After 12 Year Campaign, Tel Aviv Gets a New Park


Sometimes getting things done takes longer than one would expect. In the case of an abandoned plot of land in the center of Tel Aviv called "Kiryat Sefer," it took much longer than expected. After a stubborn lobbying campaign that lasted over a decade, and with the help of a few local celebrities and hundreds of neighborhood activists, the last empty piece of publicly-owned land in central Tel Aviv is finally set to become a public park.It all started in 1997, when Michal Barzel, an artist and practitioner of alternative medicine, set up an organization called "Green Not Cement," whose first action was to organize a street party in support of the park. With local artists, politicians and press in attendance, neighborhood activists ripped up pieces of an old parking lot in order to plant three symbolic trees. The next day, the city uprooted them.

However, Barzel and her neighbors pressed on with their cause, putting on a series of events to raise awareness of their cause: art shows, parties, picnics, children's activities, even a movie.

While some officials were sympathetic to their goals (and the mayor himself even promised to set the entire area aside as a park back in 2000), others were busy putting together building plans for the site. Various drafts for the area, which once served as a storage site for the police ("it was full of rusty old police cars" says Barzel) and a gas station, appeared over the years. Some contained high-rise buildings, some low-rise and some both, but all set aside land for real estate projects at the expense of the park.

The residents, in response, put together their own plan for the site (see rendering above), which would, while preserving a historic building on the site, allocate all of the remaining land (some 6.5 acres) as open green space for the public.

Last week, something unexpected happened. A city committee voted unanimously to approve the residents' plan and develop the site as a park — the entire area.

Said Barzel:

"I was not surprised. I think the city's leadership realized that the residents are fed up. Public participation is the most important thing today, the residents have to be included in the processes that are changing the city. The city realizes now that the residents have great power."

More on Tel Aviv:
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Tel Aviv's Mass Transit System Still Decades Away
Tel Aviv Celebrates Centennial with Conference on Sustainable Urbanism
Image via Urbanica (Hebrew link).

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