Strong explosions kick off huge urban transformation

Strong explosions kick off huge urban transformation

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Strong explosions kick off huge urban transformation

A building in Istanbul’s Esenler district has been leveled in an urban project. AA photo

Turkey’s $400 billion urban transformation project began on Oct. 5 with the demolition of 3,900 buildings at 75 locations in 35 cities, using explosives and bulldozers, although residents of those cities, especially tenants in the buildings in question, have expressed concerns about the project.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attended a demolition in Istanbul’s Esenler district, which was broadcast live to other similar ceremonies in other cities around the country. Ten buildings in Istanbul’s Anatolian side were demolished bu using explosives for the first time in Turkey.

“There is no green left in Istanbul anymore; we only see trees in cemeteries. At the end of this process 67 percent of the transformed area will be green,” Erdoğan said, pointing to a cemetery located near the demolition area as he addressed a large crowd.

The much-debated urban transformation project will affect 6.5 million buildings all around Turkey, some of which will be demolished and some renovated, in accordance with a law requiring “the transformation of areas under disaster risk,” within a 20-year period.

“Turkey is correcting a grave mistake made by previous governments” by renewing its urban structure to prevent a disasters in the event of an earthquake, Bayraktar said, adding that the process will be largely complete within two or three years.

Bayraktar also said there was consensus in the Havaalanı district concerning the project, but in fact many inhabitants of the area have expressed their concerns for the future.

Home owners favored

Haydar Aksu, an auto mechanic who works near the building demolished Oct. 5, said that “[tenants] were the real victims.”

“They only tried to convince the property owners, not us. I am only thinking ‘What will I do if lose my place?,’ and my nine employees are concerned about losing their jobs,” Aksu told the Daily News. Aksu said he had paid 50,000 Turkish Liras to build his shop two years ago, and now he faces losing his investment.

Nuray Kara, the owner of a textile mill in the district, said poor people will soon find themselves exiled from the district to open up space for “the rich.”

“There is no contract between municipality and us. First the municipality should give the property owners title to the land,” she said. Kara said she was told that “the deal is a flat [in exchange] for [her] flat,” but she says she was offered no guarantee. “Also I do not know if I can afford to live in a luxury building, like the one they are offering. I don’t even know if I can pay the building fee,” she said.

In the Havaalanı district alone 256 buildings will be demolished, which house nearly 5,000 people.

Some 1,560 houses on 100,000 square meters of land at six points in the area will be demolished by the state-run property developer TOKİ in coordination with municipalities.