NEW ORLEANS - When a city goes from the most blighted city in America to third most blighted city in America, it can be considered progress.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu and his chief administrative officer Andy Kopplin, who has been the point person in the "fight against blight", now have an independent study to point to which reflects the reduction in blight they have touted.
When the mayor took office he set what some considered an ambitious goal of reducing the number of blighted properties by 10,000. "Our data do seem to suggest the three ways we've analyzed it all show a blight reduction of 10,000 or more properties during the Mayoral term so far," said Peter Yaukey, a geography professor at the University of New Orleans.
Professor Yaukey has been chronicling blight in New Orleans since 2006. On Thursday, he presented his findings at the city's monthly "BlightSTAT" meeting. The study focused on the progress of blight reduction during Landrieu’s first term. Yaukey says the strides made in blight reduction are considerable.
"I think it's made a significant change in the appearance of the city. As we all know there are still blighted properties out there. It's still easy to find them," said Professor Yaukey.
"We hit the goal of that was set for us, which I'm very happy about, but we have a lot more to do," said Mayor Landrieu.
The study only pertains to residential addresses. There are still an estimated 30,000 residential properties in New Orleans that are considered blighted.
Commercial properties and other structures are another matter. Lauren Swinney lives across the street from the former Naval Support Activity building on Poland Avenue. She says for too long, what was once the largest military installation in Greater New Orleans has been decaying. "It is deteriorating, and that's very painful to see something that should be maintained in some fashion. This was one of the finest naval facilities imaginable and I had such happy memories of the bands marching out and the speakers speaking there," said Swinney.
The city assumed control of the property from the Federal government this past October. While specifics on the timing are elusive, the mayor claims the building will be part of a future project.
"A group of people won the bid and they're in the process of getting their finances together to build a comprehensive retail commercial space there," said Mayor Landrieu.
Professor Yaukey says reducing blight not only changes the physical landscape of New Orleans but it can also influence investment here. For a city that's long struggled to literally clean up its act, properties that are maintained, lawns that are cut and structures that are sound; they're all certainly welcomed.