Wednesday, August 29, 2007

AUGUST 29, 2007 - NEW ORLEANS



Will you still love me....
tommorrow?








--The Shirelles - 1961

GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN - HOPE SHALL RISE OUT OF YOUR SUFFERING







FROM YOUR PLANETARY SISTER

Dear Readers,

I am taking a few days off to rest. I have so many more stories waiting to be shared and photo's. I'll be back in a few days.

PEACE.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

YOU'VE GOT TO HAVE FAITH - ONE SENIOR CITIZENS PAINFUL REBUILDING EXPERIENCE WITH "REBUILD GREEN" -

DAY 28 - Part one: introduction




"If I didn't have faith, where would I be?"
--Mrs. G.


Mrs. G has been a long time community activist. Mrs. G. is 74 year old senior citizen who lives in the Upper 9th Ward of New Orleans in an area that suffered heavy flooding and damage. She is one of only 3 residents on her street. The street below her was practically wiped out with a few homes standing. The Desire Housing Projects some of which were once at the bottom of the street that are completely gone.

Mrs. G was a home maintenance counselor in the Desire Projects where she helped the residents get their needs met - especially the elderly. She also had an upholstery business that she started with her mother when she was a young woman, then she and her sister ran the business. Mrs. G eventually sold the business to her sister.

She ran for, but was not elected, for State Representative 2x when she saw that she could not get the help she needed for the elderly and those suffering in the Desire Housing Projects. She laughs and says, "I made a good show, I was unknown." "I really didn't lose cause it gave me more political clout to help people in the community. Because I ran, I knew more of the politicians and when people needed help, I could go to the politicians cause they knew me."

Mrs. G raised 6 children as a single parent after her husband had died. She is an upstanding member of her church and a member of the choir. She can make your heart lurch when she sings a gospel song - her voice holds the depth of her faith and it is an honour to be near her when she suddenly begins singing a gospel song.

I have personally witnessed that Mrs. G continues to give to whomever she can when she can. Even now, when so much has been taken from her in her senior years. (Although I have tried to curb her giving out money to those who come to her door as she is on a fixed Social Security monthly income). Mrs. G has been robbed numerous times. What Price... Hero

The following posting is Mrs. G's rebuilding story of the work that was done for her by a contractor called Rebuild Green who is a part of a grass roots community non-profit called Common Ground.


This is what was written in Mrs. G's contract from Rebuild Green:


“…Rebuild Green recognizes the tremendous contributions and possibilities that M_ G_ has as a leader for an Upper 9th Ward community which urgently needs the kind of vigorous, compassionate engagement she can offer. We remain hopeful that we can fulfill our intention of making this house a fine base for her life and work.”

--Don Paul
President of Rebuild Green in the Common Ground Community Development Corporation.


From the Rebuild Green web-site does the following sound familiar:

The lots are owned by Margaret Doyle-Johnston, a longtime activist in her Upper 9th Ward community…

http://rebuildgreen.org/first.html



The following is my personal opinion:

“REBUILD GREEN?” OR “GREED” - IN THE 9TH WARD


Dedicated to Mrs. G and the thousands of elderly and “just folks” who have had hundreds of thousands stolen from them collectively from the unscrupulous contractors and builders who have stolen from the poor and the unsuspecting or just plain did not know what they were doing and took money for incompetent work.


I will admit it from the beginning of this posting. I am emotionally involved in this.


First because I am proud to be “green”. Perhaps not a full fledged, card carrying member - I try to live by green principles - because I care about my planetary brothers and sisters and our Sacred Mother earth.

Secondly, I believe when you identify yourself as “green” you are saying in essence, that you consciously try to live by principles that integrate caring about the planetary community through conscious business practices that bring back the humanity into capitalism as well as stating that you are a human being trying to live by “fair and just” dealings in business and in your life. I think as a “green” I am called to walk my talk. To me, that’s what makes being “green” different - we are daily, trying to live to a higher planetary community standard.

