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Disputed Construction Program Clears Key Hurdle

The Moscow City Duma on Wednesday passed in a crucial second reading a bill outlining City Hall's construction plans for the next 15 years that critics said puts corporate interests ahead of those of residents and does little to alleviate traffic jams.

Deputies approved the General Plan for Moscow's Development From 2010 to 2025, popularly dubbed Genplan, in a 28-0 vote. Two Communist deputies abstained.

All 28 votes were cast by United Russia deputies, who hold all but three seats in the 35-member legislature. The Communists have the other three seats.

Moscow's chief architect, Alexander Kuzmin, whose agency drafted the bill, assured the Duma on Wednesday that the current draft had "taken into account" a large number of amendments submitted by deputies and Moscow residents.

Mikhail Moskvin-Tarkhanov, a United Russia deputy and head of the Duma's commission for city development, said critics' complaints that the legislation contradicted the interests of Muscovites were "unfounded."

The bill will probably go through a third and final reading in late April, he said.

But Communist Deputy Andrei Klychkov criticized the bill for putting business interests first.

"Genplan is not oriented toward the interests of Muscovites but toward the interests of oligarchs," he said.

"It offers no solution to the transportation problem and allows developers to use territory with cultural or historic heritage," Klychkov said.

Preservationists agreed that the bill failed to protect cultural and historic buildings, which Mayor Yury Luzhkov has come under fire for knocking down in previous years.

Genplan puts about 230 buildings in the city's central district alone into so-called reorganization zones where demolition is allowed, Konstantin Mikhailov, a coordinator of Arkhnadzor, a preservationist group, told The Moscow Times.

Sergei Udaltsov, coordinator of the public movement Moskovsky Soviet, said by telephone that Genplan allows demolition and construction in zones where residents have asked City Hall to ban such work.

Genplan also "considerably reduces" the number of environmentally protected zones, Udaltsov said.

“The transportation problem will not be solved, the environmental situation will become worse, and the city will continue to become less and less suitable for living in," he said.

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