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Istanbul Municipality Faces Fury Over Disruptions on Historic Street

Pedestrians and business owners continue to direct outrage at the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IBB) for leaving paving stones throughout Ordu Street, a prominent location for domestic and international commerce near the city’s historic peninsula, causing disruptions to daily life.

On Nov. 2 of last year, the IBB initiated landscaping and pavement work on Ordu Street in the Laleli district, which receives thousands of visitors daily. The street was closed to both vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

During construction, many stone-filled pallets were left scattered throughout the street, creating hazards for both pedestrians and business owners. The obstructions impede foot traffic in busy commercial areas and may cause safety concerns for those with mobility issues. Multiple complaints have been filed by affected parties regarding this matter.

Speaking to an Anadolu Agency (AA) correspondent, shopkeeper Arif Özkan expressed disappointment with the recent street construction in Laleli. When the work began, Özkan had hoped for a more modern area. Instead, the street is now littered with unfinished stonework.

“We are surrounded by stones that block comfortable passage,” he said.

“This spot marks the gateway to Istanbul’s historic peninsula where tourists pass through. The ‘gemstones’ here resemble diamonds and rings, yet regrettably, they have not been removed even after a year,” Özkan criticized.

Özkan stated that although they have informed the municipality several times, there has been no progress.

“This situation affects our business. My customers from different parts of the world coming to the town always complain about those who are responsible for it,” Özkan continued.

An aerial view of the stones left on Ordu Street in Laleli, Istanbul, Türkiye, Nov. 16, 2023. (AA Photo)

“What kind of a service is this? What kind of a municipality is this? Why isn’t anyone taking any action?”

The street is also an entrance to the Blue Mosque, Grand Hagia Sophia Mosque and the Beyazıt Square.

Özkan explained that only a portion of the road was constructed under the project and that the IBB removed the store signs overnight claiming that they ruined the historical ambiance.

“It is unacceptable,” he said. “At 3 a.m, IBB staff took down our store signs, shattered and broke them.”

Özkan claimed that the IBB staff had told them to call, but no call has been so far made from the municipality side, and added that shopkeepers were even threatened with fines for these removed signs.

“Can you imagine? They threatened us with paying the price. As if they followed all the procedures appropriately,” he said.

‘We need service’

Reşat Yılmaz, a shopkeeper in the Grand Bazaar, explained that the current situation on the street is detrimental to the country’s image.

He has been a shopkeeper in the area for approximately 40 years and expressed concern that despite promises, there has been no progress.

“The stones, which have been present for around a year, require attention within a specific timeframe,” he said, and added, “The sight is disconcerting to all of us, as we witness people taking trips along the road and encountering accidents.”

“It’s a discredit to the country’s image that the Grand Bazaar in Laleli, which is considered Turkey’s heart, presents such a disgraceful sight.”

A passerby claimed that the stones have been on the street for a year, and tourists often fall due to ongoing roadwork.

‘No one to answer questions’

Barış Köseliören, vice president of the Laleli Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association (LASIAD), said that Laleli, where people from around 135 countries come to shop, is a kind of open-air shopping center.

Köseliören said that the roadwork on Ordu Street has had a negative impact on shopkeepers.

“We are having difficulty answering our customers’ questions: ‘What kind of situation is this?’ Nobody has been coming or going for six months. We don’t even know if the work was stopped six months ago or not,” he said.

“However,” he added, “All the materials are in the streets, the stones are here. It is a bad situation. Unfortunately, it is not a situation that suits us, that represents us. It is a shame. It is very bad that it is on the historical peninsula.”

“It is really unfortunate to have such an image in places where foreign customers visit, trade and shop. We do not understand it either. We cannot find anyone to talk to. It is like a joke.”

Köseliören also criticized the midnight removal of shopkeepers’ signs, saying the IBB did not take their opinions into account when determining the criteria for signs.

Historic location

Ordu Street reflects the city’s long and varied history. The name “Ordu” translates to “army” or “horde” in Turkish, indicating a historical connection to military activities.

In the Byzantine era, the street served as a commercial and residential hub. During the Ottoman period, it gained significance as a location for military barracks and headquarters. Notably, it runs adjacent to Topkapı Palace, the former residence of Ottoman sultans, and the Grand Hagia Sophia Mosque.

The street has witnessed historical events and transformations, adapting to the changing needs of the city. Today, it features a mix of traditional Turkish architecture and modern structures, hosting shops, cafes and boutiques.

Source: Daily Sabah