Old Town makeover off to a rocky start
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
The Jakarta Post/Jakarta
It seems like a bad omen. The city's Old Town revitalization project was mired in conflicts of interest between the city and locals even before the project's soft launching on Sept. 30 this year.
To launch the grand project, the city began revitalizing the central part of the 846-hectare "Old Town": Fatahillah Square, a 1.5-hectare plot of land in front of the Jakarta Historical Museum.
The Fatahillah project was overseen by the head of the museum and cultural agency, Aurora Tambunan, in partnership with a foundation chaired by Miranda Goeltom, Jakarta Old Town Kotaku (JOK).
First to bear the brunt of the project were the usual victims of urban redevelopment in Indonesia: the poor and the informal sector, in this case street vendors around Fatahillah Square.
Second to be affected were the more well-off, businesspeople around Fatahillah and Glodok, who experienced the impacts from the closure of a street next to the square. The closure worsened traffic jams and hurt businesses.
To beautify Fatahillah Square, the city evicted 90 street vendors from the square in August, and relocated them to a nearby street.
"They moved not far from here, but I heard reports that sales had decreased to a third of their usual earnings," the head of the vendor community, Rohadi Kusumah, said.
Street vendors selling beverages, snacks, food and clothing depend on pedestrians, from the north to Kota train station and the Kota busway terminal, and employees from businesses around the square including the post office.
Urban planners said the vendors did not sell any unique items or services, however the location was vital to their revenue and moving them has considerably hurt their business.
The Fatahillah vendors were relocated to Jl. Kunir, not far from their original location, but a much quieter area, Rohadi said.
"Furthermore, this is only a temporary move ... we will have four options, including moving to Pluit in North Jakarta and Jembatan Lima in West Jakarta. Vendors have said all four options are undesirable due to distance," he said.
Tambunan confirmed the city would move street vendors to the four locations, adding there were no plans to integrate them with the Old Town project.
"We understand we don't meet sanitation and health standards, but we can and are ready to cooperate. Tourists who come here are bound to be thirsty after a walking tour. They may wish to have a snack or try some local coffee," Rohadi said.
"Why doesn't the city help (vendors) ... who have run business here for many years to set up clean stalls."
"We don't mind paying rent."
When reporters asked Aurora about any master plan for street vendors and other workers from the informal sector within the Old Town area, she said there was none, except to relocate them to the best place, to be chosen by the city.
"They invited us to meetings but we did not have much to say to them ... so we just accepted the plans," Rohadi said.
Unlike Fatahillah's street vendors, no meetings were held for formal businesses regarding the partial closure of Jl. Pintu Besar Utara.
In response to the city's decision, the Old Town Community comprising 200 businesspeople around Glodok expressed their complaints to the press.
"We did not oppose the (redevelopment) plan, but they never asked for our opinion about the street closure and now we have to suffer the impact," Jacky, the deputy chairman of the community, said.
He said at least two members of the community had reported a plunge in revenue including owners of a cafe and a nightclub.
"One of them even had to close their doors recently. No customers went there anymore because their cars couldn't enter the street and they didn't want to park further away due to security risks," Jakcky said.
Some nightclubs in the area provide discreet parking on their property for some customers. Parking outside is not desirable for some customers, sources said.
"Sales of electronics goods have also been slightly hurt ... since congestion worsened with the construction of a pedestrian underpass near Kota railway station. It's becoming even worse now," Jacky said.
"The city should remember, we are the first-class taxpayers here."
In response to complaints published in several local newspapers, on Oct. 10 Aurora invited stakeholders to discuss the issue at a hotel in Central Jakarta.
The discussion turned into a heated debate when stakeholders, including businessman Jacky and Noersaijidi from the city's heritage preservation board, who had previously been left out of the project planning, raised their objections bluntly.
Aurora, accompanied by her deputy and consultants from the Center for Urban Design Studies, were unable to provide satisfactory answers to many questions and the debate continued outside the hotel.
Some invitees suggested the city present a master plan at a public event to make room for suggestions and comments.
Aurora, however, would not commit to such a plan.
Revitalizing the Old Town has been a dream for many people: Architects, heritage buffs, historians and even many ordinary Jakartans who are bored with shopping malls. Inviting participation of as many stakeholders as the city could is the key to a revitalized area.