Gordon Plaza residents start receiving offer letters for tainted properties at City Hall

Published: Apr. 11, 2023 at 10:50 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - After years of fighting with City Hall, some residents of Gordon Plaza finally received long-awaited offer letters for their contaminated properties on Tuesday (April 11), while others were left waiting through another night.

Gordon Plaza was declared a superfund site by the EPA after soil and air testing determined there was a toxic amount of hazardous chemicals on the site, which was built on top of a former landfill.

Dozens of homes, townhouses and even a school were built on top of the old Agriculture Street Landfill, which quit taking debris in 1966. It operated for nearly 60 years before it was shut down, covered with sand, and developed into the Gordon Plaza and Press Park neighborhoods.

Residents have fought the city for decades, attempting to recoup money as they’ve consistently reported elevated rates of sickness and cancer.

In 2022, an Orleans Parish judge approved a $75 million settlement for the mostly low-income residents of Gordon Plaza. The New Orleans City Council also approved a $35 million settlement in payouts to property owners who have waited decades.

“Even after we get these offer letters, they are just that -- they are offer letters,” one resident said Tuesday. “We will be back, because this process is not yet over for us.”

The residents were told Monday that offer letters would be prepared and ready for them by 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, and they filed down to City Hall to collect them.

“I’m ready. I’m hoping there’s enough in here so I can start all over again, because the area is not what we thought it was going to be, or what it’s continued to be,” said another resident. “People have gotten sick. People are sick now with cancer back there.”

But there was a hiccup: The paperwork wasn’t completed for all residents, and around eight or nine homeowners still were waiting at City Hall for their offer letters by 7 p.m.

“I came up here to make sure everything was going to go smoothly. The residents were all here on time, unfortunately all the paperwork is not here on time,” said Councilwoman Helena Moreno. “We have come a long way. This has been, what, a two-year battle now? So, two years, and getting very, very close.”

“These things aren’t as simple as you’d like them to be. Sometimes we feel the brunt of that,” said New Orleans Chief Administrative Officer Gilbert Montaño. “That doesn’t mean we’re giving up, and I know the residents have been extremely patient through this process. I understand and hear the frustration.”

Unexpectedly, the few remaining employees inside City Hall were evacuated because of a suspicious briefcase left unattended near the front doors around 7 p.m. that was brought into the lobby by security guards. The NOPD’s bomb squad was summoned and determined the briefcase did not hold an explosive device, but the area was not cleared until about 9 p.m.

The residents said they will return to City Hall on Wednesday at 10 a.m. to demand the remainder of the offer letters.

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