Do you know your neighbor, and your neighbor’s neighbor? And who owns that vacant lot down the street? Post Katrina, gathering data about properties in the neighborhood has become crucial to many efforts: helping residents return, community development projects, community gardening, blight reduction and more. Many city agencies had pieces of the data, but no entity had all of the data, and in particular, no Lower 9th Ward agency owned it.
Lower 9 resident Kevin Mercadel is working for CSED, in partnership with Beacon of Hope, to gather all of this data: ownership status, recovery status, building condition, vacant or occupied and more. Answering these questions will help us to finally have a clearer picture of how far we have come and how far we still have to go in creating a sustainable community.
CSED’s Community Mapping project aims to map the neighborhood digitally using an iPhone application (which has never been attempted before in New Orleans) and then to create multiple data sets that will help us answer a number of property ownership problems. Information gathered will help us to identify homeowners that are facing barriers to returning and identify those people who don’t plan on returning. As a result, the neighborhood can take the lead in dealing with blight instead of having to wait for the city to get lots back in to commerce.
Knowledge is an important piece of having power, and with all of this data in hand the Lower 9th Ward will be better positioned to advocate for itself and for its needs, without having to rely on entities outside of the community to serve as gatekeepers to these crucial pieces of information.