Brad Pitt aims to keep focus on Katrina recovery
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Calling Hurricane Katrina a "man-made disaster," actor Brad Pitt said on Tuesday he remains committed to helping the city recover from the storm.
Nearly two years after the August 29, 2005 hurricane, the "Ocean's Thirteen" star said he was at times dismayed by the pace of recovery in New Orleans, where he and partner Angelina Jolie own an elegant townhouse in the historic French Quarter.
Pitt was in the Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood to tour an ecologically sustainable single-family home being built by Global Green USA, an environmental group he backs.
The actor praised the house in the Holy Cross area of the ward as a "small victory" for efforts to rebuild the city, but said, "it's hard to find an overall victory when you see how slowly everything is still moving. And Katrina was a man-made disaster. This house is a man-made solution."
Pitt said the city's flood-protection defenses must be restored before displaced residents feel confident enough to rebuild.
"We've got to push to get these levees taken care of in the correct fashion," he told reporters at a news conference in the hurricane-ravaged working class neighborhood.
The house that Pitt toured, loosely modeled on the distinctive New Orleans "shotgun" style of long, narrow homes, will generate almost all its electricity from 28 roof-mounted solar panels, said Global Green USA president Matt Petersen.
Global Green hopes to use the house, which should be completed this fall, as a prototype for the neighborhood. Built not far from the banks of the Mississippi River and raised by three feet on concrete pilings, it is above sea level.
Some in the area, which was not as badly flooded as others in the city, are rebuilding. But a lack of funds have kept most from starting fresh.
Levee repairs are ongoing and engineers differ over how the new levees will fare in a major storm.
The environmental group has pledged to create a residential community of "green" structures, including an 18-unit, low-income apartment building near the Mississippi.
Pitt, 43, said the redevelopment project could help encourage people whose homes were destroyed in the storm to return and rebuild in a more environmentally conscious fashion.
"We knew we couldn't bring back the families and friends that were lost, bring back the heirlooms, the pictures," Pitt said. "But maybe, in the process of rebuilding, we could build something smarter, and create a better way of life for those people who live here."