Thirdly, and actually most importantly - nothing gets me angrier and disrupts my ability to stay centered and contained, than people who say "they" come in the name of “righteousness” and then seem to take advantage of the poor, the elderly, the homeless, the disadvantaged (mentally and emotionally), the na├»ve and children. I believe that “we who claim to live by higher standards morally and ethically are required by our hearts and consciousness to be that truth to the best of our abilities”.

This particular blog posting has to do with a widow, 74 years of age who had work done by “Rebuild Green” a Common Ground Community Development Corporation.

Not to be confused with the community work being done by Brad Pitt
and Global Green (founded by Mikhail Gorbachev).

The photo's in the following blog posting speaks volumes. Some of them were taken by a well meaning volunteer from Common Ground. Thank you who ever you were for standing by this senior citizen.

Mrs. G agreed to have Rebuild Green and later Sterling Contractors do repair work for her.

Both Contractors “promised” her they would complete her home so that she could move out of her FEMA trailer, which for months she has been telling me is making her feel sick. Neither contractors followed through. Mrs. G has given me copies of the contracts and her permission to share what was on them on this posting.

(Note: I will tell you right now, Mrs. G isn’t easy to work for, she can be demanding, restless, and after what has happened to her, she has difficulty trusting people (consider how many times she has been robbed since I met her, it is understandable and difficult to be around.). As a result of the stress of what she has been through and continues to go through, constant reassurance and proof of honesty is needed. I have personally observed Mrs. G has what I feel is a 'bad habit' of interrupting workers when someone is working on a project for her. I feel it is as if the sudden influx of capable help seems to send her into wanting as much as she can get done - done immediately - often a different project than what the worker was doing. I have found that if the worker does not let her know she is doing this, they will find out that they can’t get what they started finished - you can find yourself going in circles with well intentionedness with this senior citizen who has been so badly abused since Katrina and the levee breaks. She can also be temperamental, but it you let her know what is what and set good boundaries, you can get your job done and move on and get along just fine with her. Actually she will crack you up.

(Note: Ironically, it was Stu, Sarah and Nate - who were with Plenty International at the time, whom were so different in personality from Mrs. G - three gentle tree hugging hippies, who treated her with sincere kindness and gentleness. They showed her respect, they took care of the things she felt really needed to be done - like securing her house from people breaking in and sleeping in the abandoned side of the shotgun by putting on doorknobs with locks, putting on secure doors and boarding up other un-secure doors until Mrs. G can afford new ones.) No doubt about it, Mrs. G is a mixture of toughness, kindness and incredible faith in God and Jesus; she will have you laughing in an instant and can drive you crazy in the next, with seemingly unreasonable demands). And after her neighborhood was flooded and she was left with a double shotgun house that had 7 feet of water in it - she had no idea at 74 and a widow on her own, how to rebuild.

I have shared so much about Mrs. G’s personality because I want to be fair in case a claim is made that it was her "personality traits" that kept either Rebuild Green or Sterling Contractors from completing their contractual agreement - because Mrs. G kept hers and paid them what they asked for. Characteristics of her personality is no reason for a contractor to forfeit on a contracting agreement and leave her with an unfinished home after taking her money. Two contractors have done this to Mrs. G. and in my opinion it is just plain wrong.

Common Ground had set up in the shelter and rebuilding community down the street from Mrs. G's house. At first she thought they were a Godsend. There were people up the street from her nearly abandoned street. It gave her a feeling of safety. And she and jazz her little white poodle, loved going up and spending time talking with the volunteers. In the early days until this summer, Common Ground fed the poor and the elderly in the neighborhood, then they stopped - event though I saw and felt that the need was still there. Common Ground also became the place for Mrs. Gaines where most of the thieves and robbers came from as Common Ground was trying to help ex-cons get a break and teach them new skills. Unfortunately for Mrs. Gaines 3 of the residents robbed her. She took in 2 of them who had worked on her home with Rebuild Green later when these same men were thrown out, Mrs. G took them in, they thanked her "by stealing the ring from her late husband off of her finger in her sleep." Another would come by borrow money, call her "Grandma Gaines" and rob her of money. The same person was later caught selling her 38 pistol she uses at night or safety after robbing her home. Her tools were stolen out of her shed. No, in Mrs. Gaines case this good deed went bad.

