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Bill Capo / Eyewitness News
Email: bcapo@wwltv.com | Twitter: @billcapo

There were fresh vegetables and fruit for sale, and a festival atmosphere as Burnell Cotlon opened Galvez Goodies, the snow-ball stand where he also hopes to sell cooked meals soon.

'This was a 3 1/2 year fight to get this up and running,' Cotlon told those gathered. 'We made all the sacrifices ourselves, it was pretty hard.'

Using his own hands to restore a badly damaged building, Cotlon opened a hair salon last year, and the opening of Galvez Goodies was greeted with applause, smiles, and hand shakes.

'I'm happy about this,' said City Councilman James Gray. 'The government needs to do more for this area of town, but the important thing is we have a lot of strong, resourceful people down here.'

But Cotlon is seeking help to turn the rest of the building into a grocery store within a year.

'We need the shelves, we need refrigerators, we need the doors, I need everything for the grocery store,' he said.

'I am ecstatic,' said Lower 9th Ward Resident Valeria Schexnayder. 'I've been here since '05, and waiting for a grocery store to open up here in this Lower 9th Ward.'

'This, sir, is my entire life savings, and to answer your first question, I haven't slept in 3 1/2 years,' said Cotlon.

Here's why he isn't sleeping. His businesses are surrounded by empty, overgrown lots, and blight, too few residents, very few businesses. Nearly nine years after Hurricane Katrina, so much recovery work still needs to be done in the Lower 9.

'It still seems like a third world country,' said Schexnayder. 'It's too slow.'

'We're almost nine years after Katrina,' added Councilman Gray. 'We haven't made much progress, but we're going to try to make some progress now.'

There's agreement that for the Lower 9th Ward to truly recover, it is going to take committment from a number of groups, the City administration, the residents who lifve here, and developers willing to build houses, and bring in successful businessses.

'I'm going to call some people today about whether or not they closed on some property yesterday that will bring something down here,' said Gray. 'The people are trying, and we're going to start moving now, watch us.'

Councilman Gray says development is happening, though slowly, pointing to the new Stallings Center as an example.

'Unless some developers come through here, and start rebuilding, and they stop giving people a rough time in the city with permits to do things,' stated Schexnayder.

'I'm hoping and praying that all my life savings don't go to waste,' said a worried Cotlon.

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