Monday, March 4, 2013

Tree-hugging weekend

Along with the people were tons of police and of course, the obligatory soft-pretzel vendor.
I also saw some LMP politicians working the crowd.
Quite a good turnout at Római part on Saturday. We estimated maybe 2,000 people, give or take a thousand. Who knows? The important thing is, we completely plugged up the riverfront path where the organisers set up their PA system. So for the space available, we were an overwhelming presence, which is as much as you can ask of a protest.

We were there demonstrating against a big flood-protection scheme that would devastate the riverbank and wipe out thousands of trees. A "respected" news site, HVG -- kind-of Hungary's equivalent to The Economist -- called it "Fák off" -- "fák" being Hungarian for "trees".

We went out there with both kids by bike, our two-year-old in the child's seat and our eight-year-old riding his own bike. The closer we got to Római part, the heavier the bike traffic got. By the time we got to the Újpesti vasúti híd, there were huge clusters of cyclists caravaning in front of us and in back and parked along the side of the road. It was looking like a Critical Mass.

There's Lance, Kristin and Sequoia. Soon after we arrived, Lance wandered off into the milling masses and left me on the riverbank, panicked, as I rode herd over Sequoia hoping to limit our losses. Kristin found Lance way up the riverbank throwing rocks and after he rejoined us, Sequoia walked up to the river's edge and promptly tripped into the water. It was a chilly ride back home for her.
A Budapest landscape architect, Bardóczi Sándor, editor of the Építészfórum website, gave a talk proposing a sensible alternative to the massive earthworks that's being proposed. Bardóczi notes that the existing fences at the top of the bank, running between the riverfront bars and restaurants, could be built into a flood-proof bulwark that would protect properties further inland. This would avoid a major earth moving project that would wipe out all the trees along the water and destroy the riverbank.

Hope Sányi's arguments -- and the presence of all us citizen protesters -- will have some effect.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Save Római part's trees!

The fabulous Fellini bisztro on the north end of Romai part.
Tomorrow at 3 p.m. (March 2), fans of the Római part will demonstrate against a big earthworks proposal that would spoil a riverside wonderland to protect a bunch of luxury townhouses that shouldn't even be there.

The project involves the construction of what's termed a "mobile" dike along a 3.1 kilometre stretch of bank running north from the Újpesti vasúti híd. This Index article has a map. A mobile dike doesn't sound permanent, however the work will apparently involve infilling the river 50 to 100 metres out from the existing bank. This will wipe out many of the gorgeous willows and cottonwoods along here, which is why organisers have dubbed their protest "Keep the trees on Római!". The tree defenders also have a facebook page.

Római part has been a favourite bike-riding destination of ours for years. It's a leafy stretch of bank lined with bufes and bars, some with playground equipment to entertain the kids. It's great place to have some fish soup or hekk and a few beers. It's not as cheap as it used to be, but you pay a price for convenience -- it's just a 20-30 minute ride up the Buda bank from Margit hid.

Not incidentally, it's along the Eurovelo 6 trans-European cycling route. One of the criteria for Eurovelo designation is scenic value, which these earthworks will undermine.

Amidst the bufes are a dwindling number of old boat houses, where you can keep or rent canoes, kayaks, skulls and rowboats. We used to rent canoes from one of these places at least once every summer and paddle up to Szentendrei Sziget and back.

In the last few years, several of these old boat houses have been displaced by high-end condos. This is in a flood plain, and how the developers got their construction permits is a scandal.

By now the dodgy development has reached a critical mass and the new property owners have successfully lobbied City Hall to get taxpayers to pay for flood protection. This will protect their inappropriately built townhouses to the detriment of Római part's traditional natural, recreational value. It's a shame.

We're planning to go up there by bike on Saturday to christen the cycling season and be counted.

What: Save the trees on Római! demonstration
Time: Saturday, March 2, 3 p.m.
Place: Hattyú Csónakház (1039 Budapest, Királyok útja 17.)
(Follow the facebook page for updates.)