This is the only city on earth based on two continents at once; the Bosphorus divides the town between Asia and Europe like a river.
According to a survey by the Brookings Institution with the London School of Economics, Istanbul was the best in the world regarding recovery scenarios during the global financial crisis, due to 2010 figures. Being the capital for Roman, Byzantine and Turkish empires with a settlement history of more than 8,000 years, according to the latest archeological discoveries, Istanbul has a population of 14 million – half of it being under 30 – almost a fifth of Turkey’s population. It also produces almost a fifth of the Turkish economy, more than $137 billion in 2010. The fifth in Europe after London, Paris, Moscow and Madrid and by 2025 could pass Madrid’s economy. It is also the arts and culture capital of Turkey, attracting artists, writers and musicians from all over the world. International Jazz Day for example, is being launched today at the Hagia Irene museum with performances by dozens of world-class musicians.
On the other side of the coin, transportation is the number-one problem of Istanbulites, according to a survey carried out by the Istanbul Development Agency (İDA). Traffic in the city is driving people crazy, especially during rush hour. The governor’s office is planning to impose traffic restrictions in certain parts, particularly touristic parts of the city. Traffic is followed by environmental problems, pollution, deterioration of forest areas against vertical residential satellite-towns, despite the bitter memories of the big 1999 earthquake. The city is rich but its wealth distribution is one of the worst in Turkey. The working class is moving to the outskirts of the city year by year, because of the cost of living in the center, or rather centers, in economic and social terms. So, the city is full of arts and cultural events and niceties, but not all Istanbulites can afford to enjoy them. The protection of historical and cultural heritage is also a complaint, according to the İDA survey.
The government keeps making more promises for Istanbul every other day. Two underwater crossings, one being a railway, a third bridge, a third airport, cruise ports and more tourism areas, hoping that Istanbul will be the locomotive for the rest of the country.
İDA organized a workshop yesterday, on April 29, as the first step of a months-long project to determine priorities for Istanbul for the term 2014-2023. A pilot project for Istanbul for 2010-2013, according to Hüseyin Avni Mutlu, the governor of Istanbul, has encouraged the team to undergo more conceptual strategy work. In the halls of Istanbul Modern Museum of Arts, İDA has brought together names from NGOs, city planners, academics and media members to take the first step for a vision of the future of Istanbul. A smarter and more innovative Istanbul with better infrastructure and sustainable growth with more participation of Istanbulites.