NEWS

Bakoyannis did not deliver on promises for more green space

Greenery in the city: During her election campaign, Bakoyannis had promised to plant 10,000 trees in her four-year term. According to her account, 16,298 trees (5,000 of them in areas previously unplanted and in restoration works) and 117,000 shrubs were planted between 2003 and 2005. Every year, meanwhile, 600,000 flowering plants were put in the ground. Yet this does not counterbalance the tons of concrete that covered Athens during the previous three years of rampant construction. Athens has only 2 square meters of greenery for each person, a figure even less than the amount during 1984-2000, when there was approximately 2.5 square meters. By comparison, London, Rome and Paris have 9 sq.m., Warsaw has 18 sq.m. and Bonn 35 sq.m. per inhabitant. There have been complaints about the species of trees planted, such as water-dependent plane trees on dry Panepistimiou Street, as well as the lack of care in maintaining them. Elaionas, Goudi: The municipal council has boasted that its investment plan in the Panathinaikos football stadium at Elaionas «creates a modern business and cultural nerve center with a great deal of urban greenery that will attract a considerable part of Athens’s development potential to a district with excellent transport infrastructure.» However the plan for Elaionas – the last chance to preserve nature in the heart of a concrete jungle, as provided for in repeated but unimplemented presidential decrees – has been quashed. The construction that is to sweep through Elaionas’s 900 hectares cannot be hidden behind the 12 hectares of greenery provided for in the Panathinaikos commercial and sporting center. On a more positive note, 1.7 hectares of greenery are to be created on Alexandras Avenue near the city center after the removal of the Panathinaikos football stadium. Fortunately, initial proposals for a 2,000 square meter commercial center have been shelved. As for the Goudi Municipal Park, Bakoyannis has not done anything about setting it up, but in fact agreed to allow the construction of Olympic installations, which are not temporary but permanent structures. Open public spaces: The council has also done very little to open up more public space, apart from the 2 hectares in the Lagoumitzi district of Neos Cosmos, the old AB cinema in Patissia and the demolition of the old Thermis factory in Rizoupoli – a poor harvest for three years. Nor did Bakoyannis do anything to set in motion an aggressive and ambitious plan to defend every meter of open space. She did not adopt a proposal by the municipality’s Staff and Technical Services Union to declare that «each remaining open space should not be used for anything else than public green space.» The union suggested making an inventory of these spaces and tabling legislative amendments that would allow those belonging to public organizations to be transferred to the municipality, and to establish an eight-year expropriation program. However, the municipality has done something to improve existing parks such as the National Garden and the Police Academy Park, and to refurbish some public squares such as at the Varvakeios Market. Generally, however, a trend toward commercialization has led to some monstrosities. For example, the Varvakeios square is overshadowed by an enormous music center, built without a license right in front of the Municipal Police Headquarters.