Olympic Demolitions Begin in Vila União de Curicica With Zero Justification

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Demolitions in Vila União de Curicica are now underway despite the promised re-routing of the TransOlympic BRT highway and bus corridor (TransOlímpica) announced by City government in December. Before that announcement, the West Zone neighborhood was being threatened with one of the largest evictions yet proposed for the 2016 Olympics due to its location along the proposed BRT route less than a mile from the future Olympic site.

The announcement in December had given residents reason for optimism. Citing resistance to the community’s removal, city officials came to Vila União de Curicica to announce a revised plan for the BRT that avoided most homes and lowered the necessary evictions by 83%. The new plan utilized some relatively unused land on a hospital complex along the neighborhood’s northern edge. However, residents heard little confirmation from officials after the initial announcement.

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Then early this year, a quietly released government document revealed that 304 families would be evicted from the area, up from the 181 announced in December. Now, community residents report hearing, from government officials in private, that everyone will need to leave their homes.

Original route in gray, revised route announced in December in yellow, traversing largely empty areas: a hospital courtyard, pre-existing street and a privately-owned soccer field.

Residents are disappointed that the City has been unable to avoid evictions. One resident said: “Today engineers can build viaducts, tunnels and build things in space but they can’t avoid our community?”

The Public Ministry’s office has sent a request for the official project plan but was told it is not yet finalized.

Moving trucks have become a common sight along the neighborhood’s edge.

As in nearby Vila Autódromo and other communities facing eviction, the City punches holes in each wall of the empty homes to make them uninhabitable. Safety concerns loom large. Residents who wish to stay have also reported that demolitions of some homes have affected their water and Internet services. Residents told us many of the demolitions took place over Easter weekend, when residents were celebrating the religious holiday, and that demolition crews attempted to block residents from photographing the scene and mocked them.

Residents fighting eviction argue there is ample free space to the north of the community where the BRT could be built.

The City has also been cracking down on local businesses in the neighborhood. One local bar owner had his business shut down due to alleged sanitary violations even though he doesn’t serve food, only sealed beverages. Officials refused to renew his business license because the neighborhood was being evicted, putting him in an impossible bind.

Negotiations have continued to occur on a one-on-one basis and compensation offers have risen in recent months, but residents still claim these figures are not nearly enough to buy a comparable home in the surrounding area, as required by the Municipal Organic Law. Housing prices in Curicica reflect the steady upward trend in this region of the city; while prices in the South Zone cool off, prices in the West Zone continue to climb.

Will the City stick with its promise to minimize evictions and use its revised project plan, or is it really reverting to its original plan and attempting to evict the entire community? With recent demolitions taking place in the southern region of Vila União de Curicica, it appears the latter is an imminent possibility.

City demolition teams punch holes through each wall to make structures un-livable.