Your e-mails: Reinvent New Orleans?
CNN.com readers on how to build a better city
(CNN) -- Hurricane Katrina and the flooding that followed devastated many homes, buildings and, in some cases, entire neighborhoods, leaving residents and government officials to decide whether -- and how -- to rebuild.
CNN.com asked readers for their suggestions on how the city should rebuild and how it could take advantage of reconstruction to improve. Here is a sampling of those responses, some of which have been edited:
Use the area as a landfill until it is above sea level. Then rebuild. It may take a few years, but if you truck in trash from all over it could take less time than you think. Just wait for the ground to settle and be stable for foundations.
If it is to be re-built, we need to make sure that the houses in the floodplain are essentially "houseboats" (economical housing for those that need it?), and can freely float (tethered to the lot) if the land is flooded. Utilities would be provided by an extendible, waterproof "umbilical cord," so that people could actually remain in the houses, provided the water is safe to drink. Every house would have a lifeboat of some sort as standard equipment in case evacuation was necessary after a flood. The land is going to continue to sink, and if rebuilding is the course of action to be undertaken, then we definitely need to re-build smarter, instead of creating another catastrophe.
As a New Orleans native, I am deeply concerned regarding the rebuilding effort. Besides honoring our architectural legacy, an effort should be made to create parks, gardens, state-of-the-art schools, libraries and community and cultural centers that focus on food, music, art and history. We have a wonderful city that has been hijacked by corrupt politicians. I don't want New Orleans to turn into Las Vegas, Biloxi, Houston, Atlanta or Disneyland.
Yes, rebuild, but do it wisely. Ask the Dutch government for help in building in a flood zone. The Dutch build houses that rise with water levels. Also, plant trees and reestablish the natural barriers that would help minimize hurricane damage in the future.
Why not make some of the lower level districts into parks that would serve as flood basins if necessary? The San Fernando Valley in Southern California has (or had) just such a park/flood basin. Also, this would be a great time [to]plan a rail transit system to bring workers in from suburbs located on higher ground.
Flatten the slums, build staff quarters, give the French Quarter and the surrounding areas to Disney or Harrah's and turn it into a play park for grownups.
Good healthy communities have "mixed" housing, with single family middle income housing alongside lower income housing. Avoid ghettos. Create retail space in each neighborhood to attract the national chains. Create a city-wide public transit system that enables low income workers to travel for better employment or education. Mandate two years of public service work for every Louisiana 18-year-old. This teaches responsibility, access to learning job skills and opportunities for mentored relationships, a good way to help prevent the next generation falling into the poverty trap. Could also help melt the lines that reinforce racial segregation.
The states affected by hurricanes should adopt Dade County, Florida, building standards. You see pictures of the wood frame houses that fly away with high winds. Expensive? No way if you factor in the reduced insurance cost. You simply won't find a wood frame house in the hurricane-affected areas anywhere except the United States! Maybe we need to visit Cuba and the Dominican Republic to see how well built, hurricane resistant and inexpensive housing can be made.
New Orleans should be built up to new levee standards, to withstand a Category 5 hurricane. Turn [the city] into a giant amusement park, and ... in case the levee still doesn't hold, roller coaster everyone out of town!
In any area that is six feet or more below sea level, change all streets into waterways. In other areas, use silt from the river to raise land above sea level.
New Orleans [should] be built in another location away from the sea level vicinity. I hope that the planning people use wisdom this time and rebuild in another section of Louisiana.
The U.S. government should not only repair the damaged levee system, but should instead design and construct a monumental wall with a concrete base and arched steel girders along the top that would flank a lighted walkway that will be known as "The Promenade of New Orleans." This creation of public space of unprecedented proportions would function not only as a hurricane protective seawall, but enable city residents and tourists to stroll down or bicycle around this unique city and can be accessed by numerous entry/exit ramps available along the city side of the promenade. This promenade would connect the various neighborhoods of New Orleans and undoubtedly will become a major tourist attraction offering remarkable views of this historic American city. Monumental plaques along the main entrances of the promenade (and the entry/exit ways) should be dedicated to the victims of Hurricane Katrina and pay homage to the people of the state of Louisiana and the city of New Orleans.
