Private Donors Funding Dirty Athens Neighborhoods Cleanup

(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris, FILE)

ATHENS – With tourists starting to arrive, greeted by filthy buildings, graffiti and grime in some of the Greek capital’s most visited neighborhoods, private benefactors are pitching in to clean up what they can, with no assurance they won’t be covered up again by so-called street artists making statements on walls with paint, political or otherwise.

City officials said the project will target building facades in the capital’s so-called historic triangle where many buildings are covered with graffiti and decades of grime and neglect, posters and other blemishes, said Kathimerini.

Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis said that “8,300 square meters of facades, some of which are architectural treasures of the city, have already been cleaned of blemishes and illegal posters and have been covered with protective anti-tagging material.”

Residents of areas such as Monastiraki and Psyrri that especially popular with tourists drawn by their character, color and restaurants and coffee shops, have long long complained of neglect, dirty streets and indifference on the part of municipal authorities.

The city said it also wants to take control from the Attica Regional Governor of the major Pedion tou Areos park that has been allowed to deteriorate for years after a costly renovation, with drug dealers, prostitutes and criminals taking reign in some parts.

NEEDLE PARK

Ironically, there are also plans to set up drug areas where addicts can shoot up without police interference and violate drug laws with the blessing of officials who want to get the out of other areas.

Residents in the downtown Athens areas of Kypseli, Pedion tou Areos, Votanikos, Plaka, Exarchia, Kolonaki and other neighborhoods sent a letter to the government and the municipal authority protesting plans to let drug users inject narcotics under the supervision of trained staff taking part in otherwise unlawful acts.

“Having suffered terribly from the degradation caused by drug dealing hot spots over the past decade, we declare that we will not comply to the operation of such ‘experiments’ in our neighborhood ever again,” 14 citizens’ groups said in their open letter, which was distributed to the media, the paper reported in March.

The Health Ministry said it wants to reduce the chance of overdoses and infections from dirty needles and give addicts a place to shoot up with access to health and psychological support services, by creating supervised injection areas in cities.

The critics said that won’t stop crime associated with drug use and as addicts have long been taking drugs in the open, including near universities and museums and even near police stations without being stopped.

The associations said the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA and city officials would be condoning crime and drug use and “acknowledging drug addiction as a ‘right’ and a ‘way of life’,” while also pointing to the alleged failure of methadone clinics to curb drug rampant dealing and use in parts of the city center.

The supervised areas will be run by experts from the Organization Against Drugs (OKANA), the Therapy Center for Dependent Individuals (KETHEA), and the Athens and Thessaloniki psychiatric hospitals, who will also encourage users to enter a rehabilitation program.