Thursday, January 12, 2006

This is only a recommendation.

NEW ORLEANS, Jan. 11 - Residents of the city's most devastated neighborhoods responded with anger Wednesday after the city's rebuilding commission unveiled its most contentious proposal: giving neighborhoods in low-lying parts of the city from four months to a year to prove they should not be bulldozed.

The plan was presented at a standing-room-only meeting punctuated by catcalls and angry outbursts that often interrupted members of the panel. "Over my dead body" was uttered more than once.

"I'm going to suit up like I'm going to Iraq and fight this," said Harvey Bender, a laid-off city worker, who shouted out his comments before an audience at the Sheraton Hotel that numbered in the hundreds and spilled into the aisles and hallways.

Mr. Bender owns a home in New Orleans East, a predominantly black middle-class neighborhood of 90,000 residents largely destroyed by the flooding that followed Hurricane Katrina. Parts of the neighborhood might not survive, according to the plan, if they do not attract enough returning residents.

Speaker after speaker, black and white, prosperous and poor, dismissed a plan that Mayor C. Ray Nagin described as "controversial." But Mr. Nagin gave them hope as he walked a middle line that neither endorsed the plan nor opposed it.

"This is only a recommendation," Mr. Nagin said in remarks that preceded the formal presentation of the rebuilding plan. "We as a community will have the ultimate say in how we move forward."


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