Mrs. Gaines tells me that it was through Common Ground that she was introduced to Don Paul who is the Chief of Operations of Common Ground, a New Orleans based non-profit Rebuild Green.

http://www.pww.org/article/articleview/10205/1/266/



Mrs. G continues as of this posting to live in a FEMA trailer in front of her unfinished home.




I am not a carpenter nor a builder but I know shoddy work when I see it.

As per Mrs. G - When Mrs. G complained of the unfinished work and that she felt Don Paul of Rebuild Green whom Malik Rahim had introduced her to, had taken her money and didn't finish the work, she said that Malik Rahim of Invest Construction ...a company started by Malik Rahim, co-founder of the Common Ground Collective, she told me that Malik told her in response, "we didn't charge you enough." (see contract agreement in following posting)

Mrs. Green told me "It wasn't my fault, I didn't make the price*. I ended up paying him close to $22,000* and I am still sitting in this trailer." "Malik" she tells me, "came one day to work on the house, then he never came back, the next day he sent some young people over from Common Ground, then they never came back."

* See contract posting.





Mrs. G told me that she was told by Don Paul of Rebuild Green and Malik Rahim of Common Ground that her house was going to be the “showcase” house for the efforts of Common Ground and Rebuild Green in the 9th Ward.



"Welcome Home - the front door"


From the Rebuild Green Website:


"...All of these home-owners are elderly or middle-aged and eleven are women. All are African-American and all are long-time residents of New Orleans. All, too, report the same story in terms of difficulty in accessing the funds they need to begin or complete work on their homes. "

"...We're already doing some part of all the above tasks. With the help of donors such as yourself, we've begun to make material progress. Clearer and clearer to us, however, is the reality that we have a lot more to do and that good changes can only come through independent, uncompromised, non-exploitative means.

Has Rebuild Green and Common Ground lived up to their word or is it just political rhetoric?

Read on and decide or yourself:



YOU GOTTA HAVE FAITH - CONTRACTORS POST KATRINA

DAY 28



O, it is excellent
To have a giant's strength,

but it is tyrannous
To use it like a giant.

--Shakespeare - Measure for Measure




NOTE:

If what you are reading looks like this: it is my opinion and commentary.

If what you are reading looks like this: it is from the Rebuild Green website and the contract from Rebuild Green with Mrs. G. who has given me her full permission to publish the terms of the contract, her quotes, her story and pictures of her home.

If what you are reading looks like this: it is from Mrs. G.

I you would like to read more about Mrs. G and how I met her:




I don't know who put in the doors and the doorways. What I do know is they were not put in according to code - they are too narrow and the sill where you walk - has nothing under it supporting it. Whomever did this to a 74 year old woman has something seriously wrong with them!


From the Contract between Mrs. G and Don Paul, President of Rebuild Green in the Common Ground Community Development Corporation:


Rebuild Green shall repair and renovate four aspects of the house’s interior: Electrical, Plumbing, Walls and Ceiling, and Flooring so that each becomes functional so that the house becomes habitable for Mrs. G.”


You decide - did Rebuild Green fulfill their contractual agreement?




The space around the air conditioner - unfinished with a piece of wood hammered over it.

Notice the finishing work on the trim, in the hall closet the trim falls out.

The window - unfinished, no trim and notice the gap in the wood in the center of the sill.



Materials (paid for) by Mrs. G’s house at 2324-26 C__ Street in New Orleans:

7. Baseboards
(With the exception of 1-1/2 rooms of installation - NOT INSTALLED - some base boards were left in pile on the floor in the kitchen)





"Flooring shall include a plywood base and a topping veneer over all of the house’s approximate 1600’ square feet of interior floor space."

