PM slams plan for Mandela Park, PoS Corp backpedals

ON THE GREEN: Boys from Guerreros FC Soccer School practice football at Nelson Mandela Park, St Clair Avenue, Port of Spain on Monday. Photo by Sureash Cholai
ON THE GREEN: Boys from Guerreros FC Soccer School practice football at Nelson Mandela Park, St Clair Avenue, Port of Spain on Monday. Photo by Sureash Cholai

THE PRIME MINISTER has rubbished the now-cancelled proposal by the Port of Spain City Corporation's to lay artificial turf at Nelson Mandela Park, St Clair, calling it "a salesman’s foolish idea."

Dr Rowley posted a rare criticism of the PNM-controlled corporation on Monday afternoon. The corporation confirmed on Monday that the proposal has been scrapped.

The proposal was actually credited to Colm de Freitas, owner of Capital Sports Facility Ltd, during a virtual discussion in July, led by deputy mayor of Port of Spain Hillan Morean, and endorsed by Mayor Joel Martinez.

Rowley posted on his Facebook page on Monday, "Replacing the natural environment at Mandela Park with artificial turf is a salesman’s foolish idea that ought not to waste the time or the resources of the Port of Spain Corporation.

Dr Keith Rowley -

"The Government is sure the corporation can put its time and money to much better use and spare us all this unnecessary aggravation."

Ironically, the third page of the document which served as the basis of the proposal shows a Newsday newspaper clipping of Rowley endorsing private investment for the revitalisation of Port of Spain.

The 18-page document only began circulating over the past couple of days, although public response to the discussion closed on Emancipation Day.

The proposal, after being pitched last week drew quick ire from residents, as well as environmentalists, planners and other stakeholders.

The Catholic Commission for Social Justice in a statement, asked Martinez to "listen to the cry of the people and the cry of the earth and leave the grass that covers a large part of Nelson Mandela Park in St Clair intact."

The commission's chair Leela Ramdeen was quoted, saying, "The environmental crisis is a moral challenge for us in TT also. Just look around at the environmental degradation that surrounds us.

"Mayor Martinez, we are all stewards/trustees of our environment. Let us acknowledge our interconnectedness/interdependence and build right relationships with our environment."

Ramdeen also described Martinez's point about the project not costing taxpayers as a "trojan horse."

She said not everything that is free is good for the city or country and that the value of green spaces in the city is not to be underestimated.

Joel Martinez -

"Since TT is a signatory to the Paris Agreement, CCSJ calls for sustainable, responsible, environmentally responsible revitalisation of our city."

Ramdeen asked Martinez to give serious consideration to concerns raised by activists and regular citizens on the potential adverse effects on the environment.

"CCSJ maintains that astroturf may look good, but plastic is plastic," Ramdeen wrote.

"The CCSJ also questions how the conversion to a fee-for-use facility will benefit the many people who currently use the space free of charge. The plan will not be inclusive."

Essentially, the proposal notes that Capital Sports Facility would provide the administration of grassroots programmes and solicit funding, as well as design, construct, and maintain the facility.

The corporation would have provided lighting, the project's public relations, and the long-term operating lease.

Capital Sports Facility Ltd said the business model is "privately run for public benefit."

It would have sought about $20 million in private funds for sporting and maintenance equipment. It estimates annual operation and maintenance costs at $500,000.

Former president of the Joint Consultative Council (JCC) Afra Raymond, speaking with Newsday before Monday's developments, questioned the need for multi-purpose facilities, arguing that there is an abundance of sporting grounds in and around the capital.

He questioned when the corporation would have actually received the 18-page proposal, as public comments were to close on Monday.

"What is the unexplained delay in the PoS City Corporation publishing the proposal?" he asked. "Is it that this is a secret proposal?"

"All the mayor needs to do is just press 'send' – that is all."

Newsday also spoke with Morean, who said the corporation has and will continue to consult with stakeholders, including the public.

"On behalf of the PoS Corporation, I put together the meeting (on July 26)," Morean said.

"All proposals brought forward would be considered. Proposals can be sent via the corporation’s e-mail."

He said he always ensures the public is consulted on such projects.

"We tried to consult with as many people as possible. I myself did walkabouts to invite people and make them aware of the consultation.

"We reached out to businesses, residents, embassies and NGOs in the area. Any decision made is not to be taken lightly.

"The next steps would be to work with the Port of Spain North MP (Colm Imbert) [In fact the MP is Stuart Young], who thanked us for our transparency."

Morean said both "good and bad things were said," during a recent discussion with Imbert, including chronic issues facing WASA at the park.


"PM slams plan for Mandela Park, PoS Corp backpedals"

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