New Orleans, La. – Mayor Landrieu says the city stopped using FEMA money two years ago as it struggled to clear houses destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
"When I came in I said "Can you guys please go look at that?' They came back and they said, Actually, there are a couple of deadlines that passed that the city didn't meet so the program shut down.' I said Can we restart it?' And FEMA actually went back. Did a lot of hard work, said that we could restart the program, that there were some properties that were eligible. And of course, as I can attest to you now, it's inured to the benefit of the city to the tune of $23 million dollars and taken care of over 919 properties."
FEMA's Louisiana Recovery Office Acting Executive Director Joseph Threat says that at the time, officials were struggling to clear blight while making sure homeowners were properly notified.
"Homeowners had evacuated. We didn't know, the city didn't know where they were. So they posted legal announcements. I know that it was some stipulations within the law, because they didn't have any address to mail those announcements to, or didn't know if the residents were notified. And I think that was one of the key indicators that kind of slowed the demolitions."
The two-story home in the St. Anthony neighborhood of Gentilly still had not been gutted. Pigeons flew under the roof as crews hosed down the structure that is now the 10th to be knocked down with renewed FEMA assistance. The mayor says the city is on track to clear 10,000 blighted properties by 2014.
For WWNO, I'm Eileen Fleming.