Professor compares redevelopment after Katrina, 9/11

June 20, 2014 11:00 AM

Barri Bronston

From a disaster standpoint, they don’t get much bigger than Hurricane Katrina and 9/11. But do the two tragedies have more in common than just their magnitude?

Sociologist Kevin Fox Gotham

Kevin Fox Gotham says redevelopment of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and New York after 9/11 was largely at the expense of the people who needed help the most. (Photo by Paula Burch-Celentano)

In their new book, Crisis Cities: Disaster and Redevelopment in New York and New Orleans, Kevin Fox Gotham, a sociology professor at Tulane University, and Miriam Greenberg, an associate professor of sociology at the University of California–Santa Cruz, contend that in both cases the redevelopment of the two cities was largely at the expense of the people who needed help the most.

The two authors point to the negative consequences of the privatization of disaster aid, such as the contracting out of community development block grants to large corporations and the use of lucrative tax incentives to benefit energy corporations, hotels, real estate developers, financial companies and other powerful private interests.

“Much of the post-Katrina rebuilding process was modeled on and used policies developed in response to the 9/11 disaster despite major differences in disaster triggers (terrorist strike and hurricane) and scale of destruction,” according to Gotham. “The Louisiana Recovery Authority (LRA) was modeled on the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC). In addition, the Gulf Opportunity (GO) Zone was modeled on the Liberty Zone.”  

Gotham and Greenberg got the idea for their book in 2006 while serving on a panel at the American Sociological Association Conference.

“We were kind of struck by the similarities of the recoveries in the two cities,” Gotham said. “We were particularly attuned to the rapid embrace of ‘the tourism solution,’ which appeared to take precedence over rebuilding the homes, businesses and neighborhoods of dislocated populations.”  

With every city in the country vulnerable to some type of disaster, Gotham hopes that city and state leaders will look at Crisis Cities as a valuable tool in the post-disaster redevelopment process.

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Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000