With one of the Greek capital’s major parks, Pedion tou Areos, being nearly taken over by drug addicts, pimps and male prostitutes, the City of Athens wants to take over jurisdiction, New Democracy Mayoral candidate Kostas Bakoyannis said.
It is now under the control of the Attica Regional Authority, which has let it go to seed after being renovated in 2010 at the cost of 9.663 million euros ($11.25 million), but it’s now a no-go zone for many fearful to go there.
“I cannot imagine how a regional governor can manage Pedion tou Areos. In contrast, a mayor could intervene in a substantial way,” Bakoyannis said.
The park, designed in 1934 with the purpose of honoring the heroes of the Greek Revolution of 1821, recently underwent another restoration after complaints by nearby residents about drug dealing and other criminal activities.
In 2016, The National Herald visited the park and found it a gathering place for drug dealers, the entrance leading people into what by all appearances seems an escape from the hot, dirty grime just outside, especially the main street of Alexandras Avenue.
When the renewal work was finished, the park was handed over to the regional authority which essentially abandoned it, the central administration building closed as are all the others, including maintenance sheds going unused except as shelters for people with no place else to stay or sleep.
For all its problems, the park is a veritable oasis in the middle of the concrete jungle that is Athens, offering more beauty and respite than the more acclaimed National Gardens in the middle of the city next to Parliament and the main Syntagma Square.
In June, 2018, it had gotten so bad that residents in the area, on the outskirts of the anarchist haven of Exarchia, repeatedly complained to police, who have essentially no presence there and with prosecutor Ilias Zagoreos launching an investigation into why almost nothing has been done to clean it up of criminal elements with still no report on what was found.
That came as anarchists warned residents not to bother drug dealers and said locals were “petty bourgeois idiots” and were showing “veiled racism,” with complaints, as the park is a hangout for migrants as well.
Also threatened for speaking out against crime there were actress Mimi Denisi, who attended a residents protest, and Maroussi Mayor Giorgos Patoulis, who also backed them.
There have been dozens of initiatives by prominent figures, Internet groups and widespread media coverage, but each successive government has shown no interest in the park and let it deteriorate.
It has decayed into filth and crime, fountains not working because no proper water system was installed, toilets not working, children’s playgrounds closed and become essentially an outlaw park for criminals and people brave enough to still go there.