Oxford St dissatisfaction boils over
- Jonathan Mimo
- Thursday, 7 March 2013
The hype surrounding Oxford St’s busiest weekend of the year has masked a groundswell of dissatisfaction over Council’s policies towards the thoroughfare.
As participants and floats descended onto Oxford St for Mardi Gras last weekend, councillors and community members asked why temporary initiatives such as the rainbow crossing, the pop-up Mardi Gras Museum and the local Streetware artwork projects were not being made permanent.
Councillor Edward Mandla hit out strongly at the Clover Moore-led Council over years of alleged neglect.
“The Lord Mayor has effectively been in charge of Oxford St for 25 years. What should be seen as a permanent global gateway to culture is increasingly a City of Sydney walk of shame,” he said.
Labor Councillor Linda Scott said it was unfortunate Oxford St’s temporary fixtures will be taken down.
Speaking about the Mardi Gras Museum, she said: “You could walk into Taylor Square or walk down Oxford Street tomorrow, and if you didn’t already know, [you would] have no idea of the area’s significance to the gay and lesbian community.”
Five City of Sydney councillors – Irene Doutney, Christine Forster, Edward Mandla, Linda Scott and Angela Vithoulkas – believe the T2 Building should be used to house a permanent Mardi Gras or LGBT museum in recognition of the gay community’s significance to the area.
Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore is believed to oppose the idea.
A participant in Sydney’s first Mardi Gras in 1978, Greens Councillor Irene Doutney, said the council-owned “T2 building is the ideal spot for a permanent museum”.
However, it is understood the City has plans to turn the T2 building into a cycling hub.
With five of the ten councillors part of the Clover Moore Independent Team, and Ms Moore holding the casting vote, the fate of the building rests in the Lord Mayor’s hands.
Ms Moore said a range of initiatives would be canvassed in discussions over its the future use. “We will shortly open an Expression of Interest process for the former T2 building. I look forward to seeing a whole range of ideas on how best to use the space,” she said.
Councillor Angela Vithoulkas hit out at the Lord Mayor, arguing a permanent museum was a no-brainer.
“This is just another example of Clover imposing her will from top down. The local community – at least all the people I’ve spoken to – would prefer the T2 Building to be a Mardi Gras/LGBT museum, not a cycling hub,” she said.
State Member for Sydney Alex Greenwich, a staunch Clover ally and gay rights supporter, withheld from the debate.
“What happens from here is a matter for Mardi Gras and the City the Sydney … both parties are in regular dialogue about what happens next and the City of Sydney has already approved an extension for the time the property can be used as a museum,” he said.
Further criticism has been levelled against Council’s decision to install a temporary rainbow crossing at a cost of $110,000 to ratepayers.
Mr Mandla said: “I’m not against the rainbow crossing, I’m against $110,000 for one month which equates to a quarter of the City’s homelessness budget.”
But Ms Moore insisted it is a State Government issue and hopes “the government and RMS take heed of the popular support for the rainbow crossing and withdraw the condition that the crossing be removed at the end of March”.
On the business front, local retailer and former Darlinghurst Business Partnership president Andrew Duckmanton was adamant Council should be promoting Oxford St as a cultural hub.
“All I want for Oxford St is a place in people’s hearts … like Greenwich Village in New York. I’d like everyone to know what is here and what Oxford St represents,” said Mr Duckmanton.
Meanwhile, Liberal Councillor Christine Forster said: “Oxford St has been dying a slow economic death over the last few years and Council needs to revitalise the economic and cultural vibrancy of the area.”
Ms Moore dismissed the various complaints over Council’s handling of Oxford St.
“Over the past eight years, we’ve invested $45 million in projects along Oxford St including public domain improvements such as new paving, wider footpaths and street lighting,” she said.
With Peter Hackney
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