Construction plans over the Büyükçekmece Albatros Park in Istanbul, Turkey

The Buyukcekmece Municipality in Turkey sold a green public space to a group private investors despite strong public dissent. Residents oppose the transformation of "their park". Court cases are pending.


Description

Buyukcekmece is a coastal district in Istanbul with its local municipality operating rather independently under the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. Each local municipality in Istanbul is obliged to prioritize the good of residents living within their peculiar municipal boundaries. The conflict in this case stems from a decision of the Buyukcekmece Municipality widely clashing with the public opining regarding a private construction plan on a park, aka Albatros Park. Back in 2013, locals in Buyukcekmece protested and made it clear that they want no transition plan for the park after the municipality first time publicized the project concerning the fortune of the part. The project area concerns 3 hectares of the whole park, which is more than 15 hectares, but locals identify themselves with it, and also because it is the only remaining green public place in the Buyukcekmece coast. To that purpose, residents have formed a civil society group called ‘Diren Büyükçekmece Platformu’ - “Resist Buyukcekmece Community” – and opposed the decision peacefully, their actions ranging from street marches to a camping campaign in the said park. On 4 October 2015, at the 24th day of the campaign, police officers broke into the park and forcefully removed the activists, while detaining some 20 activists for a short while. Two spokespersons from the campaign issued a press release after the incident: “We meant to camp and plant trees in the park, with good intentions, but police did not let us do it. The municipality refuses to have cut trees earlier, but what happened to the park, which was green once, is evident. Over the past 15 years the municipality has been deliberately deforesting the park, which sadly accelerated gradually for the last 3 years. Every morning we used to rush to the park upon news on trees are cut down. They damage the trees with construction machines, later they warn the public against the risk of falling trees and eventually plead this for the tree massacre. The park has ancient trees that ought to be under conservation, we categorically reject any construction or building project within the park.” The head of Buyukcekmece Municipality, Hasan Akgün, on the other side, told the press that the land is municipality’s own property since 1957 and the project contains service points such as an hotel, restaurants and a residence. He said: “This project is no evil. The buildings would only confine to a small percentage of the area and remainders would be kept green. The municipality will make a fortune with the project, and there is no harm in this. The whole park is by no means subject to the project, but only a small piece of it, around 30% of it, which in fact, has never been a designated park before or never ever included in the park by our municipality. There have been hotels, restaurants, outdoor cafes and a camping area in this place since 1960s, generating revenue for the municipality, until we shot all of them down in 1999. However, the area lied fallow afterwards, serving the visitors as a park.” However he also adds that the municipality has all sorts of building and construction permits for that particular area and free to start any project any time soon. In retrospect, on 11 April 2017, in face of public objections and despite multiple ongoing court cases, municipality announced to have sold the land to a joint private group for 160 million Turkish liras ($45,7 million) after 7th public bid session. The highest bidder was an alliance of Demir Grup Yapı İnşaat A.S. and SKY Investment Group. However Buyukcekmece residents are furious at the agreement and they publicly denoted municipality, accusing the officers for not serving their people but for seeking rent. They also stressed that the sale is neither comprehensible nor legitimate while there are several court cases against the park sale under way, yet they are still pending. Activist shared their opinions on social media recently: "The Municipality intended to hamper our right cause by cutting down all the trees in there, the fight goes on. We'll rush to the park whenever we hear construction machines show up. There is no excuse as 'It is sold. That is it'.

Basic Data
Name Construction plans over the Büyükçekmece Albatros Park in Istanbul, Turkey
CountryTurkey
ProvinceIstanbul
SiteBuyukcekmece
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Deforestation
Urban development conflicts
Specific CommoditiesLand
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsOn April 2017, the Buyukcekmece Municiplaity sold the contested land to a private investment group for 160 million 30 tousand Turkish lira (~$46,7 million). The initial projects contains facilities such as a residence, an underground autopark, restaurants and several other touristic shops and stores. An additional $60 million will be spent to finalize the project by the investors. In the end, buildings are projected to confine to 1 hectare of the 15 hectare park.
Project Area (in hectares)3
Level of Investment (in USD)105,000,000
Type of PopulationUrban
Start Date01/01/2013
Relevant government actorsBuyukcekmece Municipality - http://www.bcekmece.bel.tr/tr-tr/Sayfalar/default.aspx
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersDiren Büyükçekmece Platformu - https://www.facebook.com/direnbcekmece/
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LATENT (no visible organising at the moment)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingLocal ejos
Local government/political parties
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Recreational users
Forms of MobilizationLand occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Noise pollution
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Outcome
Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCourt decision (undecided)
Repression
Violent targeting of activists
Development of AlternativesLocal ejos proposed the municipality to reconsider the decision of transforing the public green place into private buildings and commercial areas.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The municipality ignored the public opinion and the protest and implemented its agenda without compromise.
Sources and Materials
Links

Municipality's press release on news (Tr)
[click to view]

Public protests swell in Albatros (Tr)
[click to view]

Construction plan on green area in western Istanbul sparks protests
[click to view]

The Albatros Park Story (Tr)
[click to view]

Municipality sold the park in spite of the public dissent (Tr)
[click to view]

Media Links

A local activist elaborating on the conflict (Tr)
[click to view]

Other Documents

Street march
[click to view]

Street march 2
[click to view]

Street march 3
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorBurag Gurden, European Environmental Bureau, [email protected]
Last update31/07/2017
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