Locals fight for green space in Akadimias Platonos

Believe it or not, in Akadimia Platonos, one of the capital?s most neglected neighborhoods, there is a farm that has been producing vegetables for several decades known as ?Lachanokipos,? which means vegetable garden in Greek.

This wonderful oddity, which stretches over 2.5 hectares, is very close to the archaeological site of Plato?s Academy and to the Akadimia Platonos park, and consists of plots owned by different people. It is also facing the threat of being built on as the owners are demanding that expropriation orders from 1968 and 1986 be lifted after waiting several decades to receive their compensation (3 million euros in total), which has been earmarked in the City of Athens?s budget several times over the years. The plots were originally designated to be turned into green areas or public facilities such as playing fields, but as nothing has been done yet the owners are asking that they be allowed to develop their plots.

Local residents, however, want to keep the space green. ?Such a development would represent an enormous blow to an area that is already choked with concrete and has few green spaces,? Ioulios Synadinos, a member of the Akadimia Platonos Residents? Association, told Kathimerini.

Synadinos, like the association he belongs to, views the issue of Lachanokipos in the context of the neighborhood?s general problems. ?An effort was made by the previous municipal administration, which introduced a plan for the area that was rejected by residents and which foresaw a change in the use of the land to make way for the development of retail malls and apartment blocks,? Synadinos said.

Residents had thought that they had heard the last of this proposal until, much to their surprise, on March 31 they saw a very similar one tabled by the City of Athens?s Quality of Life Committee and, what?s more, saw that it had Lachanokipos as its launch pad. In response to the locals? reaction, the proposal was withdrawn and the municipal council passed a resolution renewing the ban on new construction permits for another year, while the municipality takes the issue back to the drawing board.

?Residents are demanding that Lachanokipos be once again deemed an area of greenery and public activities, as well as that the reimbursements be made to the owners of the properties,? noted Synadinos. The association insists that the money can be found in the Green Fund, which serves as a treasury for the 260 million euros collected by the government largely from the levy imposed on owners of ?imiypaithrioi? (areas of homes which were originally planned as balconies and have been built into annexes). The money collected by the Green Fund was originally intended for the remodeling of public spaces and for the creation of green spaces in overbuilt areas.

?Our neighborhood,? said Synadinos, ?has made a significant contribution to the Green Fund as it has a lot of large new apartment blocks with imiypaithrioi. Now it is time that those funds were put to good use.? For this to happen, however, the City of Athens first needs to draft a proposal that will then be submitted to the Environment Ministry, which is in charge of the Green Fund.

From the municipality?s side, Costas Karis, an adviser to Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis, noted that special interest is being paid to Akadimia Platonos because it is one of the areas of western Athens that has the least greenery and because of its archaeological significance. He also stressed that when it comes to utilizing the Green Fund, the City of Athens needs first to study its many priorities, adding that the previous administration?s proposal will be re-examined.

What the residents hope to achieve is an overall revamp of their neighborhood, centered around the promotion of the archaeological site and the construction of a municipal museum next to it.

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