Residents Fear Program Will Lead to Evictions
Preservationists say the program is an attempt by developers to seize the land and make profit.
Published: October 26, 2011 (Issue # 1680)
Concerned St. Petersburg residents congregated at City Hall on Tuesday to protest a controversial renovation program backed by the city’s authorities and to deliver a letter and signatures to City Governor Georgy Poltavchenko.
Led by the newly-formed preservationist coalition Gradozashchita, the protesters, including activists of the Party of People’s Freedom (Parnas) and the Other Russia party, delivered hundreds of signatures of residents who do not want to leave their homes and move to the outskirts as part of a City Hall program.
Three hundred and thirty pages of signatures (with an average of three to a page) collected during the past few days were taped together into two long ribbons and shown to journalists, along with photographs of the buildings in question, which did not appear from the photographs to be in poor condition.
“We had to roll them up when we heard the police calling for reinforcements on their radio, planning to detain us,” said Gradozashchita coordinator Tamara Vedernikova, adding that analysis of the program conducted by Gradozashchita experts was also delivered to City Hall.
About 150,000 residents in several districts may be evicted during the course of the renovation program — officially known as the “Development of Built-Up Areas in St. Petersburg” plan — activists say, adding that former governor Valentina Matviyenko gave 900 hectares of land in St. Petersburg to SPb Renovatsiya, the company charged with carrying out the program.
After the demolition of the buildings, the land may be used for commercial projects, activists warn.
Preservationists say that the buildings are in good condition, with some having undergone recent renovation work, and are seen as prestigious locations. They say the program is an attempt by developers to seize the land to make a profit from it.
“We checked a number of apartments to see how what they describe as “dilapidated housing” looks; I would move into such an apartment myself from my modern building without hesitation,” Vedernikova said.
The activists, who say that the residents themselves were not asked whether they agreed to participate in the program when it was adopted as a local law in 2008, are intent on getting an answer from Poltavchenko himself, rather than from any of the deputy governors.
“All these deputy governors have lied and continue to lie to us; let the governor himself lie if that’s what he wants,” Vedernikova said. “We will plan our further actions depending on his answer.”
SPb Renovatsiya, which was created exclusively for the renovation project in 2009, denies that evictions are planned, dismissing such information as “deliberate provocation.”
In a statement last month, the company said that the residents would receive “fully finished comfortable apartments” in the same neighborhoods in exchange for their “dilapidated housing.”