OPINION

How many ‘private islands’ can we take?

How many ‘private islands’ can we take?

The recent modification of a joint ministerial decision regarding the areas designated for urban development on the site of the former Athens airport at Elliniko on the capital’s southern coast naturally caused controversy.

Lamda Development, which won a government tender for the redevelopment of the site in 2014, said in a statement that construction of the 22-kilometer bike path will go forward as planned. It also said that the latest tweaks, as well as the increase of green areas, will facilitate on-foot access to the seafront. However, it is worth asking why citizens treat all talk of modification with skepticism. (It should be noted at this point that the strongest reactions on social media came from people who are keep supporters of the Elliniko project.)

Thanks to the furor sparked by Kathimerini’s report, it became clear that a considerable stretch of the seaside walkway and bike path that were announced by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in June will not actually run along the actual seafront. The route will basically run parallel to the existing tram tracks, which means that the Elliniko stretch will offer no view of the sea. The same will probably apply in the part of Glyfada which will host the soon-to-be-redeveloped Asteria resort (a project managed by the One&Only resort chain).

The route will basically run parallel to the existing tram tracks, which means that the Elliniko stretch will offer no view of the sea

According to a CNN report, the new luxury resort will offer “the relaxation and tranquility of a beachfront gateway” and feel “like it’s on its own private island.” The truth is there is no shortage of “private islands” along what is admittedly the most beautiful sections of the so-called Athens Riviera. A large area of Vouliagmeni falls into that category. The same goes for segments of the coastline all the way to Cape Sounio: private homes, residential complexes, beach bars, recreational areas, ouzeri tavernas and so on essentially block public access to the sea. This is the main reason why most people remain skeptical: Attica is full of such “private islands.”

In the case of Elliniko, the statement by Lamda aims to reassure critics that pedestrians and cyclists will enjoy full and free access along the coastline, all of it, including the coastal residential zone between the main pedestrian walkway and the seafront.

We desperately need such a large investment to be inspired by values that have been so brutally trampled on in other, more difficult times.