Former residents sue city claiming discrimination against New Orleans East community

Michelle Massey Oct. 1, 2010, 2:00am

Former residents of the New Orleans East community claim the city is inappropriately using federal funds, including $30 million for building a brand new park in an area that was not affected by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

A lawsuit filed Sept. 23 in federal court in New Orleans claims the city is committing discriminatory acts and those actions have impeded future economic development and have decreased the quality of life of the New Orleans East area.

Co-plaintiff Samuel Washington states he cannot return to his former community due to the lack of healthcare facilities and government services. He currently resides in Jefferson Parish.

The other plaintiff, senior citizens William Washington, states the city's actions and the diversion of federal funds have caused parts of his neighborhood to remain blighted, unsafe and hazardous. He claims he may not be able to retire and live in the New Orleans East community due to the lack of basic services.

The men argue that since the city has applied for and received HUD federal funding, including Disaster Community Development Block Grant money, it has an obligation to ensure the funds "will affirmatively further fair housing." According to the lawsuit, the city has not conducted an analysis of the New Orleans East area since 1999.

"The City's actions and inactions that have resulted in a substantially small proportion of D-CDBG funding being available for the housing needs of low and moderate income families, as district from funding for non-housing purposes," the complaint states.

The suit is asking the court to issue a decree stating that New Orleans has failed to manage and spend federal disaster relief funds in compliance with the requirements of the federal Fair Housing Act.

The plaintiffs are also asking for an injunction prohibiting the city from spending Disaster Community Block Grants funds in a manner that does not comply with the federal Fair Housing Act, to require the city to conduct an analysis of impediments to fair housing and for an award of attorney fees, expert witness fees, court costs and incidental expenses.

The plaintiffs are represented by New Orleans attorney Edward R. Washington, III.

U.S. District Judge Martin L.C. Feldman is assigned to the case.

No. 2:10cv0328

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