Blighted, overgrown lots continue to haunt Lower 9 residents, city officials

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wwltv.com

Posted on November 7, 2013 at 11:16 PM

Updated Thursday, Nov 7 at 11:20 PM

Tania Dall / Eyewitness News
Email: tdall@wwltv.com | Twitter: @taniadall

NEW ORLEANS -- Nearly a decade after Katrina, blighted and overgrown lots continue to haunt the Lower 9th Ward. As Eyewitness News reported in early October, one neighborhood continues to be a haven for criminal activity including the dumping of bodies.

Eyewitness News took a closer look at how the city is tackling some of the problematic empty lots.

"That was somebody's child, you know a sister, or niece, and it just happened right here on my block. I live one block over," said Kimberly Roberts. The Lower 9th Ward resident and her neighbors are fed up by all of this blight nearly a decade after the Lower 9th Ward was forever changed by Katrina.

Three weeks ago, the NOPD was called out to Choctaw Street and Florida Avenue where a woman's body was discovered.

"I'm traveling here to my mother's house, all day, in the morning, late at night when they get sick. Coming through here by myself," said Dorothy Cook, who has elderly parents living on Chocktaw Street.

She and a nurse make regular visits, but getting to and from the Lower 9th Ward house is tricky. Cook says she has filed many complaints with the city about the overgrown lots and unpaved street, but very little is ever done.

"It's been an ongoing problem, and I don't know where else to go," said Cook.

Eyewitness News reached out to the city to figure out what the city is doing about six blighted lots surrounding Cook's parent's house.

According to the Orleans Parish Assessor's website, 5429 Law Street is owned by Bernice Payton. The city says code enforcement has received complaints and an inspection is pending on the property.

The Assessor's website says Anthony Tasker owns 5433 Law Street. The city says last year the owner complied with complaints about tall grass before a hearing. Since then, code enforcement has received more complaints, and it has another inspection planned.

The Assessor's website says Ula Leggett owns 5439 Law Street. The city says there is a 2012 judgment on the property for tall grass and a $15,655 lien against the property because of daily fines.The city says in March 2013 the property was added to a grass cutting rotation program. The grass cutting fees are billed to the property owner.

The Assessor's website says the fourth property at 2624 Choctaw Street is owned by the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA). The city says code enforcement received a complaint about the lot and it was inspected in late October. The city says the property is in "research" now.

The Assessor's website says Jacqueline Geystan owns two lots at 2614 and 2616 Choctaw Street. The city says judgment was received on both properties in late October, and the owner now has 30 days to comply before code enforcement can move forward with abatement.

However, residents like Cook say the current system isn't solving visible problems.

"When they get ready to collect taxes, they know where to go. I think its really, really sad. Everyone refers me to everybody," said Cook.

As the city grapples to crackdown on abandoned blighted lots in the Lower 9th Ward, neighbors say the city owes this community that has gone through so much -- a whole lot more.

"The lots are one thing, but the streets are a whole other issue. It's worse than an obstacle course to get back here. This is not acceptable," said Ward "Mac" McClendon with the Lower 9th Ward Village.

As for the 2600 block of Chocktaw Street, the city says temporary road work to make the road passable is underway.

According to the City, the section of roadway is also slated to be part of the Lower 9th Recovery Roads Program beginning in the fall of 2015.

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