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Who is the Urban Land Institute?
by Jay Arena Monday, Nov. 07, 2005 at 6:49 AM

Exposes role of Urban land Institute in destruction of the St. Thomas housing development. Now ULI and friends want to do the same for the whole city.

Guess Whose Coming to Town?
The Urban Land Institute and Ethnic Cleansing

Jay Arena

Joe Canizaro, Barbara Major, Pres Kabacoff and the other wheelers and dealers on the so-called Bring New Orleans Back Commission, and their subcommittees, and are playing a fast one on us. They have now called on the good offices of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) to “help” New Orleans develop a “housing master plan”. Knowing ULI’s track record, and how the local real estate sharks use these “experts”, I say we need to send them packing from our city.

You might say, well, aren’t you being a bit rash in that judgment. Why don’t you give them a chance. Well, to justify my wariness, lets start with who these guys, the ULI, are. Officially, the ULI is a tax exempt 501 (c ) 3 non-profit “education” fund, started in 1936. Nonetheless, this non-profit status obscures their real role as a pro-profit think-tank for the real estate industry. Like other capitalist thinks tanks, such as the Rand Corporation or the Brookings Institutions, they use the veneer of “expertise” to cover up the capitalist interests they are serving.

The ULI and New Orleans

All people in New Orleans concerned about a racially and economic just rebuilding of the city should be particularly concerned about the ULI returning to the city. Yes, returning. The ULI was the think that played a key role in developing the plans for the class and ethnic cleansing of the St. Thomas development and surrounding neighborhood. Furthermore, two local operators who played a key role inviting the ULI almost twelve years ago to the month—Joe Canizaro and Barbara Major—are now helping the ULI play a role in ethnically and class cleansing the whole city. A quick review of how slick Joe, and his community front people, operated at St Thomas might give us some insights into squashing them this time.

The ULI and St Thomas

The development pressure on the St. Thomas public housing development increased dramatically in 1990 when influential real estate mogul Joseph Canizaro acquired 70 acres along the riverfront, near St. Thomas. This property was to be "redeveloped" into upscale housing, restaurants, and hotels. The only problem, the only "obstacle' was the Black working class community at St Thomas and their history of militant struggle.

To help ease the way, and break down the barriers, Barbara Major, a leading
trainer with the Peoples Institute, helped broker a meeting in 1992 between
Canizaro and the St. Thomas tenant leadership. Major was then head of STICC-the St
Thomas Irish Channel Consortium. STICC, formed in 1989, was made up of
non-profits in the Irish channel area (St Thomas neighborhood) whose
ostensible mission was to help empower the St. Thomas community in their
dealing with developers and other hostile interests.

Out of the spring 1992 Canizaro-St Thomas meeting, with Major's backing, and
the blessing of other Peoples Institute leaders, such as David Billings, a
decision was made to collaborate with Big Joe-the godfather as some called
him-to develop a plan to redevelop St Thomas and the surrounding lower garden district
(what the developer and their yuppie allies call the area) /Irish Channel area
(what St Thomas residents called it) .

Capitalist 'experts" and the selling of class/racial cleansing

To help create a redevelopment blueprint Canizaro "suggested" that his “friends” at the Urban Land Institute—of which he had been president-- come in and develop a
plan. They would help break the loggerhead that had emerged between the
local racist yuppies and St Thomas residents--the godfather always stayed in
the background acting as the "honest broker"-over redeveloping the area.
"Redevelopment' really revolved around how many and how fast would the Black
working class be driven from the area.

Thus, in the fall of 1993 the ULI came in and cooked up a plan that would
reduce the number of public housing units at St. Thomas from 1510 to 450
(another 450 would be higher income , as part of a "mixed income"
community). They were very good in “listening” and getting “input” from everybody. They would also bring out nice beautiful models of what the new community would look like. They made lots of promises. They are experts in co-optation.

STICC and the Peoples Institute leaders endorsed the plan, and they
were able to get the St Thomas leadership on board as well.

The ULI- also encouraged that residents go after a federal government HOPE
VI redevelopment grant to finance the redevelopment effort, which they did.

Winners and Losers

In the end, the number of units promised to residents s continually dwindled
over the next 5 to 6 years. From the 1510, to 450 and then to even under
200. Furthermore restrictions were put on returning so that only a handful
of the former residents were evener able to return to the new St Thomas, now
renamed 'river gardens".

In contrast, Canizaro made over 50 million, by my calculations, simply by
flipping his property as St Thomas was ethnically and classed cleansed in
the latter 1990s and into the 00s. Most of the tenant leadership was taken
care of with homes, while the rank and file were sent packing to the lower
9th ward, the more isolated St Bernard project, N.O. east, or the streets.

Won’t get fooled again

This time lets not get sucked into the ULI trap, even if so-called “community” voices say we should. The ULI and their allies are sharks and should be treated as such. The only way a real, popular, pro-working class, anti-racist reconstruction of the city will occur is through our movement developing our own plans, making demands and struggling to implement them. Holding hands with the ULI won’t do it.

add your comments

Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 7 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
bigcheefrunamuck cheef Tuesday, Sep. 19, 2006 at 7:00 AM
Who is teh Urban Land Institute? Jay Arena Friday, Jul. 07, 2006 at 8:25 AM
They're not talking about using "eminent domain" on housing projects M. Waites Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2005 at 7:38 PM
Arena wasting our time Action Jackson Monday, Dec. 19, 2005 at 5:22 AM
Robert Dupree, are you sure Will Saturday, Dec. 17, 2005 at 7:51 PM
the Man gonna get yer momma Robert Dupree Tuesday, Dec. 06, 2005 at 3:02 PM
ULI-A Plantation Mentality Pawn? ANNE GABRIEL Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2005 at 3:15 PM

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