Implement a work program. Bring back the impoverished evacuees, hire them to do the cleanup and construct housing, schools and parks. Extend a housing opportunity to the workers who rebuild the city, either a rent reduction or tax break. This type of activity creates a sense of ownership and pride that the previous welfare recipients have never experienced before, hopefully reducing crime and poverty. People protect what they have worked hard to build. Pay them wages not food stamps.
New building codes should require all new single family homes be elevated like many coastal homes are built to minimize flooding hazards. All new homes especially ones built for the poor should have the latest in solar water heaters and energy efficient construction. Architectural design should consider solar orientation wind resistance.
It is true that any rebuilding should follow strict storm-resistant guidelines. But in order to help rebuild New Orleans's economy along with its buildings, those guidelines should also require that the rebuilding be done to the extent possible by local contractors and craftsmen who would be given preference and encouragement to return, and with local labor.
New Orleans has always had an European feel to it. Why not enhance this by making it like Venice, Italy? Leave the areas that didn't flood as they are and make the rest like Venice with canals for roads and the houses and properties on concrete "islands".
Why not build a deep water sea port next to New Orleans and use the dredged material from the new sea port to build up the low areas of the city? A deep water sea port would mean a bright economic future for a depressed area.
Improve roads by raising and widening for evacuation, turn Ninth Ward into retaining "pond" or parks that would be OK if it flooded. Prevent rebuilds in lowest areas. Use refuse to raise areas before rebuilding, or reinforce levees with rock, block, brick. Return to the "crescent" shaped city. Leave the swamps to the animals.
Buildings being rebuilt would need to be erected in such a way that the corners would be facing the predominant winds from the Gulf, thus slicing into the wind, as would the bow of a ship slice into the water. Taking this one step further, buildings would be best built in an aerodynamic form much like the upper portion of a plane or automobile. In this way the high winds would have the least amount of impact.
Flooded neighborhoods should be bulldozed and new construction should be high-rise residential with multi-level parking garages below. Each building should be supplied with generators on upper levels. With this type of residential construction, future levee breaks could be withstood, as it is too costly to rebuild levees for Cat[egory] 4 or 5 storms.
Change the building codes to require all hospitals to have a self-contained power supply such as, fuel cells, solar power or even wind generators on the roof. The power supply should be required to supply at least 25 percent of regular usage to all levels. All levels below sea level should be reinforced and allow easy access to above sea level floors. Large commercial buildings such as the Superdome should have a self-generating power supply [and]also, a fresh water tower to supply the Dome for at least one week for maximum capacity. Homeland Security should look into requiring all major shelters to have a regenerating power supply and fresh water for future use. Water may be recycled instead of stored in a large container also.
I would suggest that each parish use the highest point available and build a new parish building that has a very deep poured concrete foundation that rises to the maximum flood water height. The perimeter would be ramped to create a virtual island in the midst of the flood. The basement would be waterproofed to resist encroachment of flood waters and would have a central core of a size large enough to house residents of the parish who were infirm or had no means of travel. The upper levels would be constructed to resist a Category 5 disaster and would house the offices of the council, mayor, police, fire and other important disaster centers. Emergency food and water would be stored similar to the bomb shelters many of us built during the Cold War.
Let the "bowl" fill in naturally with water and build homes around this new lake. Name the lake appropriately and remake New Orleans from the bottom up.
Create "cells" -- interior levees that isolate potential areas of flooding so that the flooding could be contained within each cell (like on a battleship). Connect the cell walls forming a network of parks, bicycle paths and streetcar lines throughout the city.
Renewable energy resources such as solar energy should be used for distributed power supply systems so that even if the transmission lines get knocked off the city is not starved of power. Use of small high-speed gas turbines which can work from the gas mains can be thought of for electricity supply. The location of the distribution boards for electric supply has to be done at a higher elevation than in the normal ground level mode to avoid failure during floods.
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