Robert Putz, professor of math and computer science at Kingsborough, was one of several teachers and professors who spent two weeks in New Orleans this summer to help rebuild houses, paint schools and tutor children in an effort to advance the restoration of the city which is still suffering from the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina two years ago. The venture was sponsored by the American Federation of Teachers’ Union Summer Project.
Professor Putz assisted the community group ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, with various landscaping projects.
He observed blocks of empty houses with rotted infrastructures and freshly cut lawns. It didn’t take long for Professor Putz to understand that landscaping was a crucial project because the City of New Orleans made it clear that any house with an overgrown lawn would be considered abandoned. Not wanting to loose their homes, many homeowners were placed in the position of having to landscape their homes although they couldn’t afford to repair them. Organizations such as ACORN charitably mow the lawns to prevent homes from being labeled abandoned by the city. Alternatively, homeowners are forced to travel from their trailers, where many now reside, to mow the lawns of their homes often with a rotted infrastructure and desperately in need of repair.
The City of New Orleans adopted a gutting ordinance No. 22203.MC.S.) in an effort to protect the health and safety of residents and to ensure that the financial investments of returning citizens are not depreciated by the intentional or unintentional inaction of their neigh-bors. The ordinance requires that every owner of property in New Orleans that was damaged by Hurricanes Katrina and/or Rita undertake mold remediation and clean, gut and properly secure their property or that the owner has the property demolished.
The city urges residents to bring compliance within 30 days of the notice and offer community advocacy groups and agencies that can assist them in the remediation process if they qualify.
At the top of the list is ACORN, the nation’s largest community organization of low- and moderate-income families, working together for social justice and stronger communities. Since December 2005, ACORN has been gutting and cleaning homes in low-income neighborhoods as part of their Home Clean-out Program. With the help of volunteers, like Professor Putz, it has gutted and preserved more than 1,900 homes.
“It felt like spitting in the ocean. There is so much more that needs to be done. At least I was able to help a few people,” said Professor Putz.
Professors Julius Rosenthal, Department of Mathematics and Patrick Lloyd, Department of Physical Sciences also volunteered their services in New Orleans during the summer.
Contact: Ruby Ryles