(Note: I have been told by other contractors who have come to estimate fixing Mrs. G's house so that she can move in, that the type of veneer Rebuild Green used on her floors absorbs water, to put down a carpet over it to avoid water getting on it and that if there is another flood the floors will be destroyed. In my opinion, if this is true, then putting in these floors was not a “green” solution.)




Materials (paid for) by Mrs. G’s house at 2324-26 C__ Street in New Orleans:

7. Baseboards
(NOT INSTALLED with the exception of 1-1/2 rooms)



The sheet rock is already cracking and it is bowed out. I have been told by contractors that this needs to be repaired.




Materials (paid for) by Mrs. G’s house at 2324-26 C___ Street in New Orleans:

7. Baseboards
(NOT INSTALLED with the exception 1-1/2 rooms)



"Walls and Ceiling shall include sheetrock to cover the ceiling and all studs in the fully gutted house." "Painting and taping included. "




* * * * * *

"Materials (paid for) by Mrs. G’s house at 2324-26 C__ Street in New Orleans:"


"10. Ceiling fans"
(NEVER RECEIVED - NOR INSTALLED)

* * * * * *



From the contract:
"Electrical shall include the house’s power boxes, it’s interior wires, circuits, outlets and switches:"





Hmmm... the wire hanging out of the ceiling? I was told by an electrician that a carlon box is supposed to be there so a light can be hung. I believe this is part of the electrical in the contract.




Some of the windows were left with no glass in the panes. Notice how the light comes through the framing of the window in the last picture?

Question: if the wood was salvageable around the windows where the flood waters did reach, why was all the wood crown molding removed where the flood waters did not reach? And if gutting was done (and charged for - see terms of contract) why was it not done on the 2 back rooms where there is wood slats and where a mold problem is now developing?



Although the picture is not of good quality - I give thanks to the volunteer who took some of these photo's on behalf of Mrs. G in March before I met her - it shows the wood gutted out of the house. Mrs. G tells me that the floors used to be tongue and groove oak and the crown molding Mrs. G told me, was beautiful.


So I will ask this question on behalf of Mrs. G again - "Why was the crown molding on the ceiling which had no water damage due to flooding removed and tossed into this pile and the wood molding around the windows which was under water left?"


And guess who hauled out most of this wood to the curb?
A 74 year old woman, a couple of pieces at a time each day.



"Sprayed on popcorn "style ceiling - which was then painted. The paint is peeling and needs to be scraped and repainted. Another repair Mrs. G is now responsible for.



Again, I am no contractor or builder, but why would you spray on "popcorn" in a bathroom shower and then paint it? It is already peeling and she hasn't even used it. Imagine what it will be like after taking showers and baths when water and steam get built up on the ceiling. Am I wrong about this?





From the contract:
Plumbing shall include a cleaning out of all existing pipes and the installation of faucets, toilet, and bathtub.

(These are the original bathtubs. Did Rebuild Green mean that they would install a new tub? Why write in the contract that you would install a tub if the tubs are already in the home? All that was done to the tubs was to leave them a mess, each has to be refinished.).


Notice the lack of a shower head - faucets?




Materials (paid for) by Mrs. G’s house at 2324-26 C__ Street in New Orleans:


12. Sink
(TO MY KNOWLEDGE - NEVER INSTALLED IN ANY OF THE BATHROOMS)

Sinks were not installed - with out the sink - faucets cannot be installed.


From the contract:
Plumbing shall include a cleaning out of all existing pipes and the installation of faucets, toilet, and bathtub.



Materials (paid for) by Mrs. G’s house at 2334-26 C__ Street in New Orleans:


From the contract:
2. Kitchen cabinets, floor to sink, 3’ to 4’ high and composing a total length of 12’ feet for each kitchen of the double shotgun house.

(NOT COMPLETED NOR BOUGHT)


The only reason there is a kitchen sink and cabinets is thanks to the volunteers from Plenty Inernational Sarah, Stu and Nate and the college kids from Chicago.


