After tornado, senator agrees blight problem needs work

After tornado, senator agrees blight problem needs work

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Seventh Ward and Treme residents were cleaning up and assessing the damage after Thursday's surprise tornado.

While no one was hurt, the city is assessing what more - if anything - could have been done to shore up vacant, dilapidated homes that tumbled down.

When you live in a house that's well over 150 years old, it doesn't take much.

"You can see on the side of the house, the windows broke in," said Thomas McQuaid, who  lives in the 1700 block of Marais where the tornado did thousands of dollars in damage to his roof, windows and floor. "At the time, I was running around trying to figure out what all this was."

McQuaid is lucky. His house stands, but two houses on N. Claiborne Avenue and one in the 1300 block of Kerlerec Street sit in a pile in which Termite damage is evident. And though two people were injured, no one was killed.

"I think it's great, don't you?" said Pastor Bill Terry with St Anna's Church, which sustained roof and glass damage. "It's all leaded stain glass, and that will cost money.".

The church sits next to the Kerlerec property that crumbled. Neighbors complain that it sat neglected for years.

"These properties were all in the process of getting renovation or demolition through HDLC," said Chad Dyer with New Orleans code enforcement.

The damage points out a big problem in the city.

"I want there to be a vibrant neighborhood here. I would rather there have been a million dollars worth of damage that would have shown the degree this neighborhood had recovered," said Republican Senator Bill Cassidy.

The city says several of the blighted properties had been fined, but the work was slow. And despite the fact that at least one of them jeopardized the homes next door, there were no demolition orders.

Cassidy joins those who marvel that no one was seriously hurt by a tornado in the heart of the city.

"Incredibly fortunate. We're sorry they were vacant, and this area is not fully vibrant," said Cassidy.

Cassidy said he will fight for more urban renewal block grant money, as long as it's used wisely.

Residents in some of the neighborhoods say they have complained about the blighted properties for years. The city says it had fined several property owners $500, but all of the owners were in the process of making their properties compliant.

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