It’s rare that you get a guided tour through still unfolding carnage. Imagine walking through Aceh right after the tsunami or New Orleans while the rains from Katrina still fell. Lower Manhattan‘s financial crisis tour doesn’t involve as much bad weather or physical danger, but it does give you the chance to learn about the most profound financial disaster in decades in the place where it all started.
Guided by a former Wall Street insider, you’ll spend the 90 minute tour learning how some traders raked in billions in profits while entire banks came to an end. Also, you’ll be introduced to a “shadow banking system” that the government ignored until it was too late.
It’s not all mayhem down on the Street, though.
The tour will give you an overview of the history, architecture and trivia for this part of the city. The culture of the trader is wrapped up in these walls and streets – and you’ll hear all about it. But, did you know that this was once the political center of the United States? A statue of George Washington stands in front of the building from which he governed the country, staring across the street at a world of financial engineering he’d probably never be able to understand.
The tour guide, Andrew Luan, is a former Deutsche Bank vice president and traded what are now called “toxic assets.” He charges $40 a person, though children are free. Part of the proceeds goes to increasing financial literacy. Financial illiteracy is at crisis levels right now, so I applaud Luan for this. If you have become a victim of the financial crisis, The Wall Street Experience does offer weekly tours for those who can’t afford to pay.
When Democratic presidential nominee hopeful John Edwards dropped out of the race late last month, he stood in front of his supporters in New Orleans and talked about an unfortunate site he witnessed on the way into town. “We passed, under a bridge that carried the interstate,” he said, “where 100-200 homeless Americans sleep every night.”
In response, everyone’s favorite hatemonger, Bill O’Reilly, took a jab at Edwards by questioning whether the homeless enclave actually existed. “[W]e called the Edwards campaign and asked where exactly is that bridge so we could help those people. Apparently, they don’t know or they wouldn’t tell us. The Edwards campaign can’t pinpoint the bridge.” Watch a video of his response here.
Well, Bill, I was in New Orleans last week, and on the way out of town, I passed under a bridge where hundreds of tents were pitched. It’s known as “Tent City” and it’s a very, very real thing. I’d estimate that there were well over 500 tents stretching in both directions at this location alone.
If you’re interested in staying true to your word and helping those people, Bill, they can be found, among other places, under the I-10 bridge at Canal and Claiborne. In fact, here’s a map to help you get they’re a little quicker. People need help, and they’re waiting for you.
Today — on the second anniversary of hurricane Katrina — our sister site Blogging New Orleans is hosting a day-long blogothon with posts every hour detailing the ongoing rebuilding process. New Orleans has always been like a second home to me. I’ve been visiting the Big Easy at least once a year every year since 2000, and the devastating floods that ripped apart the city two years ago remain a vivid and horrifying memory even today. I can only imagine what it must have been like for those who actually lived through the disaster. Here are some interesting posts from Blogging New Orleans two-year anniversary coverage:
Mike asks, How far behind are we, really? “At Katrina+5 will the rebuild/tear down be complete? When those levee systems are ‘finished’ and I feel safe enough to think about buying house in this city, will that be the end of the recovery?”
NOLAvid: Going Back to New Orleans by Deacon John via AOL True Stories — Tonight on MyNetwork TV (formally UPN54 in New Orleans) you can watch the HD Documentary ‘Going Back to New Orleans’ at 8:00 PM EST. This movie tells the stories of various New Orleans musicians and their return to the city they love after Katrina from the point of view of Deacon John.
Head over to Blogging New Orleans to read the rest of their coverage on Katrina’s second anniversary.
A tour of post-Katrina New Orleans is dark tourism at its best.
Tours of the devastation began just a month after the levees broke, and two years later the demand is still high. The Associated Press reports that while many major downtown hotels remain closed, business is hopping for tour companies. Disaster tours once made up 99% of Isabelle Cossart’s “Tours by Isabelle’s” business. That number is down to 75%, which is good because it means that “people are starting to ask for beauty again,” Cossart says.
Tours are generally a few hours long, and pass by the Superdome, convention center, and the Lower 9th Ward. But passengers have been surprised, claiming that damaged areas look better than they expected. While the city is nowhere near full restoration, tourist numbers are healthy. Kelly Schulz, spokeswoman for the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, argues that the biggest challenges are dispelling myths [about lack of cleanup] and convincing people that New Orleans is a good place to visit.
Jazz Times Magazine has an article on some of the Katrina anniversary events taking place today and tomorrow. Should tickets still be available for the event tomorrow evening it looks as though trumpeter Wynton Marsalis will be performing live. Having joined forces with Mayor C. Ray Nagin, Marsalis, a United Nations Messenger of Peace organized the three day event and concert aims to build and promote a stronger and more beautiful New Orleans. You can show your support by either purchasing a ticket to the show or donating separately. I’d go for the music, but I like all that jazz and New Orleans too.