News media are comparing Hurricane Irene to Hurricane Katrina in ways that allow us to forget that Hurricane Katrina was a humanmade disaster, but in one way, these events are similar – prisoner evacuation. New Orleans officials chose not to evacuate 7,000 inmates, some of whom were trapped in flooded cells and later left on a bridge for days without food and water, as detailed in this post. Officials in New York have made the same decision with Hurricane Irene.
Elizabeth Furth, a former student who has participated in rebuilding efforts in New Orleans, sent in this map showing that Rikers Island is not part of the City’s evacuation plan.
Mayor Bloomberg announced that Riker’s Island would not be evacuated at a recent press conference, despite the fact that the island is surrounded by areas with the second highest evacuation rating (Zone B). Other New York islands on the map are in Zone A (mandatory evacuation) or Zone B, but Riker’s has no evacuating rating, perhaps because the Department of Corrections doesn’t have an evacuation plan. According to the New York Times blog, “no hypothetical evacuation plan for the roughly 12,000 inmates that the facility may house on a given day even exists. Contingencies do exist for smaller-scale relocations from one facility to another.”
Solitary Watch reports that Rikers Island was built on landfill, which is especially vulnerable to disasters. Rikers Island may weather Hurricane Irene without incident, but this disaster has again revealed how prisoners are considered disposable in times of crisis.
New Orleans is an amazing city. I had avoided the city before Katrina, despite several road trips that took me through the South. Given my Christian upbringing, I thought of the Crescent City as a sinful place to be avoided, an aversion that lasted longer than my religion. But when Katrina hit, the pull to the Gulf Coast was too strong to resist with fellow Americans wasting away in attics and on rooftops.
I quickly fell in love with New Orleans, and despite deep and lingering wounds from the human-made disaster of Katrina, it’s a mighty, magical city. This magic is hard to describe with the written word, but I will attempt to capture a bit of it with blog posts of everyday events here that are quite extraordinary.
Let’s start with this fancy pants car. Earlier today I was walking in the Marigny and talking on the phone with my friend, Malik, when I ran across this mobile art piece. Note the high heels stenciled on the side that complement the pastel paint job, common colors for homes in New Orleans.
Upon closer inspection, I noticed the words “Bon Jovi Shrine” written in red marker on the back window. I wonder if this mobile shrine is owned by the same person who wrote “What Would Jon Bon Jovi Do?” on many of the bathroom walls of my favorite haunts. Or maybe Jon is in town, promoting himself as the son of a deity…
Bon Jovi Shrine
A little further down the street, I encountered a pride of cats. Nine to be exact. Despite a strong urge to cuddle all of them at once, I did not interrupt their afternoon nap to find out whether they were wild or tame. Note that a few of them have chopped ears, a (draconian) sign that they have been spayed/neutered.
FEMA made mistakes in doling out cash to some Katrina victims, and now the agency is trying to get this money back nearly six years after the storm.