January 31st, 2010
Sometimes one gets bored of all the threats that parks and designed landscapes undergo in the struggle with project developers and/or local governmental bodies. “Why do they not see the value of these places, especially in a densely populated country like The Netherlands, and why do they not comply to the rules?“, you would like to shout.
And then a story in which ironically the creation of a park is involved, makes you realize that things could be much, much worse. The city of Moscow is evicting people from their homes in the Rechnik area, claiming the homes have been built there illegally. Their homes were initially destroyed immediately, but a few days later the residents were given time to move out.
Mr. Luzhkov, the Moscow mayor, is determined to have the homes cleared, insisting that the land will be turned into a park and nothing else. Opponents claim that the area will be used by property developers. The park, they say, is just an excuse to clear the current dwellers from the area.
Rechnik started out in the 1950s, when gardening plots were given to workers on a nearby canal. Whether they were given the land temporarily or not seems to be unclear, but many workers built small homes there and consequently stayed. The problem now, according to the city, is that these workers sold these plots of land since. The new owners sometimes joined several plots and built grand houses there. Some of the owners seem to have contracts proving they own the land.
The disturbing thing is that events like this could swing any way ‘government’ wants. Governing bodies can condone property developments until they decide not to do that anymore. Or decide to lift protecting measurements when ‘better’ opportunities arise. Sometimes the result is a park and many homeless people; sometimes the result is that a park is destroyed and some lucky people own a home in a beautiful environment (like the Ostafievo estate, where the garden is apparently used to build heavily guarded villas; and to focus on other regions: Marinehospitaalterrein, Overveen).