The eastern section of New Orleans, commonly known as "New Orleans East", is a large section of the city of New Orleans, Louisiana. Developed extensively from the 1960s forward, its numerous residential subdivisions and strip malls offered suburban-style living within the city limits. Today, despite its location within the New Orleans city limits, its character remains suburban, resembling the typically sprawling American suburbia much more than the more compactly built environment found in the city's historic core.
Starting in the mid-1980s, New Orleans East increasingly suffered from disinvestment and urban decay. The flooding occurring in Hurricane Katrina's wake, which affected almost the entire area, accelerated this trend, particularly in the retail sector, as numerous national chains present and operating in August 2005 opted not to reopen stores and restaurants. Approximately 65,000 to 75,000 residents presently inhabit New Orleans East representing a decline from the 95,000 people inhabiting the area as of the 2000 Census.
The eastern section of New Orleans is east of the Industrial Canal and north of the Intracoastal Waterway. It is often called "New Orleans East" or simply "The East". It is a portion of the Ninth Ward of New Orleans.
New Orleans East is a large tract of land comprising several neighborhoods, including Pines Village, Plum Orchard, West Lake Forest, Read Boulevard West, Little Woods, Read Boulevard East, Village de L'Est, Lake Catherine and Venetian Isles. The history of these neighborhoods dates back to the early 1800s with the construction of Fort Pike and Fort Macomb in the Lake Catherine neighborhood. The two forts were "constructed to serve as a defense for the navigational channels leading into New Orleans." Also built in the Lake Catherine neighborhood was the Rigolets Lighthouse.
Other developments in the 1800s were the construction of Chef Menteur Highway in Village de L'Est and a sugar cane plantation and refinery in Venetian Isles. With construction completed by mid-century, Chef Menteur Highway was, at the time, the only access road that connected the eastern area to the rest of the city.
Much of the area being marshland, completion of the highway required damning, draining and filling remnants of a distributary known as Bayou Metairie. Development in the area lagged until about the 1960s due to limited road access, challenges with water drainage and the creation of the Industrial Canal, completed in 1923. Before Interstate 10 and the Seabrook Bridge were completed in the 1960s and 1970s, small draw bridges at Chef Menteur Highway, Gentilly Road and the Lake-Industrial Canal juncture were the only means of crossing the Industrial Canal north of Florida Avenue.
Pines Village, the area closest to Chef Menteur Highway and the Industrial Canal was one of the first neighborhoods to be developed in New Orleans East. The neighborhood's namesake, Sigmund Pines, purchased and developed it with residences in the 1950s. Developing the neighborhood included leveeing the marshy area and lowering the water table by pumping, raising the level of construction sites by use of hydraulic fill and finally, building a drainage system consisting of a series of lakes and canals.
Today, New Orleans East also includes many smaller neighborhoods named after lakes, streets, and subdivisions such as Lake Willow, Spring Lake, Kenilworth, Seabrook, Melia, Edgelake, Bonita Park, Donna Villa, Willowbrook, Cerise-Evangeline Oaks and Castle Manor.
Originally named Lake Forest, as development first centered along the easternmost segment of Lake Forest Boulevard, the Read Boulevard East area began growing in the 1970s and continues to develop.[dubious ] By the late 1990s, the neighborhoods of Read Blvd East were no longer majority white, but were particularly favored as the preferred place of residence for New Orleans' upwardly mobile African-American white-collar professional and entrepreneurial classes.
New Orleans East houses around 80,000 residents and provides less than ten percent of the City's property tax revenue.
The far eastern portion of Eastern New Orleans has little urban development, although it too still lies within the city limits of New Orleans. It includes the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge, Chef Menteur Pass, Fort Macomb, historic Fort Pike on the Rigolets, and scattered areas of essentially rural character, like Venetian Isles, Irish Bayou and Lake Saint Catherine.
Village de L'Est is known for its Vietnamese community. The Vietnamese community is also known as Versailles, as the earliest migrants to the area, arriving in the years after 1975, settled first in the Versailles Arms apartment complex. The commercial hub for this community extends along Alcee Fortier Boulevard, within Village de L'Est. Sometimes known as "Little Vietnam", the area hosts a number of Vietnamese restaurants, including Dong Phuong Restaurant & Bakery.
Eastern New Orleans institutions and landmarks include the Lakefront Airport, Joe Brown Memorial Park, the Audubon Louisiana Nature Center, Lincoln Beach,[dubious ] and NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility, located within the New Orleans Regional Business Park.
Eastern New Orleans is the only extensive suburban or suburban-style region of Greater New Orleans where, since the late 1960s, all installed utilities have been buried below ground. Like the downtown New Orleans/French Quarter central core and the Garden City-inspired Lakefront neighborhoods of Lake Vista, Lakeshore, Lake Terrace and Lake Oaks, the East consequently possesses a uniquely uncluttered visual aspect,[dubious ] in contrast to the omnipresent wooden utility poles and spider's web of power lines found along most of the major thoroughfares of suburban Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes.[dubious ]
Until the late 19th century, this area was outside of the city limits of New Orleans, although within Orleans Parish. There was little development other than in two areas. The first hugged the long, narrow ridge of higher ground along Gentilly Road, which followed the natural levee of an old bayou. Various farms, plantations, and small villages such as Michoud were sited along this ridge. The other older area of development consisted of a linear strip of "camps", clusters of houses raised high on wooden stilts, in the shallows along the edge of Lake Pontchartrain, the largest and longest-lasting of these being at Little Woods.
