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After city announced a $2 million site reassessment, Gordon Plaza want immediate relocation

Some residents spent decades on the city hall steps and have gone through five city administrations demanding a fully funded relocation from Gordon Plaza.

NEW ORLEANS — After an announcement by the Cantrell administration that the city is working with the E-P-A on alternative uses for the toxic landfill that holds Gordon Plaza, residents say it's not a step in the direction they'd hoped for. They believe there is more of an emphasis on land use and not on resident relocation, leaving some to wonder how much longer they will have to wait.  

During a speech after an election night victor, Mayor Latoya Cantrell emphasized she heard the Gordon Plaza’s residents’ pleas to be relocated off the toxic site. While Gordon Plaza residents are pleased to be acknowledged, they say they’ve only heard promising words, but have yet to see promising action 

“Now we're hearing we see you, we hear you but nothing is being put on dotted line,” says Janice Stemley, a 40-year resident of Gordon Plaza. 

Some Gordon Plaza residents spent decades on the city hall steps and have gone through five city administrations demanding a fully funded relocation from the Gordon Plaza subdivision. The subdivision was built on top of what was once the Agriculture Street Landfill.

Residents say they've suffered a variety of health issues due to waste at the former dump rising to the surface

It's a decades-long fight for Clarence Gaynor, a 30-year resident of Gordon Plaza who thought he'd finally achieved the American dream of owning a home.

“I always wanted to own something of my own so when I had an opportunity to get this chance to buy something, I was tickled pink,” says Gaynor. “I said I got my house, I got a house, I got a house.”

But Gaynor, like so many other Gordon Plaza residents, saw that dream turn into a nightmare and soon decades of misery.

Sitting inside the city council meeting as the council took up the 2022 Budget, residents who demand to see a line item in the city budget addressing Gordon Plaza relocation often shouted out as CAO Gilbert Montano and CAO of Infrastructure Ramsey Green discussed the $2 million-dollar commitment to begin a site assessment at the Agriculture Street Landfill.  

"We want to live, how many more of us have to die on that toxic site."

The money is from the newly initiated capital bond program. It will be used for a site assessment and to hire a law firm to explore land acquisition.  

Not welcome news to those who've demanded relocation for the last three decades. Learning they may have to wait even longer.

District B council member Jay Banks asked Montano if there was a timeline as to when residents could be moved. "Are we looking at six weeks, six months, six years?” says Banks. “They have been languishing over that toxic waste site for a long time.”

Jared Brossett, who introduced an ordinance to create the Gordon Plaza Relocation Fund, echoed that sentiment. “There are properties that New Orleans Redevelopment Authority owns that these families could be relocated to.”

While there's now a push to get residents off the toxic site, thanks to a visit by EPA Administrator Michael Regan who toured the community, CAO of Infrastructure Ramsey Green says it's a process that takes multiple steps.
“It's a lot of different properties with many different owners, so I want to have on hand a professional who can sort through how to go through this process,” said Green.  

That’s not enough for residents who have spent decades on the dump site.

“Two million to let a company tell us when to move and when not to move, it's not fair,” says Stemley.

“Sign the check, sign it! Let us go, ain't no reason to hold us there. We suffered, we done suffered enough.”  

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