They are not responsible for the horrible tile work - the tile work was done by another contractor who did not even level it, grout it and left it unfinished. The contractor, Sterling Contractors was paid.


Sterling Contractors was also responsible for hanging the light fixtures and finishing the electric and trim work. The electric was not finished nor was the trim and 3 out of the 4 fans hung did not work as they were improperly hung.


The "ungutted" back rooms:




From the contract:
Walls and Ceiling shall include sheetrock to cover the ceiling and all studs "IN THE FULLY GUTTED HOUSE" . Painting and taping included.


See the wood slats in these back rooms? Even I know that water will sit in between the studs and these pourous walls if the house has been flooded.


This house was NOT FULLY GUTTED as stated in the contractural agreement - "fully gutted house" - now there is a growing mold problem that could eventually make Mrs. G very ill.



The back room.



The following photo's are from the left side of her home. She owns a double shotgun - on the contract under materials purchased it states:


Materials (paid for) by Mrs. G’s house at 2324-26 C__ Street in New Orleans:

The following are photo's of the uncompleted work done by Rebuild Green on the 2324 side of the house:







Materials (paid for) by Mrs. G’s house at 2324-26 C__ Street in New Orleans:



From the contract:
2. Kitchen cabinets, floor to sink, 3’ to 4’ high and composing a total length of 12’ feet for each kitchen of the double shotgun house.

(NOT COMPLETED NOR BOUGHT)




From the contract:
Plumbing shall include a cleaning out of all existing pipes and the installation of faucets, toilet, and bathtub.

Materials (paid for) by Mrs. G’s house at 2334-26 Congress Street in New Orleans:


12. Sink
(NEVER INSTALLED IN EITHER BATHROOMS)


13. Three face bowls

(?) I am unsure of this. I know Mrs. G bought 2 vanity/sinks since I have been helping her. There is one broken "face bowl" sitting on the floor in her bathroom.







The only reason these doors are secure from people breaking in and sleeping in this section of the house is because in early June of this year, Stu who was with Plenty at the time, took care of them for her. No one has broken into her house since.



Materials (paid for) by Mrs. G’s house at 2324-26 C__ Street in New Orleans:

7. Baseboards
(NOT INSTALLED)



From the contract:
"Electrical shall include the house’s power boxes, it’s interior wires, circuits, outlets and switches."




(Again - I am no contractor or builder - but to me the last 2 electrical outlets - I am amazed as to how they were cut into the wall and then left. It seems like sloppy work in my opinion - 2 of them are not even screwed in one is just on the bottom!)




* * * * * *
"Materials (paid for) by Mrs. G’s house at 2324-26 C__ Street in New Orleans:"

"10. Ceiling fans"
(NEVER RECEIVED - NOR INSTALLED)


* * * * * *


I have typed the following as written from the original documents with the contract from Rebuild Green:

Materials (paid for) by Mrs. G’s house at 2324-26 C__ Street in New Orleans

1. 100 panels of 4’by 8’ sheet rock


2. Kitchen cabinets, floor to sink, 3’ to 4’ high and composing a total length of 12’ feet for each kitchen of the double shotgun house.

3. 50 pounds of Joint Compound

4. 600 square feet of laminate flooring

5. 400 square feet of ceramic tiles

6. Six 5-pound tubs of grout

7. Baseboards

8. Outlets, switches


9. Alarm


10. Ceiling fans


11. Heater tubing


12. Sink

13. Three face bowls




From the Contract between Mrs. G and Don Paul

President of Rebuild Green in the Common Ground Community Development Corporation:


“Rebuild Green shall repair and renovate four aspects of the house’s interior: Electrical, Plumbing, Walls and Ceiling, and Flooring so that each becomes functional so that the house becomes habitable for Mrs. G.”



Electrical shall include the house’s power boxes, it’s interior wires, circuits, outlets and switches.

Plumbing shall include a cleaning out of all existing pipes and the installation of faucets, toilet, and bathtub.

