Monday, March 19, 2007


Dear NOLA,

Thank you. For no place has left such an impression on me, not the way you have. We have only spent four short weeks together over the past year and three months, but it feels like I have known you forever. I came to you on a whim and now I cannot imagine my life without you. Whether it was slight of hand or twist of fate, in January 2006 I arrived in the land of the Saints, though you looked more like you had been through hell. I went to you to help, but I feel that I got more from you than I could ever put in. Because of you I have met some of the most amazing people and heard unbelievable stories. You have given me so much – experiences, perspective, and friends – how could I ever hope to repay you.

From bulldozing confrontations to intervening in ICE raids to the sham of “first appearances”, you have burned these images in my brain. But more than that, with your culture, style and warmth you have woven yourself into my soul. I know I will see you again NOLA, even if right now I do not know when.

Remember the first time we met NOLA? Sleeping on the cots at St. Luke’s, driving (the long way) to Tulane for showers, the Hope House. It was a chilly January and you looked like a ghost town. There was debris everywhere along the streets, abandoned cars under the highway overpasses, and destroyed houses for miles. You have come a long way NOLA, now the abandoned cars are gone, the streets are cleaner, and there is some rebuilding. But there is much work to be done.

This is not goodbye NOLA, it is “see you later”. I will not forget you and will continue to tell your story so that others will not forget. I will not let them forget. I will send others to come see you because that is the only way to comprehend what has happened to you.

No words can express what I feel for you
Or the impact you have made on me
Lucky am I, to have met you
Admiration is what I have for you

Never will I forget you
Overcome I know you will
Let all come see that you are still here
A spirit like yours cannot be killed.

Until we meet again NOLA take care of yourself.


Sunday, March 18, 2007

Fordham SHN Pictures on Flickr

Hello everyone, and welcome home! I had a great time this Spring Break and hope you all did too. Here is one of the pictures from our trip:

I've posted most of them on my Flickr site. Check them out at:
See you all at school!

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Fourth Amendment Project at the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center

Greetings From the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center ("LCAC")! Today we finished up our fifth and final day of work at the LCAC in New Orleans. Our crew consisted of Fordham students Anamaria, Phil, Jeremy and Deana, as well as two students from George Mason, Andrea and Stefan. Our project has been loosely named the "Fourth Amendment Project." In the words of our supervising attorney on the project Richard Burke, the Fourth Amendment has gone out the window in New Orleans post-Katrina. Not that it meant all that much beforehand, but with the rising rates of violent incidents after the storms, police misconduct seems to have increased to levels above what already existed.

To give some background, every month there are roughly 1,100 arrests in this city. After each arrest, a suspect is given a bond hearing and is detained for up to sixty days if they can't pay. The costs of each arrest are substantial. For taxpayers, the costs are obvious -- something on the order of $23 per day per prisoner. But the real costs are paid by the people picked up in the dragnet. On our first day we were told the story of a wheelchair-bound client who required catheters to use the bathroom, and needed to change them multiple times a day. He was picked up for assault (figure that out?!) and dropped into Orleans Parish Prison ("OPP"), where he couldn't get the medical attention he needed. Eventually he developed a serious urinary tract infection, aggravated by the amount of time he was neglected in the system.

The postscript to that story is not unfamiliar: he was never charged and ultimately was released after suffering pain and humiliation to the benefit of no-one but the sheriff's office. It's a pattern that marks the NOPD's response to the rising crime rate throughout the city: target minor crimes, mostly petty drug possession, to get at the major offenders. Many of the arrests were improper in the first place, and 65% of the cases are never prosecuted. Aside from being an apalling waste of resources, the result is program that overwhelmingly sweeps up young African-American men in the poorest neighborhoods in the city, processing them through a system that produces more offending behavior than it reduces.

The Fourth Amendment Project was really designed to illuminate the costs of this approach by showing how NOPD officers disregard the Fourth Amendment when they arrest people for these minor offenses, and how magistrates reviewing those arrests have abdicated their duty to ensure probable cause existed for the arrests in the first place. Preliminary indications made the attorneys down here at LCAC suspect that some percentage of these arrests were unsupported by probable cause and were not caught by the magistrates, unecessarily increasing the human costs of processing people through the system. Right now in the beginning stages, the project is something of a triage exercise. We have looked through all the arrest reports made available to us for January 2007 to gauge the sufficiency of the arresting officers' affidavits. We've found some pretty obvious deficiencies and, without spoiling the surprise, can pretty safely say that the results have been unsettling so far. Hopefully, the data will prod the NOPD and the Orleans Parish magistrates into changing the way things work down here to the benefit of the entire community -- rich or poor, black or white.

As an endnote, we all feel really lucky to have had the opportunity to get involved in this project and extend the most sincere expressions of thanks and gratitude to the LCAC attorneys both for taking up such a worthy cause, and for letting us participate in it.

--Fordham SHN LCAC Contingent

Look Out Corner Bistro...

