with that we can collectively decide, there's not going to by any resistance in that regard."
"Our mission has not wavered," Montano added.
Gordon Plaza urged administrators to consider faster methods, including straight payouts.
"I'm tired, and I just hope and pray that God places his hand on your heart to just help us. Just help us, that's all I'm begging," one longtime resident said.
"Everybody on this board should be aggressively trying to relocate people without question," resident Aretha Lewis said. "Otherwise you are consenting to their deaths."
City administrators have formed a working group dedicated to the Gordon Plaza relocation funding effort. The group will hold its next meeting July 13, though council members and residents hope it will be rescheduled for an earlier date.