One of the first communities in Bucharest is the Lacul Tei Initiative, we discussed their history and aims with its member Dorin Moldoveanu who we met in the Parcul Circului, a public park of which the neighbourhood community take care. They desribe themselves as “a group of ordinary citizens living in the Tei neighbourhood that decided to try to change the living in the area”. They established with the help of a local NGO CeRE (Resource Centre for Public Participation) who helped them with their first group meetings and public cafés where they collected the needs of the neighbourhood residents. The main identified issues were parking, cleanliness, citizens safety and houses term insulation. During the years, thanks to the community cooperation they have gained more power (in the eyes of politicians they represent more votes and thus are “louder” than single voices) and achieved some improvements.
In 2010 after the negotiation with the municipality, they got permission to park on one lane of the main boulevard (along the park) during the nights because there are not enough parking places in the neighbourhood. This was apparently the people’s primary concern, also because they used to do it before anyway but the fine was (is) half of an average salary. But there were always issues which motivated them to act.
There were always different interests claiming the park. The park’s name is actually according to the circus who seats in the park. They used to rent part of it (fenced off) and kept animals there. The community managed to free the space and open it again for the public. Also, the protested against building a huge statue of circus figures which would take away the free space in the park. In the end, the circus decided to place the statue in the middle of a bus parking place in front of the circus; this location did not raise any civil resistance.
The community group takes care of the park in the long term. They fight for the reparation of the irrigation system because during the construction of the office towers in the surrounding, the groundwater level was punctured and so the water level in the lake is declining which endangers the flora and fauna in the park. They make pressure on the municipality to care better about the park and their action led already to several improvements in the park – reconstruction of stairs, installation of litter bins etc. With the help of the architecture studioBASAR, they built new seating (over old battered benches) and thus create a favourite meeting (picnic) place with a view on the lake. They also organise many events – public cafes, lectures and discussions, neighbourhood meetings, night sky observation, some of them attracted hundreds of people. They regularly send newsletter and publish a newspaper.
The group realised they need a stable meeting place – where they could also store the stuff (for events etc.). They got funding in the Urbaniada project by the ING Bank and in partnership with the studioBASAR adjusted a maritime container in the middle of the park in 2015. Although it is community-led “container”, their events are free and open to anyone. The façade was “vandalised” many times with graffiti and tags, after some time the group and the architects stop repainting it.
The Lacul Tei Community serves as an example for other groups, e.g. Matei David from the Cișmigiu Civic Initiative Group gained his experience here. The Community aims to test and validate a model of good practice for the development of other community centres managed by active citizens. Thus, the transfer from the citizen as a consumer of the public space to the citizen as a co-producer of public space, benefits by a format in a space of cooperation and solidarity, in which communities can find their identity and where the civic spirit can channel its energy (studioBASAR, 2015).
studioBASAR (2017). Tei Community Center. studioBASAR [online]. Retrieved October 1, 2018, from http://www.studiobasar.ro/?p=8284&lang=en