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Neighbors who live on former N.O. dump site want help with relocating

'We built homes back here to live the American dream. However, we've been attacked by respiratory diseases, cancer, rashes, abdominal discomforts,' one neighbor says

Shannon Rainey remembers the day she moved into Gordon Plaza like it was yesterday. She was a first-time home buyer and excited, but now, more than 30 years later, she’s calling on the city to move her and her neighbors out.

“This land that our houses are built on is a toxic landfill, and it is time for us to be relocated,” said Rainey who has lived in the Desire-area neighborhood since the mid 1980s.

Before Gordon Plaza had houses on it, it was a landfill up until the late 1950s. It was also used as place to throw out waste after Hurricane Betsy in the mid 1960s. Then in the late 1970s, the subdivision was approved using federal money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

During a rally Saturday more than a dozen jars filled with soil from the neighborhood were displayed symbolizing the 15 Gordon Plaza residents who have died of cancer since Hurricane Katrina, said Rainey. Neighbors said it isn’t just the toxic soil that is causing health problems; it’s also the buildings left abandoned since Katrina that carry vermin and spread toxic mold and mildew.

“We built homes back here to live the American dream. However, we’ve been attacked by respiratory diseases, cancer, rashes, abdominal discomforts,” said Lydwina Hurst another Gordon Plaza resident.

Rainey and Hurst, along with dozens of others, have been organizing and fighting for change for years but with each mayor they say they message has fallen on deaf ears.

“As of today, we have not gotten an appointment with her (LaToya Cantrell) and we have sent numerous letters,” said Rainey.

Neighbors said they have been involved in multiple lawsuits over the years but nothing included relocation paid for by the city.

“Due to pending litigation, the mayor’s office is unable to make specific comment at this time,” said City Hall spokesman Beau Tidwell. “Mayor Cantrell has heard from the residents, and will fully explore the possibilities in working toward a positive resolution.”

Meanwhile, neighbors such as Rainey feel like they are running out of options.

“I had my house appraised,” said Rainey. “The value on my house is $79,000. I can’t even sell and go somewhere else.”

Paul Dudley can be reached at pdudley@wwltv.com.

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