Among the rubble that surrounded the Marqués de Samaranch sports center, an oasis of greenery and vegetables was born four years ago, the result of the push of a group of neighbors. The project had been proposed, voted on and approved in the Participatory Budgets for 2016, when hundreds of Arganzuela residents supported the idea of the Juan Duque association, which proposed to install a vegetable garden on the barren land next to the paddle tennis courts.
The City Council dismantles the urban garden of Enrique Herreros and moves his ‘super pots’ to the Retiro
The space was fenced off at the end of 2017 and given free of charge to fifty residents of the area, who began to plow the land until, six months later, in June 2018, the official delivery of the urban garden to the Asociación Pasillo Verde – Imperial, which won the contest called by the consistory. But they could only enjoy this place for a year, because the Madrid City Council had to undertake some works in the Municipal Sports Center and they needed to go through the space occupied by the orchard. The association agreed to abandon the space in exchange for the concession period to be stopped.
The residents moved their plants to another nearby site of a similar size to the first (about 1,000 square meters), which the Madrid City Council temporarily left them while the works were finished next to the sports center. In addition, he assured them that the works would also serve to improve the Huerto de las Vías itself with better terraces, a shed for tools and even a meeting area. The assignees waited patiently for the works to be completed to return to the originally borrowed orchard. Until last week.
“On the 22nd we received the notice that the Board of Arganzuela revoked the assignment,” explains Maite Gómez, president of Pasillo Verde, with regret. “What a lottery we had won,” he says wryly while recounting the multiple contacts with members of the District Board chaired by Cayetana Hernández de la Riva (PP) in recent months to inquire about the status of the works. His association says they feel cheated, because the City Council hid their plans from them until a few days ago.
The consistory considers that the assignment of space has been fulfilled “widely”, because it includes “obviously” the period in which the association was using the alternative land, reads the text of the letter sent to Pasillo Verde, to which it has had access this newspaper. Almeida’s team considers that the transfer ended in June 2020 and that, having not requested the two-year renewal to which they were entitled, “the authorization for use is extinguished,” adds a municipal spokeswoman in response to questions from We are Madrid.
The neighbors did not ask for the renovation because no one informed them that they considered the alternative land to be part of the same assignment, a fact that was kept hidden in their meetings and information briefs that have crossed until now. “It is a lack of scruples and delicacy towards the neighborhood, a lack of empathy that hurts us,” the neighbors complain. “These people do not care at all about the hard work we got into and how beautiful all the people involved had it,” denounces Maite.
“They gave us an inhospitable land, without adequate land, we did a huge job to open the terraces,” recalls Jacinto Navlet, another of the urban farmers who has put the most hours in this space. Both recall how this orchard has served for the use of a nearby occupational center, for the coexistence of several generations around the planting and care of the plants, or for the students of the nearby Marqués de Marcenado school to have had their first contact with agriculture, a recurring experience that the Joaquín Costa students also wanted to carry out and that is now pending on the future of the space.
“The orchard is the social fabric of the neighborhood at the moment, that is what bothers them,” they denounce from the Pasillo Verde – Imperial association, who fear that the City Council is now proposing to change the legal figure of the orchard or that it will try to grant it “to a friend “or charge for the exploitation of each terrace.
New assignment in 2022 and judicial appeal
The municipal plans happen because the association returns the alternative land to the original orchard within a month, next January 22. Afterwards, the original Huerto de las Vías will be brought out “freely for this association or any other interested party to present itself,” sources from the Madrid City Council inform this medium.
However, the legal path can be long, because the neighborhood association does not plan to give up completing the cession of the Huerto de la Vía in its entirety, which still has more than a year left, according to its accounts. As they are convinced that they are right, they are going to appeal to the courts the decision of the Madrid City Council. The municipal documents to which Somos Madrid has had access make it clear that the Board of Arganzuela proceeded to suspend the assignment on May 20, 2019. “Said suspension will expire, and therefore the validity of the authorization will be resumed, when they have concluded the aforementioned works and the plot is in adequate conditions to be used again as an urban community garden, “says the text signed by the previous district coordinator.
Neighbors have gone from the “stupor, anger and pain” of last week to planting a legal battle so that the administration “does not take us for fools.” They hope that the courts will end up agreeing with them, as has happened in recent cases such as the Casa del Cura de Malasaña. There, the judicial process ended up knocking down a month ago the municipal attempt to put an end to the transfer of a building located in the Plaza del Dos de Mayo to neighborhood groups and Almeida’s team has been forced to resort to the TSJM to try to get rid of current assignees.
“We trust that we do not have to find a padlock from the City Council any morning, because they want to take it off us as they already tried there,” they say in reference to the lock change ordered by the Center Board in Malasaña when the sentence was not final, denied by the council itself and corroborated by numerous neighborhood witnesses.
The Huerto de las Vías is the last municipal attempt to revoke assignments made to citizen groups during the last legislature. In Arganzuela a year ago the end of the EVA project took place in the old Vegetable Market of Legazpi, when the renovation of the space was denied to the citizen fabric that maintained it. Months later the same thing happened with the Chamberí House of Culture. The return of the aforementioned Malasaña building was stopped in court. Now, the future of the urban garden of Arganzuela also seems doomed to the courts.