Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Florence mayor Matteo Renzi takes stand against Oltrarno residents

Matteo Renzi, the mayor of Florence, dropped out of local politics for several months to run in the center-left primary elections, where he came second.

Soon after coming back to Florence, he gave an interview to the local edition of Corriere della Sera (Corriere fiorentino). The interviewer asked him his opinion about the revolt of the Oltrarno district against a proposed underground parking lot in the historic Piazza del Carmine.

The Town Council had unanimously voted to put the project on a back burner while awaiting the outcome of consultations with the citizens. Apparently uninterested in this decision, Renzi comes out clearly on the side of building the parking lot:
"As soon as possible, I want to organize a public meeting to see those who say no in the face, and hear why. This scanty group [sparuto gruppo] of residents evidently does not know that, with 250 places for parking cars on its surface, one of Florence's most beautiful piazze will continue to be spoiled by a carpet of cars. This way, parking time for cars is definitely longer than it would be in an underground parking lot, where residents could enjoy reduced fees. My tongue is itching: the Town does something after forty years of talking, and all I hear are protests".

In other words, the mayor of Florence believes that opposition is limited to a "scanty group" of residents, apparently so ignorant as to be unaware that there are currently cars parked in Piazza del Carmine; and the fact that there are too many cars parked there leads the mayor to say that it is necessary to tear up the whole square and dig an underground parking lot into it, so as to attract more cars.

The "scanty group" are 1.400 residents who put their handwritten names and addresses (no dubious clicks on a website) on a petition against building the underground parking lot.

How scanty a group is that actually? The district directly involved in the parking lot project (between Via del Campuccio, Via de' Serragli and Porta San Frediano), in 2007 had 3.167 inhabitants altogether. Though not all petitioners come from this district, the vast majority certainly do.

In ecologically sensitive times, the mayor tries to make the residents look as if they were selfish people who prefer cars to monuments. 

Actually, on December 12 - the same day Renzi gave his interview - residents submitted no less than three different projects aimed at freeing the piazza from the cars currently occupying it, without however having to dig an enormous pit in the middle of it, which could damage the artistic heritage of the square, unsettle the weak soil below the unsteady foundations of the ancient buildings around, and would certainly block life in the whole district for years.

The issue is not therefore the "carpet of cars".

The issue is a proposal, submitted in May 2012 by Firenze Parcheggi - a company whose chairman just happens to be Matteo Renzi's main sponsor during the recent primary elections - which calls for replacing today's 247 surface parking places, currently reserved to residents, with 209 quickly revolving places designed to attract more traffic into the area and to take a large part of the district out of the restricted traffic zone.

The real issue is the one we have already explained in detail in this blog: the attempt to transform the last popular (and happily multi-ethnic) quarter of old Florence into a show window of banks and luxury boutiques during the day, and noisy pubs and discos during the night.

Oltrarno's residents will be happy to make sacrifices to have less traffic in the area, not more. Which is why they area asking for restricted traffic in the district 24 hours a day, no more large tourist buses roaring up and down the narrow Via de' Serragli and Via Romana, and the installation of pollution monitoring devices.


  1. I couldn't agree more. I am one of the 3,167 residents in S. Frediano whose lives will be hugely and negatively affected by the proposed underground parking lot and, judging by the vast numbers of residents who come to our frequent meetings to express their opposition and discuss the repercussions of this projected "attrattore di traffico", we are not at all a "sparuto gruppo" as Renzi claims. Life in the neighborhood will be unlivable - both during the excavations and the construction of this monstrosity, and in the following years with a constant flow of cars bringing pollution and traffic into this last remaining residential haven of the centro storico.

    Renzi clearly has his own personal agenda which is dictated by interests that are not in harmony with those of the local residents, who want less, not more, traffic. It is evident that the residents who currently have preferential parking in P.za del Carmine, would be unable to pay €3 an hour to leave their cars in the underground parking area. And Renzi offers no solution for the cars of those who live in S. Frediano and who have the necessity of keeping a vehicle for a variety of needs.

    The reasons for our opposition to this parking lot are many and have been widely publicized in our repeated encounters with the city administrators. Evidently Renzi is too occupied elsewhere to stop and listen - or else he has a vested interest in building this parking lot AT ALL AND ANY COST.

    1. Actually Renzi does offer a solution, unspecified "special rates" for residents.

      There is one example of this currently in Florence.

      At the Sant'Ambrogio parking area, residents pay a "special rate" of 160 euros a month, which comes to nearly 2.000 euros a year - a financial punishment for those who live in the area, and an incentive to move elsewhere.