CAMBRIDGE, MA – Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis, in a talk at Harvard University, showed off his idea to create a newer, brighter, cleaner city and change its tarnished image as being a grimy, graffiti-covered cement municipality.
Speaking at the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies he said the plan, called Reinventing Athens, was created after speaking with local residents in his pre-election campaign last year, in which they complained about a range of problems.
“They wanted a city that was safe and secure, a city that’s clean, a city that’s well-lit, a city that they could be proud of,” he was quoted as saying by the Harvard Gazette during the event which was held Jan. 28 with reports coming now.
He said his plan includes restoring a sense of security in neglected neighborhods, reopening primary healthcare centers, reclaiming or creating green areas and banning cars from certain parts of the city, reported Kathimerini.
He earlier said the cleanups will include the unkempt anarchist-ridden stronghold of Exarchia where police have also been cracking down, emptying squats and going after drug dealers but residents complaining they are allowing gangs to smash car windows and steal.
The sprucing up will also include the abutting rich neighborood of Kolonaki as well as plans 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 relentless 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.