The private sector is good for cities if the public can use laws to contain it, says the urban policy scholar: "an authoritative role for the public administration is needed"

“The invention of Milan” is the title of a book by Lucia Tozzi (published by Cronopio) which has been read a lot in recent times. Because it gives an x-ray of the city of Milan, of its tics and its urban policies, of its administration and its inhabitants, very current and relevant.

The Milan invented and narrated by its own communication strategy, so effective as to almost become the urban jargon of those who live there, is investigated under x-rays. The photograph highlights the real estate development of the territory, alongside the rhetoric of participation "from below" and the consequent failure of public welfare, while in the background there are the urban transformation and the construction of an ideology for which Milan would represent a model of excellence, which in reality translates into gentrification and the unconditional surrender of the public and associations to the private sector.

There are now many examples of how the city has transformed, some more or less successful, some hindered and some participated.

From the experiments that have effectively changed the face of the city, such as the Porta Nuova case and the Library of trees, public territory now acquired and lived in by citizens (also thanks to an activity program managed by Fondazione Catella), the Milan that was on its way to the Expo and what followed, up until today, is narrated outside the official rhetoric.

We talked about it with the author, also thinking about a possible change of direction, compared to the coordinates indicated in her book.

There is an area of ​​Milan that for now resists gentrification and the cannibalization of urban policies dictated by the real estate market: Lambrate and the Feltre district...

«Lambrate and in particular the area around via Ventura represent one of the few failed attempts at gentrification. The Dutch had tried (led by Margriet Vollenberg, founder of Ventura Projects) who had organized the coolest district of the fair, attracting many galleries. But as soon as they moved to the centre, followed shortly after by the Galleria De Carlo, the area emptied.

Then another phenomenon prevailed. Ortica is the neighborhood of murals, created thanks to the local Cooperativa Edificatrice by the hand of Orticanoodles to tell uplifting stories of the neighborhood's civic heroes.

The objective was clearly stated by the parties involved: we did it to regenerate, they said in an interview.

So much so that Franca Caffa, historic activist (94 years old!) for the right to housing, who had been invited to the inauguration of the murals because she appeared among the characters portrayed, not only she refused to participate, but also asked to be removed from the drawing.

The reason, she said, concerns housing struggles: these murals serve to raise prices in the real estate market.

In this area for now the only intervention is a tower block which should have provided a park for children and citizens, but which in reality has greenery inside the building, out of proportion to the public part.

Not too far away is the Lambretta park which should now extend further beyond the Innocenti warehouses and then the Lambro park, defended by the inhabitants of the Feltre neighbourhood".

Let's talk about Milan Cortina and the works at the Scalo di Porta Romana. What will happen to that area once the project is finished?

«What will happen next is difficult to predict. The project is presented as a kind of laboratory of financialized mutualism signed by Manfredi Catella with his COIMA, together with Prada > and Covivio, which includes the Olympic village which will then be transformed into an affiliated student residence; a residential part, made up of houses for free residence (at market prices), subsidized and social housing (social housing); the park (equal to 50 percent of the area), strongly desired by Prada, which extends up to its Foundation; a part intended for offices in the area towards Corso Lodi and closer to the subway in a very dense development.

The definitive drawings for this part of the project have not yet been released, perhaps they are still being defined, and it is certainly from there that the most profitable part of the operation will be extracted.

What we can already see is how far the gentrification has spread, reaching as far as Brenta and the public housing of Corvetto: via Romilli which was a street a bit on the edge and rather inhospitable, it is now the street of art galleries (and already christened by the magazine Artiribune as the new art district).

It is extending further, up to the South Park, an area of ​​public housing and problematic neighborhoods and the construction site of Santa Giulia has also been unblocked, confirming the revaluation of the area ».

Another situation is that of San Siro, emblem of an encirclement...

«The Syre project of San Siro, the one on the former trot, the new spa on the former de Montel stables, are luxury projects that are developed around an area of ​​public housing (the so-called Quadrilatero) which it turns out to be a kind of "black hole" of income, which is burdened by a demolition-reconstruction project that would drive away the inhabitants.

So everything is being done to change the narrative of the area: there is the OFFCampus of the Polytechnic and the involvement of the third sector and associations which contribute to giving the impression of not wanting to chase away the inhabitants".

And then there is the question of the stadium

«For me, a case of failed communication, fortunately. This time the activists and local associations were not naive, they knew how to read the projects and always represented dissent, causing certainties about the real feasibility of the works to falter.

Then the certainty was shattered with the intervention of Sgarbi who placed the constraint.

There is another symbolic place regarding the success of neighborhood committees, the Goccia in Bovisa forest park. The committee was made up of a not very large number of people, that is, not from the entire neighbourhood, but very active in defending the forest park from the Koolhaas plan which envisaged its total demolition.

The committee's decades-long struggles served to save it, at least partially, by making the inhabitants aware of the project and by making continuous appeals that blocked and delayed the work.

In the end, Renzo Piano's project took its place, saving about half the forest for now. And then, another example, is what happened in Piazza d'Armi: the citizens' committee managed to prevent a park precious for biodiversity from being razed to the ground. Many feel helpless, but the struggle, as we can see, often pays off."

Is there a way in which the public and private sectors can work virtuously together?

«You cannot think that the private sector is absolute evil, nor that it is a philanthropic organisation, it would be a distortion. He can do well if he is forced, that is, if the public is strong thanks to the laws it can use to contain it."

Specifically, what tools would you need?

«To change course we need to reject the policies of rent, that is, implement anti-cyclical policies, regulate the housing and commercial rental market through fiscal instruments, place a ceiling on the cost of rentals, implement public housing and establish restrictions for airbnb.

But above all, it is necessary to dissociate the idea of ​​development from that of competition on the global and local scene. We must cooperate with other cities and territories in the name of the public interest and citizens, not tear investors and flows of students and tourists away from each other.

To do this, however, we need to give back to the public administration skills, funding and rules that place it in a stronger decision-making position. The legislative production of the last 20-30 years, by dint of liberalizing and encouraging horizontal subsidiarity, has rendered the public powerless."

Do you think that this second Sala council has lost authority compared to the first, inherited from Pisapia?

«It's not a question of authority. Sala today seems less authoritative only because the excesses set in the first council have created an uncontrollable situation. But the continuity is total."