Constructing Gordon Plaza

Stop 4 of 7 on the Gordon Plaza tour.

In the 1970s, under the administrations of Mayors “Moon” Landrieu and his successor “Dutch” Morial, the city planned and built housing for elderly and low-income families on the former site of Agriculture Street Landfill (ASL).

The city of New Orleans was able to fund this development with federal money available through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) via Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG/CD Grant) under the auspices of improving Desire Community Housing, a public housing complex build near ASL in the 1950s. Throughout the nation, low-income public housing complexes like Desire were created by the federal government beginning in the 1930s. Although they alleviated the housing shortage created by the depression economy, these complexes were segregated by design, ushering in a new era of systematic racial segregation in the United States. [1]

Federal policies of developing segregated housing while simultaneously refusing to ensure home mortgages in racially mixed areas, a policy known as redlining, made rentals in public housing like Desire Projects one of few options for African-American households until the Fair Housing Act of 1968. [2] By 1975, Press Park and Gordon Plaza Apartments for the Elderly expanded these public housing options. Gordon Plaza was designed as a residential development for low-income homebuyers in areas directly adjacent to Desire Housing Project, which, because of the segregated history of public housing, was primarily African-American.

Construction of single-family homes, apartments in Press Park, and the Senior Center in Gordon Plaza began in 1978. On August 26, 1979, an advertisement listed in the Times Picayune alerted the public that “applications are now being accepted for 128 units of Gordon Plaza Elderly and Handicapped Complex… All apartments will be under the Section 8 Subsidy Programs.” Advertisements for Gordon Plaza properties clearly targeted low-income families and senior citizens. By 1981, residents begin to move into the Gordon Plaza neighborhood.

Soon after the development opened, city officials began to receive complaints concerning deficiencies at Gordon Plaza and Press Park. In a letter to the mayor's office and Community Improvement Agency dated June 26, 1980, Philip C. Ciaccio, Councilman of District E, stated:

"I attended a ceremony at the Gordon Plaza Apartments for the Elderly at the end of May and observed that the meeting room was extremely warm because several of the air-conditioning units were inoperative...I took the time to discuss the existence of various deficiencies in the building...I am particularly disturbed by the apparent run-around they are getting, particular the brand new air-conditioning units that are inoperable." [3] Enclosed with this letter was a list of complaints about the development, five pages long.

In the videos below, longtime Gordon Plaza resident Shannon Rainey shares her experiences purchasing a home in Gordon Plaza.

Video

Shannon Rainey, longtime Gordon Plaza resident, shares how she learned about the affordable housing project at Gordon Plaza in the 1980s when she worked for the mayor's office.
Source: Video courtesy of the Midlo Center for New Orleans Studies at the University of New Orleans. ~ Creator: Oral history interview with Shannon Rainey conducted by Lones Gagnard, Vickie Lacoste, Ella McIntire, and Daniel Lamplugh. ~ Date:...
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Shannon Rainey, longtime Gordon Plaza resident, discusses her excitement as she picked a home to purchase in the Gordon Plaza neighborhood in the 1980s.
Source: Video courtesy of the Midlo Center for New Orleans Studies at the University of New Orleans. ~ Creator: Oral history interview with Shannon Rainey conducted by Lones Gagnard, Vickie Lacoste, Ella McIntire, and Daniel Lamplugh. ~ Date:...
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