Cultural preservationists yesterday criticized Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je’s (柯文哲) “development-oriented” policy direction, saying he has departed from his campaign promise to establish Taipei’s core values through culture and is taking a commercial approach to urban planning.
At a news conference held to coincide with the first anniversary of the demolition of the Nangang Bottle Cap Factory, cultural campaigners detailed a list of historic or culturally valuable buildings that have either been demolished, moved or altered for development projects, including the Nangang factory, Jiahe New Village, the Mitsui Warehouse and Xinbeitou Train Station
Historically valuable sites threatened by development projects include the Juezaitou settlement (堀仔頭聚落) in Wanhua District (萬華), which the city is considering relocating to a street corner to free up space for rehousing plans, and the now-defunct Beitou Movie Studio, which was active from 1951 to 1995, that the city has proposed demolishing to make space for the planned Beitou Audio and Studio Industrial Park, the campaigners said.
The two sites have been listed as provisional historic sites.
The decision to reassemble the Xinbeitou Train Station in a local park instead of its original location to boost tourism shows that Ko is pandering to wealthy and politically influential figures in the area who would pursue commercial gains at the cost of cultural preservation, cultural campaigner Yu Liang-kuei (郁良溎) said.
Built in 1916, the station was the terminal on the rail line to Beitou District’s (北投) hot springs.
It was disassembled in 1989 and moved to the now-defunct Taiwan Folk Village in Changhua County to allow for the construction of the Taipei MRT’s Xinbeitou station.
The Taipei Cultural Heritage Review Committee passed a resolution to reassemble the station building in Beitou’s Qixing Park (七星公園), despite preservationists’ calls for it to be put back in its original location.
Former Academia Sinica member Yang Chung-hsin (楊重信) said Ko, an independent, is no different from other politicians since he places a major emphasis on development and lacks core values for the city.
Ko could not resist an urge to carry out developments whenever he sees a plot of land he thinks possesses commercial value in an almost Pavlovian reaction, Yang said.
Ko thinks that he can tackle Taipei’s socioeconomic problems through his eastern and western “gateway” projects, but these will only leave his successors challenges, as socioeconomic problems are complicated and cannot be so easily solved, Yang said.
Ko should prioritize his development projects and make the completion of projects deemed most beneficial to residents his administration’s short-term goals, Yang said.
The city should also create a land reserve system, so that future generations’ need for land would not be denied, he said.
Documentary director Hung Wei-chien (洪維健) criticized the Taipei Department of Cultural Affairs over its Nuit Blanche festival scheduled for next month on which the city has spent NT$9.2 million (US$292,714).
The festival, which is to feature works by French and local artists at locations in and around the historic North Gate and the Dadaocheng (大稻埕) area, is aimed at boosting the fanfare surrounding Ko’s Western Gateway Project, Hung said.
Ko should enlist someone who understands Taipei’s history as the department’s commissioner, rather than someone who only wants to “please her boss,” Hung said.
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