Hello from New Orleans! As it turns out it's been difficult to find time to blog while we've been out here, but there will be posts coming very soon! I thought I'd kick off the blogging by celebrating a couple of my favorite food picks from this (and other) trips:

Pick #1: The cheeseburger (medium-rare) from Port of Call, on Esplanade and Dauphine. Served along with the first baked potato I've ever loved, here it is in all its splendor:

I think what really makes it is the mountain of grated cheddar cheese. Also, in case you're curious, the drink on the right is a "Red Turtle," which I see fit to point out because of the recent success of my very own Maryland Terrapins -- GO TERPS! Others were big fans of the "Neptune's Monsoon," Port of Call's version of the Hurricane. If you find yourself in New Orleans, by all means try some Jambalaya, Gumbo and all of those local favorites, but this burger is a must. Sorry to the vegetarians out there!

Pick #2: The fried chicken and jambalaya at Coop's, on Decatur. I've been there an embarassing number of times over the past 4 trips here, but I can't help it - it's so good! The first night here Phil and I dragged Joe Cruz over to enjoy Abitas and our favorite meal, and I think we have a convert. The jambalaya has rabbit and andouille sausage. If you go to Coop's, be sure to look for PickaPeppa sauce to go with your meal (it's not always on the table). I've been known to have it shipped to my apartment (from Jamaica) because I can't seem to find it anywhere in New York. See below:
Pick #3: This is perhaps the most obvious, but a trip here is not complete without beignets from Cafe DuMonde. They pretty much speak for themselves:

And it's open 24 hours. Glorious!

Stay tuned for more updates from the Fordham SHN crew...

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Back to NOLA!

Once again Fordham SHN returns to the Gulf Coast with the full force of 17 students and one PIRC Administrator for Spring Break. This is Fordham SHN's 4th trip to the region since December 2005. The group will be in New Orleans from Sunday March 11th until Saturday March 17th. The students will be working with the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center, the Gert Town Revival Initiative and the Road Home Heirship Affidavit Project (more info about the organizations and projects detailed below). Students will be updating our Blog throughout Spring Break. Visit us again as the week progresses to read about their experiences and accomplishments in New Orleans.

Projects for the Week:

Louisiana Capital Assistance Center:

The Louisiana Capital Assistance Center (LCAC) is a non-profit capital trial organization deeply committed to providing quality legal representation to people facing the death penalty in Louisiana. The LCAC emphasizes client-centered representation, constantly seeks to develop new and innovative advocacy strategies, and also pursues systematic litigation related to issues involving racism in the criminal justice system and lack of funding for adequate representation.

The Fordham students will be reviewing arrest affidavits to determine whether the arresting officer has stated facts that amount to probable cause, rather than stating conclusory allegations

Gert Town Revival Initiative:

The Gert Town Revival Initiative (GRI) is a non-profit, community-based organization in the Gert Town neighborhood of New Orleans whose mission is to “revitalize and develop Gert Town and the adjacent community through programs, activities, and services that will enhance the total quality of life” for neighborhood residents. Founded in 2003, GRI initially was formed to advocate for the successful clean-up of the Thompson Hayward Chemical plant which sits in the Mid-City area of New Orleans and on the edge of Gert Town. The Thompson Hayward site contains 9 million pounds of contaminants according to testimony provided by Rev. Lois Dejean, Executive Director of GRI. During Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Gert Town took on floodwaters and the physical condition of the Thompson Hayward site worsened. Working with representatives form Advocates for Environmental Human Rights and environmental expert, Wilma Subra, neighborhood residents and GRI were able to determine that much of their neighborhood has elevated contamination levels post-Katrina. In addition, due to the floodwaters of the breached levees, the neighborhood currently has many of the same rebuilding challenges of other New Orleans neighborhoods: much of the population is displaced, much of the housing stock was destroyed and there is little clear direction about how neighborhood rebuilding should proceed.

In the face of these challenges, GRI is working to revitalize this section of the City. One of their major current projects is a property inventory database that will identify and map all properties (parcels) located within the GRI boundaries; inclusive of current ownership information available from public records and blighted, vacant and adjudicated properties.

The Fordham students will be working on the property inventory database. They will be researching the GRI properties, which will involve physical mapping but also research on who owns the properties, and what the current state of the title is. These efforts will go into GRI's work on establishing a land trust.

Road Home Heirship Affidavit Project:

This project is one that SHN developed in conjunction with the New Orleans Legal Assistance Center (NOLAC), a nonprofit civil free legal aid program which has served the Greater New Orleans community and Louisiana for 36 years. This project (which our very own Hillary Exter has been instrumental in developing!) will have students interviewing residents and preparing affidavits to help expedite the process of applying for and being granted funds through the Road Home Program. To enroll in the Road Home Program, applicants need to secure clear title and establish home ownership, which NOLAC and the Fordham Students will be helping them do.

For more information about Student Hurricane Network visit:

Or contact us at: