14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, April 9, 2021 — The power of Cuban social media has once again been demonstrated. After months of intense criticism, internet users have won the battle to rescue the gardens of Havana’s iconic Avenue of the Presidents (G Street) in the area closest to the Malecón seawall. Authorities have now removed recently installed paving stones and will restore its former lawns.
“Many institutions of local government have been involved in the rescue of the landscaped areas along the last two stretches of G Street,” reads an article published on Thursday in the official news website Cubadebate, which assured readers that the project has received “technical input from the National Botanical Garden” and will be planted with “high-quality grass that is resistant to salt air.”
Commentators expressed their relief over the decision but also demanded accountability for those responsible for the previous botched job. “All that money gone, who will answer for that?” asks one reader, who blames “waste and the lack of urban impact studies” as causes for the blunder.
“Too bad they realized this so late,” lamented Olivia Cadaval, another commentator. “After doing all these horrible things, they now want to respect nature and consult design professionals to make sure they end up with a decent project,” she adds. “I am very happy there are still people with good taste and who feel a sense of identity with the city.”
To Berlin-based architect Rafael Muñoz, the fact “that a bad remodeling project is already being fixed is something to be applauded.”
“I am happy that sanity has returned,” he tells 14ymedio. “Avenue of the Presidents in not just another city street. Besides being one of the most beautiful, it is a site that encompasses much of the capital’s architectural and urban history from the first half of the 20th century.”
“Muñoz hopes this is the “beginning of a trend to restore green spaces that have undergone changes that compromised their original designs.” He points out this decision should be reinforced by committing to ongoing “maintenance work on the the entire area’s landscaping.”
In July, social networks seethed when photographs of a section of Avenue of the Presidents were posted which showed how formerly green areas had been turned gray. Some photos show how a large stretch of grass near the sea had been covered with paving stones.
The alteration unleashed a wave of criticism from architects and ordinary citizens, who watched the wide, park-like medians — one of the distinctive features of G Street, along with the monuments, modern buildings and grandiose mansions that flank it — being razed.
The transformation reached deep into the Vedado district, all the way to Linea Street. The thoroughfare’s wide medians, which had grass lawns extending three kilometers from the Malecón to the Linea Street tunnel, had been covered over with paving stones. Officials justified the change in the name of “pedestrian safety” and said it was intended to keep “soil and grass out of the street.”
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