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Google Street View Doesn't Show Current New Orleans Landscape, Locals Say
New Orleanians saw FEMA trailers and ever-present dumpsters and many of the houses that looked like they were about to fall over disappear over the last six years of recovery. But there's a version of New Orleans where the remnants of the Federal Flood are still ever-present. Google Street View, the Google Maps feature that offers block-by-block browsing via photographs of the street, hasn't been updated for New Orleans since 2007, and it hasn't gone unnoticed. In order to show Silicon Valley how far we've come, newly up-and-running local blog NOLA Street View is setting out to document what's changed.
Carrying the unequivocally clear message: "Update Google Street View in New Orleans!" the blog, which shows photos of New Orleans properties on Google Street View side-by-side with what the lots look like now, is the brainchild of locals Hunter King and Annalisa Kelly. Aside from casual browsing - of which Kelly is a devotee - the Google tool is used largely for apartment hunting and exploration of the city from afar. The pair argues that the outdated photos do a disservice to those involved in those activities, as well as the general perception of the city and the recovery.
The dissonance between what was shown on Google and what was in the real world was evident to King, a 26-year-old New Orleans native, a mere two blocks from a former apartment where he stayed in Mid-City. Located on S. Scott Street, the home now stands as what he sees as a testament to remodeling in the city.
"When you look at it on Street View there's a big honkin' dumpster there and you can't even see the house, " he said in a recent interview.
For the past few weeks, King and Annalisa Kelly have been taking to the streets mostly by bike, taking pictures of what's changed. In some photos, houses that looked destroyed are replaced by new houses or businesses, or at the very least repairs that make them look new. One picture from Bunny King Park in the 9th Ward shows a park that used to house FEMA trailers. Now, it's a baseball field.
And it's not only the changes that are unequivocally viewed as a good thing that they're documenting. The blog points out housing projects that have since been torn down amid controversy are also still shown on the Google feature. Same goes for the area inside LSU-VA Footprint, where houses are still standing on Google Street View, but not in the blog's more current photos. Kelly said they want Google to show what New Orleans looks like now "whether it's in positive or negative ways."
Most of the local images now appearing on Street View are dated 2007 (Google says some are dated 2007, as well), when the team came through and updated in the wake of the Federal Flood. But the same care that they took to show how the landscape changed then should also be applied now, the duo said.
"There's still tons of blight in this city," Kelly said. "That said, five years after a natural disaster is a huge amount of time for change. And there has been a lot of change."
Strikingly, the Street View maps don't always line up with other Google features. King said browsers are able to take a "virtual tour" inside of Kajun's Pub and see what it looks like today.
But, on Google, "as soon as you go out into the world it's 2007 again," he said.
Similarly, the Google trike was also recently spotted in City Park and at Tulane University updating the search engine's features that allows virtual exploration of paths.
King said that while documenting the change is an interesting project, the ulitmate goal is to see an immediate update to the Street View feature.
"If they update tomorrow, it's been fun," he said.
Google spokeswoman Deanna Yick said Google plans to update "over time."
"I'm not able to share details about our Street View schedules or timing, but we're aware of many areas throughout the U.S. including New Orleans that have outdated imagery, and do plan on refreshing it over time," she wrote.
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