NEW ORLEANS MAYOR DEFENDS THE SLOW KATRINA
CLEAN-UP BY MAKING A REMARK ABOUT NEW YORK'S FAILURE TO REBUILD GROUND ZERO -- "60 MINUTES"
"You Guys in New York Can't Get a Hole in the Ground Fixed," Says Ray Nagin
Confronted by accusations that he's taking too long to clean up his city a year after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin defended himself by remarking on New York City's failure to rebuild ground zero. The interview, conducted by CBS News National Correspondent Byron Pitts, will be broadcast on 60 MINUTES, Sunday Aug. 27 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
On a tour of the decimated Ninth Ward, Nagin tells Pitts the city has removed most of the debris from public property and it's mainly private land that's still affected -- areas that can't be cleaned without the owner's permission. But when Pitts points out flood-damaged cars in the street and a house washed partially into the street, the mayor shoots back. "That's alright. You guys in New York can't get a hole in the ground fixed and it's five years later. So let's be fair," he tells Pitts.
Nagin is confident New Orleans will be whole again and will even be able to withstand another hurricane of Katrina strength, pointing out that taller and stronger levees are being built. It will take time. "We're into a five-to-seven-year build cycle�.At the end of the day, I see the city being totally rebuilt. I see us eliminating blight, still being culturally unique," says Nagin.
Nagin gives one example of new development -- a 68-story Trump Towers condominium complex -- that makes some critics wary that New Orleans will lose the heritage that made it unique. "I think you are looking at basically a town that will be a playground for the rich for the next 40 years," says Leonard Moore, a professor of African-American history at Louisiana State University. "I look at the post-Katrina piece as a game of musical chairs�.Once the music gets turned off, the white folks have a place to sit down, a place to sleep, a place for their children to go to school. We're going back to a trailer," Moore tells Pitts.
The mayor says he is looking out for the poor, mostly black, residents who are dispersed over the country, some of whom are waiting to return to the city. "What I do have a problem with is some entrenched interests that are looking and salivating over certain sections of the city," Nagin tells Pitts. He says these interests want him to keep those poor people from coming back so they can get rich developing the land. "I don't think that's right," Nagin says.
But before any rebuilding can take place, the clean-up and restoration of the city's infrastructure must be complete and it will be Mayor Nagin, recently re-elected, who leads the efforts. Says Oliver Thomas, New Orleans City Council president, "Should things have happened quicker? Yes. But everyone has their own style of leadership, and right now our political leader, our political father is Ray Nagin," Thomas tells Pitts. "So for the next four years, we're going to sink or swim with him."