WHILE the civic body and the collectorate have conducted joint surveys for the widening of Hazarimal Somani Road, the Bombay Gymkhana, which has been asked to hand over some part of its premises for the road widening has started approaching top officials, including municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta, Collector Ashwini Joshi and the heritage committee, seeking a hearing.
The Bombay Gymkhana has written to the municipal commissioner twice, the last letter sent to him and the collector on September 7, which mentions their application for extension of parking permissions as well as losing a significant portion of their land to the road-widening project. “We have just been reading about a portion of the Gymkhana land being handed over for the widening of the road. But till date, there has been no formal communication from either the collectorate or the BMC. We have thus written to them asking for a hearing to be conducted so that we can put forth our side,” said an official from the Gymkhana.
The official added that they had also written to the heritage committee on August 29 but haven’t received any response. Civic officials had, however, earlier stated that though the Gymkhana has been recognised as a heritage site, the CEO bungalow is not listed as a heritage property in their records. Senior civic officials, however, stated that since the land officially belongs to the collector, the Gymkhana doesn’t have to be made a party in the proceedings. “We don’t owe them a hearing since their lease has expired and the decision now rests with the collector,” said a senior civic official. Gymkhana officials had earlier suggested to the A ward officials to utilise open space within the Cathedral and John Connon School and the Bombay Diocesan Council located opposite to the Gymkhana instead.
In response, the official said, “The land on the opposite side belongs to private owners and we will have to pay a heavy compensation. Why should the BMC incur a massive expense when we can acquire government land at Re 1 per sqm. Besides, the pedestrians are a higher priority than the needs of a club.”
Meanwhile, members of the elite club stated that the administration is conducting a survey on the number of pedestrians using the footpaths in front of the Gymkhana on a daily basis. “The counting started on August 29 and has been going on from 6 am till 10 pm. On several days, the daily count is between 20,000-22,000 people while majority of the pedestrians use the stretch of the road extending from the Azad Maidan upto the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus station subway at the end of the road,” said a member requesting anonymity.