Open spaces shrinking

Open spaces are being fast encroached upon in Athens – the city with the least amount of greenery per inhabitant in the European Union. «We are having to defend the self-evident,» said Professor G. Polyzos of the National Technical University of Athens, speaking at a press conference on Thursday to mark today’s celebration of World Environment Day, organized by the Hellenic Society for the Protection of the Environment and Cultural Heritage, the Coordinating Committee of Groups for the Protection of Athens’s Open Spaces and Quality of Life, and the Goudi Park Committee. «In no other country have there been attempts to encroach to such an extent on open areas. Yet in such a densely populated city like Athens, people are being forced to fight to preserve them,» said the professor. For instance, the park at Goudi is the only large open space remaining within Athens’s municipal boundaries. Although the National Technical University has drawn up a preliminary study for the Athens Organization for a metropolitan park there, it has not yet been formally adopted. Nor is the general city plan being implemented, which does provide for a park on the site. Instead, the site is being broken up and built upon and there are plans to locate the new Panathinaikos Soccer Stadium there. This evening at 7 p.m., at the entrance to the Military Park on Katehaki Avenue, a rally is being held to appeal for the preservation of park at Goudi and other open spaces. Philopappou In central Athens, Philopappou Hill opposite the Acropolis is being fenced in, and it still seems likely that admission fees will soon be charged. Although the Culture Ministry says there has never been any intention to do so, the local residents’ association has just released a 1999 announcement by the office for the Unification of Athens Archaeological Sites (EAXA), which in fact does refer to such plans. Local residents charge that the Culture Ministry’s latest statement is not of a binding nature. They have also opposed the fencing, questioning the Culture Ministry’s argument that the fence will stop encroachment on the hill. They note that for years now the Dionysos cafe and restaurant has been encroaching upon its surroundings. Other areas At the Rizari park, despite a Council of State decision canceling the PASOK government’s grant of 1.25 hectares to the Goulandris Museum for the construction of a Museum of Modern Art, the same government went ahead with the relevant legislative amendment. At the Pedion tou Areos, the Panhellenic Gymnastic Association has illegally extended its installations into the park. Even though demolition orders have been issued, the municipality has not enacted them. Finally, the National Gymnastic Association has cited the needs of the Olympic Games in illegally expanding into the archaeological site of the Temple of Olympian Zeus. There are even reports of plans to build a car park within the Zappeion grounds. Other plans include the the demolition of former refugee apartment blocks on Alexandras Avenue. The site opposite, where the soccer stadium now stands, is being claimed by the Church of Greece, and the Athens Concert Hall is laying claim to yet more of Eleftherias Park on Vassilissis Sofias Avenue.