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New Orleans Neighborhood Awaits Key Decisions

Stephen Louis Dehasa guts a flood-damaged house on Honeysuckle Lane. He says Hurricane Katrina has provided him with plenty of work.
Art Silverman, NPR
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Stephen Louis Dehasa guts a flood-damaged house on Honeysuckle Lane. He says Hurricane Katrina has provided him with plenty of work.
Lorraine and Paul Morton, in the kitchen of their home, which was largely spared damage from Katrina.
Art Silverman, NPR /
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Lorraine and Paul Morton, in the kitchen of their home, which was largely spared damage from Katrina.
The only FEMA trailer on Honeysuckle Lane, which has 25 homes. The decision to revive this neighborhood depends in large part on whether the federal agency will sell flood insurance there.
Art Silverman, NPR /
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The only FEMA trailer on Honeysuckle Lane, which has 25 homes. The decision to revive this neighborhood depends in large part on whether the federal agency will sell flood insurance there.
Honeysuckle Lane resident Judith Talmon is now living in a New Orleans suburb while she waits to move back in to her home.
Art Silverman, NPR /
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Honeysuckle Lane resident Judith Talmon is now living in a New Orleans suburb while she waits to move back in to her home.

Four and a half months after Hurricane Katrina, many New Orleanians who were flooded out of their homes still face an uncertain future. No where is that more true than on Honeysuckle Lane, where residents eager to return await key decisions by federal and local bureaucracies.

All Things Considered has been following the fortunes of one street in the sprawling, low-lying district called New Orleans East. Robert Siegel returns to Honeysuckle Lane, where uncertainty about that neighborhood's future continues.

The Bring New Orleans Back Commission, which was empanelled by Mayor Ray Nagin, has produced a plan. But it leaves some important questions unanswered: Will low-lying neighborhoods be rebuilt or will they revert to green space?

The decision depends on the Federal Emergency Management Agency saying in which neighborhoods it will sell flood insurance and in which neighborhoods it won't. That's something FEMA hasn't done yet.

It also depends on thousands of independent decisions by homeowners on whether to come back, or to stay away.

Judy Talmon, who lived in a duplex on Honeysuckle Lane, is leaning toward returning, if possible. She says some residents are coming back before the city says they can, like "homesteaders in our own property."

Paul and Lorraine Morton have moved back in to their home, which received less damage than most of their neighbors'. They just took delivery of a new refrigerator to replace the one that stood for weeks with the power off and food rotting inside.

"I would like to see more of us come back and make this neighborhood a neighborhood," Lorraine Morton says.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Prior to his retirement, Robert Siegel was the senior host of NPR's award-winning evening newsmagazine All Things Considered. With 40 years of experience working in radio news, Siegel hosted the country's most-listened-to, afternoon-drive-time news radio program and reported on stories and happenings all over the globe, and reported from a variety of locations across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. He signed off in his final broadcast of All Things Considered on January 5, 2018.
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