• Ben Shenk

Sustainable + Attainable: Equipping Residents to Tackle Neighborhood Flooding

Life at the Bottom of the Bowl

Most of New Orleans deals with regular flooding. With almost every rain, we see runoff pooling alongside the road, pouring into parking lots, and welling up in yards. But when it comes to the effects of run off and flooding, not all neighborhoods are made equal.

The Hoffman Triangle Neighborhood pictured on LSU's Flood map of New Orleans

Examine New Orleans’ elevation and you’ll find that the city is shaped like a bowl. In any bowl, water flows and rests in the lowest part. So just like the potholes and puddles we see on the roads that hold runoff, certain neighborhoods across New Orleans end up with worse and more frequent flooding than others. For the communities located at the lowest elevations in the city, experiencing flooded yards, warped streets, and crumbling foundations has become “the norm”.

Feeling Stuck

In New Orleans, the neighborhoods located at the lowest elevations also tend to be made up largely of renters and residents with less disposable income than those who live in communities at higher elevations.

In other words, those most affected by flooding, and most eager for change, tend to have the least amount of support to do so. This leaves residents who dream of a vibrant, flood-free community without the puddles, pot-holes, and mosquitoes, feeling stuck, powerless, and resigned to the broken reality of “the way things are”.

Ready for Change

Since January 2019, a coalition of local non-profits by the name of “Umbrella”, along with community outreach partner Water Block, have been actively listening to the voices of residents in the Hoffman Triangle neighborhood within Central City - a neighborhood that experiences some of the worst effects of rain runoff.

Through hundreds of conversations, residents have shared countless stories and feedback about their neighborhood and water’s impact on their lives. Yet, for as unique as the details of each resident's story may be, the message that resounded most was simple, yet profound: they are ready for positive change.

For many of the long-term residents, homeowners and renters alike, stormwater impacts their daily lives, and they are eager to do something about it.

Action That is Sustainable and Attainable

Umbrella’s partners (SOUL NOLA, Greenlight New Orleans, The Urban Conservancy, The City of New Orleans Office of Resiliency and Sustainability, and Launch NOLA Green) are working hard to equip residents and community stakeholders with the resources needed to begin the work of creating change that they want to see in their community.

The solution they’re proposing is 4 fold:

  • Providing residents with trees, which absorb rainwater and add beauty and shade

  • Installing rain barrels for residents to catch and hold run off

  • Removing concrete and replacing it with permeable pavement that soaks in runoff

  • Training local landscapers to install landscaping that reduces flooding (Stormwater Management)

Trees, rain barrels, concrete removal, and local business training are all simple, yet effective steps that residents can implement to make the Hoffman Triangle a more sustainable community.

Local Stakeholders Take the Lead

Even though implementation has just begun, several local organizations within the Hoffman Triangle have taken ownership of their community’s future, leading by example and planting trees and rain barrels.

Trees planted along the perimeter of Taylor Park at the Hoffman Early Learning Center

The Hoffman Early Learning Center plants numerous trees around its park property, while Pleasant Zion Baptist Church has planted trees, and is currently planning to remove and replace their concrete parking lot. Both organizations are taking their role as community stewards seriously to care for their neighbors.

By taking these small, yet impactful steps toward attainable sustainability, local institutions and residents are creating a better future for the Hoffman Triangle community. In doing so, the community begins to reflect better on the character of the people who call it home: resilient.

To learn more about Umbrella and the real changes that residents in the Hoffman Triangle are making to reduce their neighborhoods flooding, visit the Urban Conservancy's Facebook Page, and stay tuned for the rollout of the Umbrella website in September, 2019.



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