Since we've just marked K + 4, it seems like a good time to conduct our not-particularly-annual State of the Neighborhood assessment.
I've claimed in the past that our block serves as a a reasonably representative microcosm of the city as a whole, and that still seems about right: neither the best nor the worst, not high-and-dry but not decimated. (Our block also serves as a reasonably representative demographic sample: from middle-class to working-class to poor; black and white—with a cluster of Latino migrant workers around the corner; resident-owned, rental, and a bit of business.) And our block's recovery has roughly kept pace with the city as a whole. New Orleans has regained an estimated three fourths of its pre-K population, and of the eleven buildings on our block, eight are now occupied. Of the remaining three, one (the apartment house across the street) has recently been renovated and will probably have occupants soon, one (the house next door to us) has been gutted and roofed but nothing else, and one (the weird former non-profit office further down on our side) is completely untouched, a nasty moldering mess.
And if we charted the re-occupation of our block, it would form a bell-ish curve: no residents in late '05; the first early returnees in '06; the largest influx in '07 (including us); less in '08; and now in '09 we're on the tapering tail—recovery isn't at a complete standstill, as demonstrated by the recently revived apartments, but it comes in unpredictable drips and dribbles. And it's reasonable to wonder if the still-empty buildings will ever find occupants or if they will become permanent additions to the epidemic of blight that already afflicted our city before the storm.
So the wounds aren't all healed; many of Katrina's unfortunate changes endure. But as we transition from The Post-Storm Period into an Ongoing Future, these changes assimilate into the city's new status quo, a new set of slowly fading scars in a cityscape already criss-crossed by layers of fading scars left by dozens of previous generations worth of decline and rejuvenation.