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The Cities This Week: Edition 60




A huge piece of land in Athens, once earmarked to become an urban park, has been sold off. Source: Metropolitan Park International Competition

A huge piece of land in Athens, once earmarked to become a large city park, has been sold off to private developers. Source: Metropolitan Park International Competition

ATHENS

“”Sell off your islands … and the Acropolis with it!” screamed the German tabloid Bild in 2010, in one of the most widely resented headlines of the Euro crisis. Four years on, the Greek government is probably the closest it will ever be to doing just that. It is selling off a chunk of Athens larger than Central Park and three times as large as Monaco, all for €915 million. The site, bought by Chinese conglomerate Fosun on a 99-year lease, is the Greek capital’s old Hellenikon airport, closed in 2001 and not fully redeveloped since. It has huge potential, not least because the deal obliges Fosun and its Greek partner Lamda Development to spend at least €1.25 billion developing it. Actual costs are likely to reach far higher, up to €7 billion, which would make this the largest single private investment in Greece’s history. In a country hungry for such investment, the prospect of all this development is extremely enticing. Still, there are nagging concerns. As governments across Southern Europe shed state assets to comply with austerity programs, there are fears that the airport is being sold off much too cheap, while long-term plans for the spot are summarily junked.” – Atlantic Cities

KIGALI

The mayor of Kigali, Fidele Ndayisaba, has urged city residents to turn up in large numbers and welcome foreign visitors who have come to join the nation in commemorating the 20th anniversary of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. He said Kwibuka 20 is a special event because it reminds the world of the Genocide. For that reason, the country will receive many visitors. “We should show our warm culture of welcoming guests; first by attending the commemoration at Amahoro Stadium and by serving them beyond their expectations,” he said. The stadium will tomorrow open at 7 am. The mayor said some business will remain open and adviced people to work in shifts (morning or afternoon) to allow them attend at least one event.” – All Africa

CAPE TOWN

“Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille led a march against crime and drugs through Mitchells Plain in Cape Town on Sunday afternoon. “The purpose of the march is to once again draw the attention of the national government to the major failings of bringing drugs and crime under control,” she said outside Mitchells Plain police station after handing over a memorandum. “We are asking for more police on the street. We are asking for the reinstating of the gang and drug unit that was scrapped… and we are looking for the army to be brought in.” Around 100 people, mostly women and children, marched from Atletiek Street in Beacon Valley to the police station.” – IOL

LONDON

Record levels of air pollution will continue to plague the UK, experts have warned. Dust from the Sahara, emissions from continental Europe, low south-easterly winds and domestic pollution have caused air quality to plummet and the smog-like conditions are not expected to clear until Friday. Pollution levels reached level 9 early on Thursday morning in the south-east, Greater London and eastern England, the department for environment, food and rural affairs (Defra) reported on its website. Defra ranks air pollution from one to 10, with one being the lowest and 10 the highest. Very high levels of pollution are also forecast later on Thursday for the east midlands. Some schools in London have banned pupils from outdoor playgrounds to reduce their exposure to the fog. The decision was supported by Frank Kelly, professor of environmental health at King’s College London and a member of the department of health’s committee on the medical effects of air pollution, who said it would help reduce long-term harm to children.” – The Guardian

BRUSSELS

“March organisers say that 50,000 people came to Brussels from 21 countries across Europe to demonstrate for a massive job investment programme and against austerity policies. Police sources put the figure at 25,000. “That people came from as far away as Portugal, Bulgaria and Cyprus should send a sobering message to EU leaders,” said Bernadette Ségol, the secretary-general of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC). “People have had enough of austerity. They want a concerted effort to tackle unemployment, poverty and inequality.” But as the march passed the US embassy, their message was drowned out by anger. Rocks and deafening firecrackers were thrown by some protesters, triggering a lockdown inside the US compound until water cannons were brought out to disperse protestors towards Rue Beillard.” – Eurativ

JOHANNESBURG

Companies operating the City of Johannesburg’s Rea Vaya bus rapid transport system will file an urgent interdict in the Labour Court on Thursday to stop a strike that has left commuters stranded for three days. Bus drivers aligned to the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) started an indefinite strike on Monday demanding a change to shift systems. They have since also demanded the banning of labour brokers at operating companies Piotrans and Litsamaiso. Samwu has embarked on a number of strikes at Rea Vaya, including a strike last year in demand of salary increases and better working conditions, as well as in 2012 demanding an end to wage disparities between dispatchers and bus drivers. An illegal strike by some drivers in 2011, not Samwu members, demanding R15,000 salaries, saw Piotrans deliver an ultimatum to employees to return to work, and 17 workers were fired. Samwu Johannesburg regional chairman Dion Makhura said on Wednesday the union had dropped the shift demand because an agreement with employers did not give it a right to strike on that matter. It would continue striking for a ban on labour broking.” – BDLive

GLASGOW

More than 4,000 people have signed an online petition opposing plans to demolish Glasgow tower blocks as part of the city’s Commonwealth Games. Five of the six remaining Red Road blocks of flats will be blown up on 23 July as part of the opening ceremony. The footage will be beamed live into the Glasgow 2014 event at Celtic Park. Some opponents believe the plans are insensitive to former residents and asylum seekers currently living in the sixth block. This block, in Petershill Court, is due to be demolished at a later date. The Glasgow 2014 organisers believe the demolition of the derelict 1960s flats will show how Glasgow is changing for the better while celebrating the role the flats have played in the lives of thousands of city families. So far, about 4,280 people have signed an online petition lodged by former Socialist MSP Carolyn Leckie.” – BBC News

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Melissa Meyer

Future Cape Town London-based correspondent

Urbanist-in-training from Cape Town, currently working in London. MSc City Design & Social Science.

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