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I worked with the 50-plus members of the Urban Land Institute, who provided a rebuilding framework to the Bring New Orleans Back Commission in November 2005. Michael Sorkin wrote in his February Critique ["Will new plans for the Gulf drown it again, this time in nostalgia?," page 47] that the ULI recommended "abandoning" some parts of the city as too expensive to save and that its recommendations were predicated on a bottom-line mentality. He also implied that there was an implicit motivation to negatively affect the low-income African-American population of New Orleans. I'd like to set the record straight.
ULI's strategy for rebuilding New Orleans was premised on our firm belief that every citizen has the right to return to neighborhoods that are safe and sustainable. We recommended that the city supplement engineered flood control with natural barriers. This will entail reinforcing the levees, drainage canals, and pumping stations by restoring more natural areas to protect the city's residents, and rebuilding in a way that better respects the topography of the city.
In addition, many of the severely flooded areas will require environmental and engineering evaluation before rebuilding can begin. We recommended that these evaluations begin immediately so that neighborhood rebuilding can start. It is unfortunate that the historical growth patterns led much of the African-American population into low-lying areas of the city. But, safety, not race, was the key to the
What we recommended for those who cannot rebuild in place is fair-market compensation—at pre-Katrina value—for their homes and businesses, to enable them to relocate and rebuild in a safer part of their community. ULI never suggested or implied that entire neighborhoods be abandoned. There are substantial portions of each neighborhood that can be rebuilt in a way that adds to the entire city's revival. —Rachelle Levitt Executive Vice President Urban Land Institute Washington, D.C.
Michael Sorkin's February Critique on the Congress for the New Urbanism's [CNU] recommendations for the reconstruction of the Gulf coast came at a great time, for me at least, in that I read it on vacation, shortly after my first visits to the "New Urbanist" Florida communities of WaterColor and its older, more famous neighbor, Seaside. While I haven't read the CNU report, I did understand Mr. Sorkin's criticisms of its overemphasis on architectural formulas aimed at strengthening a more homogeneous and identifiably "regionalist" look in the new construction.
The buildings in WaterColor all seemed to me to be beautiful distillations of how I had envisioned coastal-region architecture. They were consistently well designed, clean, full of wonderful details and color, and set into a path-intensive, varied landscape. The houses were generally modest in scale and de-
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