There is always a critical question that I pose to myself whenever a guest from other parts of Greece or abroad happens to visit me here in Athens. A full three-day tour can easily cover a visit to the Acropolis and the important archaeological sites around it, as well as to the adjacent vibrant areas of Plaka, Monastiraki, Psiri, and Petralona. But what about the Southern coastal part of Attica? Are there any long, uninterrupted promenades where a short-stay visitor can stroll, skate, or bike by the sea? At which points of the extensive lacy coastal line of Attica can a local resident find an easy way towards the sea, away from the noisy Poseidonos freeway? Where people can swim without having to pay a high price for something that should be regarded as a public good? Unfortunately, I always end up proposing a direct bus tour to Cape Sounio, hoping that my friends visiting from far away will enjoy the view to the Aegean Sea from the window bus.
The current situation: the coastal side of Athens, from the busy port of Piraeus up to the municipality of Voula, is completely fragmented by the underused Olympic infrastructures, restaurants, cafeterias, summer clubs and parking entrances, organized and non-organized beaches, hotels and so on. On the other hand, not much time has passed since 2007, when the outcry by the local residents of Eliniko for the bad state of St. Kosmas coast led to the removal of many illegal fences, and to the free and uninterrupted access to the nearby beaches.
The future? Currently, the most significant forthcoming transformations for the Southern Coastal side of Athens -some of which have been sealed with prominent architectural competitions – are centered around the “Piraeus Cultural Coast” and the Phaleron Bay regenerations. On the other hand, the recent creation of the “Attica Coastline S.A,” for the entire management of the public coastal areas from Phaleron Bay up to Cape Sounio, has already raised a lot of suspicions on behalf of urban planners and architects about its true intentions. Fears have been raised that it is a fast-track for the privatization of beaches and coasts of Attica.
Do you regard the free pass to the waterfront and coasts of your city as a public good? Why or why not?
Credits: Data and images linked to source.