Pedestrianization suits all but the actual pedestrians

Adrianou Street was converted into a pedestrian precinct last April, yet pedestrians are the last people to feel the benefits. Cafe and restaurant tables and chairs have edged almost right up to the fence round the archaeological sites and in some cases have encroached on special walkways for the blind. Similar scenes meet the eye on Dionysiou Areopagitou Street. Posts erected to prevent parking have been flattened to make way for makeshift garages. No one so much as bats an eyelid. Once again, members of the Central Archaeological Council (KAS) attempted on Tuesday to find solutions to creeping illegalities in the pedestrian precincts and near the archaeological sites of Athens. The council convened after receiving requests for permission to set up premises licensed to sell food and beverages and to position tables and chairs in the pedestrian precincts of Dionysiou Areopagitou, Apostolou Pavlou, Adrianou and the square at Thiseion. Apparently, these have not been the only applications made to the archaeological service. The Culture Ministry’s general secretary, Lina Mendoni, said that the ministry «notifies the (Athens) municipality of its decision,» but explained that the ministry itself lacked the mechanism to stamp out such phenomena. From pillar to post The municipality predictably acknowledged its incapacity, knowing it was on solid ground. «What is needed is a mechanism for control which supposedly has been assigned to the municipal police,» Dimitris Zafeiriadis, director of Mayor Dora Bakoyianni’s office, said in reply to a question by Kathimerini on the point. «But there are no municipal police.» «There are 80 people for the whole of the municipality of Athens, rushing hither and thither. Of course, there is a competition in progress to select 500 municipal policemen. We estimate that the selection process will have finished by the end of the year and from April, or May at the latest, they will be on the job.» Until then, the police «exercise control as much as and in the best way they can.» But the proliferation of tables and chairs is not so much the result of lack of controls as economics, since breaking the law only brings minor penalties. «Even if violations were reported daily, legislation lays down fines somewhere in the region of 1,470-1,760 euros (500-600,000 drachmas), while a cafe or restaurant may make far more profit from illegally placed tables. Consequently, they get a permit to cover 3 square meters of sidewalk (about five places) and in the end cover 10 square meters, corresponding to 15 tables. So they make a profit out of illegality.» All this has been discussed by the minister of culture and the mayor of Athens. «The possibility is being examined of finding a solution in the Culture Ministry’s broad-ranging draft bill,» explained Zafeiriadis. The bill would confirm all extant fines and also change the legal framework for issuing permits for outside tables. Until then, given the lack of penalties, the situation is expected to become far more anarchic. Piraeus has similar problems. KAS declared itself in favor of banning five recreational establishments that border on the ancient city gates. Vareladiko, Boudoir Cafe, Morphes, Viva Zapata and Ex Anatolis will thus all be closed down. The process of expropriation of properties to make way for a large archaeological park is also under way in the area.