Thanh Truong / Eyewitness News
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A new program in New Orleans is offering options for empty lots that have sat vacant since Hurricane Katrina. On Friday, the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority unveiled its so called 'green initiative.' The goal is to turn the lots into green space or community gardens.

'The empty lots are really a drain on city resources because we have to maintain the property and cut the grass,' said Jeff Hebert, executive director of the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority.

Hebert detailed the initiate at a 6,000 square foot community garden in the Lower Ninth Ward on St. Claude Court. It was developed by Sankofa CDC and is the first of its kind under the new program. Inside the fenced garden there were raised beds of Swiss chard, eggplant, lemongrass and other vegetables. The area outside of the fence was considered a public 'picking' area, where people can pluck their produce. Rashida Ferdinand said it took several months to get the garden up and running. She emphasized that creating and maintaining a community garden requires a good amount of work and commitment, but it can dramatically improve a neighborhood especially one that's been struggling with empty property.

'It brings people together. It gives people a sense of ownership and it also just makes it look pretty,' said Ferdinand.

There's certainly no shortage of empty overgrown lots in the city. The redevelopment authority controls 2,500 empty lots. Hebert said many of those lots are now eligible for the green initiative. People interested in developing city owned empty lots into green space or gardens must apply through NORA and pay an annual lease of $250.

'When you activate a lot people look at it. They think something is going on in the neighborhood and it actually increases investment potential in the neighborhood,' said Hebert.

Development and maintenance of any green space or garden would be the responsibility of community members. It's been almost a decade since there have been signs of life at many empty lots. This program hopes to plant the seed for a second chance.

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