Tribble C. Homeowner Story – It All Starts With You

By Skylar Hughes 

Time is running out to address climate change, and New Orleans is no exception. With rising sea levels, increased storm surges, and a disappearing coast, the outlook seems dire. But one local resident tapped into her optimism and became part of the solution. Her name is Tribble Condor.

The devastation of the Lower Ninth Ward after Hurricane Katrina was nothing short of catastrophic. “We had 26 feet of water in this area alone. Nowhere else had 26 feet of water,” says Condor.” The costliest storm to ever hit the United States, Hurricane Katrina completely uprooted the historically Black community.

The Lower Ninth Ward was classified as a low-risk flood zone the year that Hurricane Katrina hit, leaving many residents without flood insurance. It was a time of peril, and the city’s response was deemed inadequate at the individual level. Even now, after routine flooding, the need for monetary compensation often goes unmet. “They (the City) put you on this list to get money back after a flood. Girl, you’ll never get a dollar back. I’ve been on this list for years, and I ain’t seen a dime. The city doesn’t have any money.”

Since the catastrophe of these hurricanes, Condor has made it her mission to sustain her family’s intergenerational home. She routinely researches flooding and standing water solutions, to assist herself where policymakers won’t. “I’m always trying to stay informed on sustainable living, to preserve my parents and grandparents’ home.” 

Condor’s aim for personal action against the environmental crisis is becoming increasingly more prevalent nationwide. A study from Pew Research found that 4 in 5 people are now willing to make changes to how they live in order to reduce the effects of global climate change. 

Citizens in some of the world’s most vulnerable cities, such as New Orleans, want to be part of the solution, but many don’t know where to start. Research from Media Matters for America found that as of 2018, only 1 in 5 climate news articles even mentioned solutions.

During Condor’s research, she stumbled upon one of the leading solutions for property flooding- green infrastructure. “I didn’t even really know what that was, but I emailed them [the Urban Conservancy] anyway. Within 24 hours, I was in contact.” Green infrastructure refers to stormwater management systems that mimic nature by soaking up and storing stormwater, such as rain gardens, permeable pavement, and green roofs. Data from various studies in the U.S. show that extensive green infrastructure is able to capture more than 80 percent of the runoff generated annually by storms.

While some neighborhoods in New Orleans, such as Gentilly, have access to government-funded grant programs for flood mitigation, many neighborhoods such as the Lower Ninth Ward do not. “Everyone over there has the french drains, the gardens, and the water systems. We live 12 minutes away and we don’t. It’s sad,” says Condor.

With systemic disparities such as this, many residents in the Lower Ninth Ward were unaware of solutions such as green infrastructure, “If you’re not used to having access to this stuff, or you’re not familiar with the proper terminology, you’re never going to find out about these things. Some don’t have the knowledge to research ‘sustainable living’ or ‘water mitigation’. It’s our job to introduce that to them,” Condor stresses.

With innovative programs such as the Urban Conservancy’s Front Yard Initiative-Direct, solutions such as green infrastructure are becoming more accessible to these communities. “It’s very accessible because it’s a grant. You don’t have to worry about coming up with money.”

FYI-Direct makes green infrastructure accessible by fully funding small-scale residential projects for residents who experience the worst consequences of flooding, but aren’t in a position to address it. The UC directly hires local Black-owned businesses to design and build residential nature-based installations. 

Condor has nothing but positive feedback for the Urban Conservancy’s FYI-Direct. “Honey, my experience with them was just off the chain- truly a beautiful experience. I love them.”

Condor worked with contracting team Mastodonte, a Black woman-owned company, to remove 240 square feet of paving and install rain gardens full of native, water-loving plants and 110 cubic feet of French drains. Her property now absorbs 900 gallons of water when it rains. “Even my neighbor was amazed. The water just subsides into the ground, so nothing holds on my property.”

Condor believes that everyone in the Lower Ninth Ward should look into green infrastructure. “Do your research. You are going to love it,” she maintains. “I cannot stop glowing about it.” Her property experiences significantly less flooding than before her installation, and now serves as a proof that individual action really can make a difference.

This is the second in a series of stories focused on flood mitigation efforts by Lower Ninth Ward homeowners in partnership with the Urban Conservancy written by Skylar Hughes, a Robertson Fellow and rising sophomore at Duke University. The Robertson Scholars Program is a joint undergraduate scholarship program between Chapel Hill and Duke University.

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