Located outside of the tourist centered areas of New Orleans, black and mainly elderly residents living on a toxic waste site in the Upper Ninth Ward are far from the spotlight of media attention and concern.
Beginning in the late 1970s, these residents were encouraged to buy into the opportunity to own suburban-styled housing within the city. Unknown to them, the homes marketed were built on top of the Agriculture Street Landfill that began operations in 1909. In the 1990s, this area was denoted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a 100-acre Superfund Site containing hazardous waste, which poses a threat to the environment and human health.
Since then, Gordon Plaza residents have been advocating to receive adequate compensation that will help them relocate, be bought out of their devalued properties, and for government officials to be held accountable for this act of injustice. While a class action lawsuit was won by residents, it failed to provide enough money for them all to move. And, with the majority of community members sick and others deceased from exposure to the land’s 140 plus cancer-causing toxins, many have lost hope that they will ever see justice in their lifetime.
Meanwhile, new developments and rehabilitation projects are underway to attract new residents and senior citizens to the area. Thus, Gordon Plaza residents believe it is their responsibility to educate future homeowners and tenants on the impact of living on the Site.
Sharing the untold story of one of New Orleans’ most neglected communities can attract national attention and advocacy that prompts timely solutions for the Site’s residents, while creating change agents that promote the advancement of New Orleans as a community-sustained and equitable place for all.
To support the Community’s current campaign, visit: https://nolaconnects.org/en/projects/living-on-toxic-waste-advocacy-through-education
To stay up-to-date on the Gordon Plaza residents, visit: https://www.facebook.com/GordonPlazaAction/
Atianna Cordova is a Spring 2016 graduate of Louisiana State University, where she received her Bachelor of Architecture degree. As a native of New Orleans, Atianna is passionate about using design as a tool to assist under-served communities, and those affected by disasters. She is recognized as the first McNair Research Scholar within LSU’s School of Architecture, where her research focused on architecture and homelessness in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Prior to graduation, Atianna was one of four students awarded an international 2016 U.C. Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectural Design Excellence Travel Fellowship. This fellowship allowed Atianna to travel to Haiti to further her research regarding disaster recovery in vulnerable populations following the 2010 Earthquake and Cholera Outbreak. Upon her return, she was honored as a LSU Tiger Twelve recipient for the 2016 graduating class.
During the summer of 2017, Atianna received her M.S. in Disaster Resilience Leadership from Tulane University. In the fall of 2017, she will be serving as a Young Cultural Innovator at the Salzburg Global Forum in Austria. By highlighting the role of design in addressing social injustices, Atianna will continue to serve historically disadvantaged communities.