Vila Autódromo Residents Reach Tentative Agreement with City on Upgrades

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After going to City Hall on March 15 to formally request a meeting with the Mayor to discuss the City’s upgrading plan for the community, residents of Vila Autódromo have had several rounds of meetings with Mayor Eduardo Paes on March 28 and Sub-Mayor of Barra de Tijuca Alex Costa on March 29 and April 1 to discuss its future. The community initially rejected the city’s plan because it had been developed without community input and had been released to a select group of journalists at an event made deliberately difficult for community members to attend.

Community meeting after first meeting with the City. Photo from Vila Autódromo Facebook page

The original City upgrading plan released on March 8 was not very detailed and left much to the imagination. Featuring 24 PowerPoint slides, most of the presentation focused on the decrease of families in the community from 824 to 25, without detailing the hard fought negotiationsroutine intimidation and psychological pressure that went into that reduction. Most of the details were only made available to the journalists present during the March 8 meeting. It is clear, however, that the original plan did not take into account Vila Autódromo’s own award-winning, updated People’s Plan.

City's original plan for Vila Autódromo presented on March 8. Image from Rio City Government.
City’s original plan for Vila Autódromo presented on March 8. Image from Rio City Government.

However, following the recent meetings with public officials, it seems the community has been able to secure some modifications to the City’s original plan. The original twin houses will be separated, with an increase in ten square meters from 46 to 56 meters squared. According to blueprints shared on the Vila Autódromo Facebook page, each home will be one story with two bedrooms, a kitchen, bathroom, and living room. The City also agreed to increase lot sizes from 125 to 180 meters squared with room for a small garden and driveway. Within the community, the City also agreed to include a new Neighborhood Association building, commercial area, cultural center, and more public space. An additional road will connect Nelson Piquet Street to the already standing Catholic church. The community will also remain an Area of Special Interest for Housing under Municipal Law 74/2005

Community Upgrades Vila Autodromo
New Plan with Community Modifications. Photo courtesy of Vila Autódromo Facebook page.

Despite how long and arduous this fight for upgrades has been, residents seem optimistic following these rounds of negotiations.  

The City’s updated plan, however, still requires that residents relocate to an as yet undisclosed location temporarily during the construction process. Residents have expressed skepticism of this proposal, arguing that they cannot trust that they will be allowed to move back to Vila Autódromo. Given a history of deceit on the part of the City administration, including past use of a ‘Trojan Horse’ tactic, their concern is well founded. As a result, community members tagged a building with the message “we will only leave once we are in our new homes.” A Facebook post accompanying a picture of the graffiti explained: “It is very difficult to trust the City management after all the awful things we have been subjected to.”

"We'll only leave when we're in our new homes" Graffiti in Vila Autódromo
“We’ll only leave to enter our new homes” graffiti in Vila Autódromo

In a meeting with residents in Vila Autódromo on April 1, Sub-Mayor of Barra de Tijuca Alex Costa insisted on the importance of clearing the community for upgrades. “What’s preferable, that everyone leaves to do the work all in one go, or to do it with people living [here]?” he asked. “I think without anyone living [here].” Costa cited the dust, noise and general inconvenience that the construction would cause residents, as well as the delays caused by accommodating residents who refuse to leave.

The City’s plan lacks a clear timeline, though residents have been assured that the new homes will be completed before the Olympics begin on August 5. However no one has clearly articulated when construction will begin. The two schools included in the plan will be built using recycled material from an Olympic stadium that will be disassembled after the Games.

Community members encourage supporters to continue their #UrbanizaJá  (#UpgradesNow) campaign to ensure that upgrades happen as agreed upon and in a timely manner.