Government Petitioned to Save Park
Since the year 2000, the total area of St. Petersburg covered by parks, lawns and gardens has shrunk by 30 percent.
Published: April 10, 2013 (Issue # 1754)
ABV / Panoramino
Malinovka Park provides 150,000 local residents with space to stretch out.
More than 4,000 locals are on a crusade against plans to build an Orthodox cathedral in a city park. Residents of the Rzhevka district in the northern part of St. Petersburg have signed a petition to the vice-governor Marat Oganesyan, who oversees the city’s construction policies, asking him to intervene and stop the plans to erect the cathedral, which would compare in size and height to the mammoth Kazan Cathedral on Nevsky Prospekt or the St. Nicholas Cathedral in Kronstadt.
St. Petersburg governor Georgy Poltavchenko and a number of members of his administration have been open and outspoken about their Orthodox beliefs, attending religious services and discussing religious issues on Twitter.
The cathedral is due to be built in Malinovka Park – the only green oasis available to the more than 150,000 locals who live nearby.
The petition has already won the support of at least 15 parliamentarians in the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly, including, among others, Marina Shishkina and Alexei Kovalyov of the A Just Russia faction, and Alexander Kobrinsky and Boris Vishnevsky of the Yabloko faction.
“The construction would destroy a substantial part of the green area, thus depriving the residents of the last green space in the neighborhood,” said Natalya Sivokhina, an activist from the Living City pressure group. “Over the last few months, residents, from young parents to pensioners, have been taking to the streets to campaign against the construction.”
The reduction in size of Malinovka Park, which is situated in the area between Prospekt Entuziastov, Prospekt Kosygina and Industrialny Prospekt, first began in 2007, when it covered 20 hectares of land. City Hall first gave its blessing to the construction of a shopping center on the site, followed by tennis courts. Authorities have now approved the allocation of more than two hectares of land at the heart of the park for the construction of the Orthodox cathedral.
“This park is the only place where we can relax. The children ride their bikes and skate, the young people sunbathe and the elderly take strolls,” reads one of the comments posted by a local resident on the Malinovka Park support group website.
As the parliamentarians point out, any allocation of green areas for construction purposes falls under the purview of the Legislative Assembly, and they argue that City Hall’s decision to allow the construction of the cathedral has no legal standing. The lawmakers are calling on the city government to rescind its permission.
The plight of Malinovka Park is not unique. Udelny Park, which used to be one of the city’s largest, was reduced from 150 hectares to 111 hectares in 2011 owing to rapid development. Shops, parking lots and a gas station — all approved by City Hall — have sprouted where trees and grass once grew. Further construction is planned for the area.
Since the year 2000, the total area of St. Petersburg covered by parks, lawns and gardens has shrunk by 30 percent as corporations, real estate developers and other business interests have gobbled up property. And, as the Malinovka Park scandal demonstrates, this decline is only expected to continue, based on recent efforts by the city government to encourage further development.
At the time of writing, Smolny had not commented on the issue.