Walls and Ceiling shall include sheetrock to cover the ceiling and all studs in the fully gutted house. Painting and taping included.

Flooring shall include a plywood base and a topping veneer over all of the house’s approximate 1600’ square feet of interior floor space.



All materials included in the $18k price.



The work and schedule of payments shall priced on a stage-by-stage basis.
November 14, 2006: Gutting of ceiling to begin--to be completed in tree days.
First payment, $2000 to Rebuild Green


November 20, 2006: Plumbing and electrical to begin
Second payment, $5000 to Rebuild Green


November 27, 2006: Plumbing and electrical to continue-- to be completed by December 2, 2006. Third payment, $5000, to Rebuild Green

December 4, 2006: Expected completion of all aspects of renovation by December 10, 2006.
Fourth payment, $6000, to Rebuild Green



“It is thus Rebuild Green’s intention to do the work for $18,000 total (about 1/3 the amount estimated to do the work by a General Contractor on November 10, 2006). Rebuild Green reserves the right to add $2000 to its charges if unforeseen expenses arise in the course of renovation.


Mrs. G paid in full she estimates about $22,oooo. The checks she paid with had disappeared so I took her to her bank and we asked the bank to make copies of the bank statements when the checks were written, so she has proof that she paid in full and then some. ..



On the last page of the contract:


“…Rebuild Green recognizes the tremendous contributions and possibilities that M__ G__ has as a leader for an Upper 9th Ward community which urgently needs the kind of vigorous, compassionate engagement she can offer. We remain hopeful that we can fulfill our intention of making this house a fine base for her life and work.”


Don Paul President of Rebuild Green
in the Common Ground Community Development Corporation.



Why it means something to me when a non-profit claims that it is "they" who are serving the elderly, women, the poor and are against exploitation and fraud and then this happens to an elderly, African American woman they are claiming to protect and uphold:


"In the Upper 9th Ward Last weekend fifteen home-owners of New Orleans' Upper 9th Ward agreed to consult with Rebuild Green and Invest Construction of the Common Ground Collective on rebuilding or repairing their houses in a sustainable way.

All of these home-owners are elderly or middle-aged and eleven are women. All are African-American and all are long-time residents of New Orleans. All, too, report the same story in terms of difficulty in accessing the funds they need to begin or complete work on their homes.
...These 9th Ward residents' problems are reminders that the battle for New Orleans remains ongoing. The forces contesting for this city are now to a stage of the battle less obvious than when Black and Brown residents were abandoned in floodwaters or refused the right of return to their homes. The message from above these residents to them, however, still is: You don't matter. Or, at best: You matter less than other people.

Rebuild Green and Invest Construction of the Common Ground Collective want to address these problems head-on. We want to build safe, strong housing that can withstand the next hurricane and flooding. We want to use recycled materials. We want to offer renewable-energy features and geo-thermal heating and air-conditioning. We want to employ low-income communities in a sane, equitable, humane reconstruction of their city. "

We're already doing some part of all the above tasks. With the help of donors such as yourself, we've begun to make material progress. Clearer and clearer to us, however, is the reality that we have a lot more to do and that good changes can only come through independent, uncompromised, non-exploitative means.



Mrs. G tells me, "this hurts her the most," she feels betrayed. She told me "Malik of Common Ground and Don Paul of Rebuild Green promised me that my house would be a 'showcase' house for Common Ground and the community."



"People see this car and think I have money. It is all I got left. I am on a monthly income from Social Security."

"I am just tired".

"It grieves my spirit, it leaves me very upset that I am still living in this trailer after I gave Don Paul Rebuild Green all my money."


I can't end this blog posting with the words IN PEACE - for I am not. My heart is deeply troubled and I am angry. To paraphrase a qoute of Miss Elizabeth's: I feel the anger of one who witnesses injustice committed upon another by those who claim for all to hear that "they" come in the name of ending injustice".



Oh, I have suffered

With those that I saw suffer!


--Shakespeare - The Tempest