New sitting ban around Galata Tower stirs debate

New sitting ban around Galata Tower stirs debate

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
New sitting ban around Galata Tower stirs debate

Beyoğlu Municipality bulldozers have removed the bench seating around the historic tower. Mayor Demircan saysthe benches were removed in order to ‘plant flowers.’ DAILY NEWS photos, Emrah GÜREL

One of the most visited destinations in Istanbul, the Galata Tower, is now the scene of a struggle between the local municipality and the young people it accuses of routinely “drinking alcohol and making noise” in the public area around the tower.

Beyoğlu Municipality bulldozers have removed the bench seating around the historic tower, with Mayor Ahmet Misbah Demircan saying the benches were removed in order to “plant flowers.”

“Alcohol is not the issue here; the media has created the perception that alcohol is being banned. That is not the case, we are trying to create a peaceful culture, art and entertainment venue,” Demircan told the Hürriyet Daily News in a phone interview yesterday.

Police have also surrounded the area with lines of tape in an attempt to keep people from gathering around the base of the tower. “Local and foreign visitors have been forgetting the residents trying to sleep in the neighborhood,” Demircan said.

Local residents and shop owners had recently asked to the municipality to take action and prevent late night “noise and restlessness” in the area, which increases in the summer. 

One shop owner, Ahmet Keklik, 52, said he supported the police action, adding that the previous day a fight between two groups of drunken people had caused unrest in the neighborhood. “They have been doing things that should not be done in the public, having everything from sexual relations to fights. These so-called intellectuals, would they be happy if I did the same things in front of their houses?” Keklik said.

Galata Tower square, which is surrounded by art galleries, shops and cafes, has become a hub for tourists and young people to gather, make music and dance in recent years.

“They say they have the right to drink and have fun, but what about our customers’ right to sleep?” said Zafer Kaya, 33, a receptionist working for a hotel in the area. The noise was continuing until the early hours of the day, he said, asking for “a little empathy.”

Nizami Hışım, the head of the Beyoğlu Asociation, also lent his support to the municipality’s actions, saying what was happening could not be called “having fun” when it was disturbing others.

“In recent years, more art studios have sprung up around Galata. Artists, people that I can call the ‘crème de la crème,’ and tourists rushed here. This has transformed the neighborhood into a center of attraction, which has brought problems, as well, because families [living in the neighborhood] did not leave. The solution is mutual understanding,” HıŞım told the Daily News yesterday. 

The tape lines around the tower will remain in place for an unknown period of time, Beyoğlu police said, according to a report in daily Hürriyet.