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City officials score $52 million for repairs to flood-damaged side streets

15th December 2011   ·   0 Comments

By Ariella Cohen
thelensnola.org

Good news for your undercarriage – Mayor Mitch Landrieu has secured more FEMA money for street repairs in Broadmoor, the Lakeview area and St. Claude. The combined total of $52 million divided between the neighborhoods came as a result of Landrieu-initiated damage assessments done on neighborhood streets.

The cash infusion brings the total of new FEMA dollars secured for neighborhood street repairs since Landrieu took office to $97 million. In August, FEMA awarded $45 million for repairs in the Lower 9th Ward. As The Lens first reported in August, Landrieu hopes to eventually reassess all flood-damaged neighborhoods, and net FEMA dollars for repairs citywide.

The money is coming down now rather than three years ago because the administration has aggressively pursued these federal resources in a way its predecessor didn’t, Deputy Mayor Cedric Grant said in August.

“We have teams of people canvassing neighborhoods and (drafting) a neighborhood streets program, and that wasn’t done before,” Grant said., “This is kind of ‘Let’s go back to the drawing board. Let’s rethink.’ ”

The St. Claude area will get the largest chunk of road repair money – $21.8 million. Another $16.7 million will go to Lakeview, $7.5 million will go to Lakeshore/Lake Vista, $4.8 million to Broadmoor and $1.3 million for the Milneberg neighborhood. The city has not yet released a map of specific streets that will be repaired.

The mayor’s sister, U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu, D-La., also took credit for the FEMA money because of her position as chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security.

“Because of this funding, these neighborhoods can make much needed improvements to their infrastructure and continue moving forward to complete recovery,” she said in a release.

Since taking office, Mitch Landrieu has made it his business to improve the city’s scarred relationship with FEMA. This has meant more efficient negotiations, said Eddie Williams, supervisor of the federal agency’s New Orleans Public Assistance Division.

“The previous administration had this hodge-podge approach,” Williams explained in an August interview. “It was ‘Pick a project today that is the issue and let’s get FEMA to do it.’ It’s different now. More focused. I don’t want to say it was adversarial before, but we were all working in silos. There is more joint collaboration now.”

So far, that collaboration has netted the city more than $125 million shared between street, infrastructure and building projects, FEMA documents from August show.

The negotiations mean that a bank account that had $605.3 million when Landrieu took office, now has more than $800 million, according to officials from FEMA and the city.

This article originally published in the December 12, 2011 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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