One of the new Budapest municipal assembly’s first decisions will be to block any future construction permits for new buildings in Budapest’s City Park, Gergely Karácsony, the city’s recently elected mayor, said in an interview on Wednesday.
In his interview to news portal Index, the mayor who was jointly backed by the opposition parties in Sunday’s local elections, said he would reduce the cost of season tickets for public transport, terminate a contract for the city’s pest control, and scrap earlier decisions concerning a planned mobile dam along the River Danube in northern Budapest.
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Concerning the City Park (Liget) project, Karácsony said the assembly was scheduled to change the city’s building code in its first session, and no further construction projects would be allowed in the park. It was through recent press reports that he had learned of a building permit issued for the Ethnography Museum in the park. But no permit for a new National Gallery has been granted, he added.
Karácsony said he was happy about a new playground and the renovation of Olaf Palme House, a 19th century edifice — the completed parts so far of the Liget Project — but added that erecting new buildings in the area would be “colossal stupidity”.
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Answering a question about an earlier pledge to ban the construction of new sports stadiums, Karácsony said the mayor of Budapest had a right of veto, and he would make use of it.
On the subject of rat control in the city, Karácsony said the current contract should be terminated, and until a new public procurement procedure is completed, the earlier service provider could do the job. He warned that the rodents were causing a public health emergency in Budapest.
On the topic of parking regulations, Karácsony noted that many district authorities had outsourced the collection of parking fees to private companies. Karácsony said he would work towards issuing a municipal decree forbidding districts from prolonging those contracts.
Regarding fare prices of Budapest public transport firm BKK, Karácsony said they were aiming to make public transport free of charge up to the age of fourteen, depending on BKK’s financial status, “which is not yet clear to us”. He said the price of season tickets should not be raised and indeed should be cut, to motivate travellers to buy annual tickets.
Regarding the reconstruction of Budapest’s iconic Chain Bridge and the surrounding areas, Karácsony said that his predecessor, István Tarlós, had “probably made the right decision” when he called off the tender “because it was overpriced”. The same goes for the tender on revamping the middle section of metro line 3, he said.
Karácsony said that downtown Budapest should gradually be made car-free. The first steps would be to build P+R parks and to “start a public discussion” on a congestion fee for cars in downtown Budapest, he said. This, he added, should be introduced temporarily before a referendum is held on whether it should remain a permanent arrangement.
Regarding Lokál, a free pro-Fidesz tabloid, Karácsony said he would instruct BKK to immediately terminate the contract with the paper. They will also prohibit public dissemination of “hatemongering propaganda” in the streets of Budapest as far as that is possible, he said.
The mayor said the conditions of homeless shelters would be improved ahead of the winter. The aim is to significantly reduce the number of people living on the streets of the city by the end of his term, he said.
He said all current directors of municipal theatres should complete their mandates, and new directors would be selected through a public competition.
The mayor backed by Momentum, the Democratic Coalition, the Socialist Party alliance with Párbeszéd and LMP will govern as part of a coalition and he said he planned to work alongside 3-4 deputy mayors.
Featured photo by Zoltán Balogh/MTI