In the early 20th century some residential development of the area began, at first as an extension of Gentilly. Construction of the Industrial Canal began in 1918 and was completed in 1923, creating the principal geographical barrier that would separate the East from the rest of New Orleans. Eastern New Orleans's present southern boundary was realized in 1944 with the completion of a re-routing of the Intracoastal Waterway, involving the excavation of a new segment stretching east from the Industrial Canal to the Rigolets, cut through the raw swampland south of the Gentilly Ridge and north of Bayou Bienvenue.
When Hurricane Betsy was bearing down on the city in 1965, Eastern New Orleans was the only section for which an evacuation was called, as there was concern that this section of the city might suffer particularly extreme effects. However other than light flooding near the Morrison Canal, damage from Betsy was much more modest than had been feared. Tragically, some of those who evacuated Eastern New Orleans in advance of Betsy's arrival went to the Lower 9th Ward, which flooded disastrously.
Rapid growth east of the Industrial Canal commenced in the 1960s, during the administration of Mayor Vic Schiro (1961-1970). Many new subdivisions were developed in the 1960s and 1970s, to cater to those who preferred a more suburban lifestyle but were open to remaining within the city limits of New Orleans. Eastern New Orleans grew in a comparatively well-planned and neatly zoned fashion. Some care was taken to avoid placing major thoroughfares along the rights-of-way of unsightly drainage canals, as had frequently occurred in suburban Jefferson Parish. Instead, major roads (e.g., Mayo, Crowder, Bundy, Read, Bullard, etc.) were located equidistant from parallel canals and were outfitted with landscaped medians (neutral grounds in the local vernacular). Numerous subdivisions were developed with large lakes at their centers, providing both an assist to neighborhood drainage and a scenic backdrop for the backyards of homes. From the late 1960s onwards, buried utilities were required, lending to new development in the East a pleasingly uncluttered visual appearance quite distinct from the wire-hung stop light signals, tangled webs of power lines, and forests of leaning utility poles common to suburban New Orleans. Though modern-day Eastern New Orleans was never segregated, the area originally grew to prominence as a majority-white "suburb-within-the-city". By 1980, the East had also received significant commercial office and retail investment, epitomized by the regional mall The Plaza at Lake Forest, the largest in Greater New Orleans at the time of its completion in 1974.
However, the 1980s witnessed a sea-change in demographics, as New Orleans' growing African American middle class began moving into Eastern New Orleans in sizable numbers. More importantly, in the wake of the 1986 Oil Bust significant poverty was introduced into Eastern New Orleans, as many of the sprawling garden apartment complexes built in the 1960s and 1970s along I-10 to house upwardly mobile young singles began to accept large, poor, female-headed households as tenants. With increased poverty came increased crime rates, and both non-violent and violent crime became far more common than had been the case in the 1960s or 1970s. These changes were enough to induce a swift exodus of most of the white population, resulting in an Eastern New Orleans that was overwhelmingly African-American by 2005.
Much more development further east was envisioned during the oil boom of the 1970s, including a huge planned community called, in successive iterations "New Orleans East", "Pontchartrain", "Orlandia", and, finally, "New Orleans East" once more. This "new-town-in-town" was to have resembled Reston, Virginia or the Woodlands north of Houston, but only a few small portions were built in several bursts of activity in the twenty years prior to the Oil Bust. Both the Village de L'Est and Oak Island neighborhoods were phases of "New Orleans East". The new town development would have occupied almost all of New Orleans lying east of the present-day route of I-510. Three identical interchanges along I-10 east of Paris Road were constructed in anticipation of the new town. The Michoud Boulevard exit uses one of these interchanges, but two of the three were never used. The prominent "New Orleans East" cast-concrete sign just west of the Michoud Boulevard exit was fabricated circa 1980 during the final attempt at developing this huge tract. Much of this land later became the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge, the largest urban wildlife refuge in the United States. Though the "New Orleans East" new town development was never realized, by the 1970s its name had been adopted by many New Orleanians to refer to all of New Orleans east of the Industrial Canal.
A new international airport for New Orleans was also envisioned for the far eastern portion of Eastern New Orleans on several occasions. In the late 1960s, formal government-sponsored studies were undertaken to evaluate the feasibility of relocating New Orleans International Airport to a new site, contemporaneous with similar efforts that were ultimately successful in Houston (George Bush Intercontinental Airport) and Dallas (Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport). This attempt got as far as recommending a specific runway configuration and site in the East; a man-made island was to be created south of I-10 and north of U.S. Route 90 in a bay of Lake Pontchartrain. However, in the early 1970s it was decided that the current airport should be expanded instead. New Orleans Mayor Sidney Barthelemy, in office from 1986 to 1994, later reintroduced the idea of building a new international airport for the city, with consideration given to other sites in Eastern New Orleans, as well as on the Northshore in suburban St. Tammany Parish. Facing strong opposition from environmentalists, the Times-Picayune and many residents of the East, Barthelemy's idea came to nought.
