Sunday, May 28

Neighbors open the large park they designed for Chamberí on Esperanza Aguirre’s illegal golf

“Triumph of the neighborhood struggle, finally the park!” is the phrase that adorns these days one of the balconies on Avenida Islas Filipinas, opposite the Parque del Tercer Depósito del Canal, in the heart of Chamberí. The poster that has it printed has been placed by a neighbor of the neighborhood, Carmen Mikelarena, in the same place where she put up another canvas claiming the park in 2006.

When citizen struggles won in Madrid: from Albéniz to Edificio España, passing through the Canal neighborhood park


“It was the spark that ignited the wick of neighborhood outrage,” Mercedes Arce recalls today, one of the first to read it 17 years ago and was also outraged, because the then regional president Esperanza Aguirre wanted to build a golf course where her predecessor , Ruiz Gallardón, had projected a park for the neighbors. These two outraged women were joined by another neighbor who was walking her dog, Carmen Ochoa, and they soon joined together with more neighbors and associations to try to bring down the project. We told the story of how they achieved it at the time in Somos Chamberí and it is also recounted, in much more detail, in a documentary.

Carmen Mikelarena, Mercedes and Carmen Ochoa have come together again this Sunday, along with dozens of neighbors, to participate in the official inauguration of their park. we say his park because they succeeded, representing all the people of Madrid, after a long battle that combined protests in the streets and an extensive legal battle in the courts against the Community of Madrid. The victory was so resounding that the residents themselves ended up designing what this open public park would be like on May 21, 2023.

In the absence of the presence of politicians, who are prohibited these days from campaigning with inaugurations due to the electoral law, all the prominence fell on the inhabitants of Chamberí this Sunday, who had devised a jane ride to symbolically open the park. A tour in memory of the urban planner Jane Jacobs that every spring is organized by the neighborhood movement chamberilero to highlight and claim patrimonial and citizen values ​​that must be preserved. The appointment was at 12:00 at the monument to Rizal, in front of the aforementioned poster and in one of the corners of the park.

Hundreds of residents met there who, after an emotional initial speech, toured the new park without missing a single corner, explaining how the negotiation with the Canal had been during the presidency of Ángel Garrido and also warning that no one in Ayuso’s legislature has received them.

The large group first passed through the large 5,000-square-meter meadow with newly planted grass -still not allowed to walk on- which will be used for free play and to host any type of activity. The neighborhood design foresaw well outside covered with awnings, accompanying the pergolas on its sides, but they have not reached the inauguration.

The meadow was one of the main demands of the residents when negotiating the design of the park, as well as the 1,066 new trees planted with the reform, which will serve as a plant barrier against noise and pollution when they grow larger. 800 bushes have also been planted.

Part of the trees are the mulberry trees that mark out the new north-south axis, with which it is now possible to cross the park in the middle, under another pergola where the plants have yet to grow. The mulberry trees are a reference to the iconic tree that the residents planted years ago as a protest in Santander Park and that the Channel itself ended up taking to trial for illegal planting against the one known with a certain joke as mulberry clan.

Along the axis it crosses one of the two healthy circuits of the park. A blue one that runs through the space previously occupied by the towers to hold the nets of the golf course, designed for walkers, and another 1.1 kilometers that surrounds the park again, designed for runners.

Different neighborhood movements from different parts of the capital have accompanied the walk, such as those from Puerta del Ángel who protest against the ball in the Ermita del Santo. “Many neighbors hold you as an example of the struggle to follow,” they told the chamberileros this Sunday, while demanding a city with fewer privatizations, more friendly to its inhabitants: “We want neighborhoods to live in,” they added.

The last neighborhood triumph in Madrid

The Community of Madrid has called this new green area Parque Santander, taking its name from the one that already existed on one side and which was so named because it runs along a small street reminiscent of the Cantabrian capital. There are a total of 55,000 square meters – a quarter of the Retiro, to give us an idea – which automatically become the largest park in Chamberí, the district with the fewest green areas per inhabitant in Madrid to date.

The park on the Tercer Depósito del Canal is the latest victory in a long list of neighborhood triumphs in Madrid. Mobilizations that managed to stop maneuvers of political and economic power from below to devastate the historical and green heritage of the capital, against the common interest. Before it was preceded by other cases such as the Albéniz Theater, the Chamartín olive grove or the Edificio España.

Thousands of residents have participated in this chamberilero triumph throughout the 17 years of struggle and three district associations, Parque Sí, El Organillo and Corazón Verde. For those who want to know the details of how they organized their fight and managed to bend the powerful arm of the politicians, their story is told in detail in the film. of general interest, a documentary released two years ago and that thousands of people have already seen in the different screenings organized since then. It has even reached the European Parliament.

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