Athens Moves to Clean Up Grimy Exarchia, High-End Kolonaki

In this photo taken on Monday Feb. 17, 2014, the work 'Athens Burning' by Indonesian-born street artist WD, is seen on the front of a fire-gutted building in the Exarchia area of central Athens. Greece has attracted international street artists to its capital, due to the availability of commissioned work and relatively lax anti-graffiti law. (AP Photo/Dimitri Messinis)

ATHENS – They’re adjacent neighborhoods but couldn’t be more different – anarchist-ridden Exarchia that is covered in graffiti and the luxury shopping area of Kolonaki, but both will be cleanups as part of a spiffing-up of the Greek capital.

After the New Democracy government sent riot police into Exarchia to empty squats and cut down on crime – apart from foreign gangs roaming around smashing car windows and looting the interiors – Mayor Kostas Bayoyannis said he wants to spruce it up.

That came after plans were being made to transform Exarchia Square, one of the most popular in the city for its off-beat, laid-back nature that is worlds apart from the expensive cafes and stores in Kolonaki, which will also be prettified, said Kathimerini.

February will also see the opening of a renovated Omonia Square under Bakoyiannis, essentially undoing a previous makeover when his mother, Dora Bakoyianni was mayor, which was widely panned for being a dirty cement redo.

There have been similar cleanups in recent weeks in Metaxourgeio, Votanikos and Petralona and crews were sent into Exarchia and Kolonaki to wash roads and take away trash but there’s not been any reported plans to do anything about buildings covered with generations of filth, crime and graffiti.

The cleaning campaigns have been carried out on Sundays as heavy traffic make the roads virtually inaccessible on weekdays and Bakoyiannis that would keep happening to try to keep the areas clean.

“What is changing in the capital is (people’s) understanding of the need for daily life to be civilized,” he said after the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA was criticized for condoning lawlessness and dirty urban areas.

The municipal teams will continue their work, the Mayor said,, stressing that the initiative was City Hall’s way of ensuring “the citizens’ right to enjoy their city, clean,” the paper also reported.