In 2005, the majority of Eastern New Orleans flooded severely from Hurricane Katrina and associated levee failures (see: Effect of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans). Recovery initially unfolded slowly. By early 2006, only a handful of businesses had reopened, mostly those sited along the historic Gentilly Ridge (i.e., the Chef Menteur Highway corridor). Utility service was fully restored to the area during the course of 2006. As of January 2007, still less than half of the pre-Katrina residential population had returned, and many were living in FEMA trailers as they gutted and repaired their flood-devastated homes. Some residents returned on weekends to repair their property, while others gave up and abandoned the area. By November 2006 only 40,000 residents had returned to Eastern New Orleans, compared to the 96,000 that had inhabited the area before the levee failures. However, consistent with the ongoing recovery in New Orleans' population from its post-Katrina trough, Eastern New Orleans' population likewise continued to increase. By 2010, more than half of the East's pre-Katrina population had returned. The returning population was more affluent: determined to permanently reduce the neighborhood's quantity of multi-family housing, eastern New Orleans homeowners lobbied against many rental developments proposed in the post-Katrina era. As a consequence far less multi-family rental housing is available now in Eastern New Orleans than existed pre-Katrina. Essential neighborhood services became scarcer as well after 2005. Only one grocery store reopened, post-Katrina, and the national retailers who had flocked to the East in the 1960s and 1970s, and even into the 1980s and 1990s, were slow to return. Furthermore, neither Methodist nor Lakeland hospitals reopened after Katrina, leaving the East without a general hospital and bereft of ER care.
In the years following Hurricane Katrina, the pace of recovery in Eastern New Orleans has accelerated, though the area still faces challenges. Many retail shops have opened, with a particular concentration emerging at the intersection of I-10 and Bullard Avenue. This commercial node, largely populated by family-owned businesses, is now enjoying the long-awaited return of national retailers, with Big Lots and Wal-Mart leading the way. Consistent with the East's eve-of-Katrina concentration of African-American entrepreneurship, black-owned franchises, such as the USA Neighborhood Market, have also appeared. To the west of Bullard, along the Read Boulevard corridor, a new CVS Pharmacy has opened across Lake Forest Boulevard from the recently completed Daughters of Charity Health Center. Significant public investment has lately transpired in the East as well, including the under-construction New Orleans Community Hospital, the new regional public library, ongoing improvements to Joe Brown Memorial Park, and the construction of half-a-dozen new public school buildings. Efforts to secure high-quality private investment on the site of the former Lake Forest Plaza mall continue, and the city recently issued a Request for Proposals addressing the shuttered Six Flags/Jazzland amusement park, a prominent location that has yet to return to commerce. on February 7, 2017 an EF3 wedge tornado damaged or destroyed several buildings in New Orleans East, making it the strongest known tornado to strike New Orleans, the tornado is known as the February 2017 Louisiana tornado.
Because Eastern New Orleans, and particularly Michoud, rests on the edge of a fault line, the land and the levees protecting it are sinking. Recent geological studies project the rate of sinking to be around two inches per year.
After Hurricane Katrina many of the evacuees that once lived in Uptown and the 9th Ward, returned to the city, many relocated to The New Orleans East area. Cretin neighborhoods like little Woods and Palm Orchard had experienced a spike in crime but by 2011, the homicide rate in New Orleans East began to rise. In 2014 the Little Woods neighborhood in New Orleans east was ranked No. 1 of New Orleans most dangerous neighborhoods. As of 2016 the Eastern area has the second highest homicide rate in city behind Algiers.
The New Orleans Public Schools system operates numerous public charter schools in Eastern New Orleans, some under the umbrella of the Orleans Parish School Board, some within the jurisdiction of the Recovery School District.
Marion Abramson High School was located in Eastern New Orleans. It closed in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina. The Abramson Science and Technology Charter School opened on the grounds of the former Abramson High School in 2007. In 2010 Sci Academy (New Orleans Charter Science and Math Academy) moved to a group of modular buildings at the Abramson site from another group of modular buildings. As of 2010, most students come from East New Orleans and Gentilly. The Abramson campus property is adjacent to the campus of the Sarah T. Reed Elementary School.
Sarah T. Reed High School is in New Orleans East.
The New Orleans Public Library operates the East New Orleans Branch. The current branch building, a one-story building with a price tag of $7.6 million, was scheduled to open on April 12, 2012. The 27,000-square-foot (2,500 m2) building was designed by Gould Evans Affiliates of Kansas City, Missouri, and built by Gibbs Construction. Gould Evans worked with New Orleans firm Lee Ledbetter & Associates to design this library and four others. It is somewhat smaller than the Algiers Regional Library.