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Racial Slurs Become Part of St. Bernard Parish Housing Fight

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By Zoe Sullivan, Special to the NNPA from The Louisiana Weekly –

There has been clear opposition for years to the presence of African Americans in St. Bernard Parish, based on the litigation history of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC), James Perry, executive director of that organization, told The Louisiana Weekly.

“We get really nasty phone calls and e-mails pretty frequently about St. Bernard Parish, and they oftentimes have a lot of racial innuendo, but occasionally they have really direct racial statements and racial epithets,” Perry told The Louisiana Weekly.

Recently, his organization used two examples of this in litigation against St. Bernard Parish around a multi-family housing project being developed there by Provident Realty Advisors, Inc.

Provident is building four mixed-income apartment complexes, which would be within walking distance of a planned hospital. According to GNOFHAC, each complex would contain 72 units for a total of 288. Perry says the State of Louisiana is supporting the development with $30 million in tax credits, which are only awarded following stringent investigations by the State. Provident initially asked GNOFHAC for assistance in 2008.

Recently, Judge Ginger Berrigan, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, denied a request by the Parish for a cease and desist order against Provident Realty.

The ruling stated: “While Defendants have raised concerns about the work Provident has performed without inspections, none of these concerns justify a complete shutdown of the projects. From the testimony presented in court, Provident appears willing and able to address all of Defendants’ concerns.”

The concerns ranged from drain lines from the development buildings to existing storm drains, the height of proposed driveways, and the use of third party inspectors.

The court ruling also noted that: “…the Court finds that there is no legal support for President Taffaro’s position that Provident must tear down all of its buildings before the Parish would issue any permits.”

“It’s always been clear that racial animus is key to the resistance to this housing development. There’s no mistake,” Perry told The Louisiana Weekly.

“We have been and continue to be offended by the incident that is in question,” St. Bernard Parish President Craig P. Taffaro, Jr. said to The Louisiana Weekly’s inquiry about the racially tinged graffiti and voicemail presented in court.

“We find it equally troublesome that the Provident officials sought no legal intervention. No police report was filed by Provident. We are really proud that our post-Katrina population statistics continue to show that St. Bernard is more diverse than ever before in our history, and we continue to promote a unified community in our recovery.”

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