Theme park, garden planned on 120-acre racecourse land | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Theme park, garden planned on 120-acre racecourse land

Jan 06, 2024 08:48 AM IST

Apart from BMC’s plan with the acquisition, the minutes of the meeting also detail that in the new lease agreement with RWITC, the BMC commissioner will be its free life member and hold the right to nominate another life member (free) every year. The chief minister will also be a free life member and have the right to nominate 50 free life members

Mumbai: The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) grand plan to set up a theme park at Mahalaxmi Racecourse, and the political strife stemming from it, refuses to die down.

The decision to construct a theme park at the racecourse was vehemently criticised by Aaditya Thackeray, Sena UBT MLA, who called it “a virtual sell-out and land grab of 227 acres of open space” in a post on X on Friday. Thackeray alleged that 91 acres will be kept with RWITC and the rest will be taken for “development” by the BMC. He also stated that a 30-year lease agreement will be signed for RWITC (Pratik Chorge/HT Photo)
The decision to construct a theme park at the racecourse was vehemently criticised by Aaditya Thackeray, Sena UBT MLA, who called it “a virtual sell-out and land grab of 227 acres of open space” in a post on X on Friday. Thackeray alleged that 91 acres will be kept with RWITC and the rest will be taken for “development” by the BMC. He also stated that a 30-year lease agreement will be signed for RWITC (Pratik Chorge/HT Photo)

It took 15 meetings and 16 months for Iqbal Singh Chahal, administrator and civic chief, to convince the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) to hand over 120 acres -- a huge chunk of land from the Racecourse’s 227 acres -- to BMC to build a garden and theme park for public. Chahal told HT that RWITC decided on giving up the 120-acre spot, after consulting with leading architect Hafeez Contractor.

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It will now hold an annual general body meeting before it gives a final nod to this proposal – it will have to be ratified by 75 percent of the club’s 200-plus voting members. The meeting is expected to be held in the third week of January.

Apart from BMC’s plan with the acquisition, the minutes of the meeting also detail that in the new lease agreement with RWITC, the BMC commissioner will be its free life member and hold the right to nominate another life member (free) every year. The chief minister will also be a free life member and have the right to nominate 50 free life members.

The decision to construct a theme park at the racecourse was vehemently criticised by Aaditya Thackeray, Sena UBT MLA, who called it “a virtual sell-out and land grab of 227 acres of open space” in a post on X on Friday. Thackeray alleged that 91 acres will be kept with RWITC and the rest will be taken for “development” by the BMC. He also stated that a 30-year lease agreement will be signed for RWITC.

Thackeray alleged that BMC will spend Rs100 crore on rebuilding stables at the racecourse to influence other horse owners to agree to this proposal which will be taken from taxpayers’ kitty.

Refuting the allegation, Chahal told HT, “There are 2800 horses in the racecourse right now. All the stables are in a plot coming to us. So, we decided to build multi-storey stables elsewhere. What’s wrong in that? We are getting precious 120 acres free of cost. So we are giving 97 crore (to build the stables) in return for 120 acres.”

Refuting Thackeray’s claim of spending taxpayers’ money on the horses, Chahal underlined, “as BMC is breaking the stables and making 2800 horses homeless, it was only its duty to compensate them”.

Thackeray in his post on X also raised doubts on a slum rehabilitation project discussed by RWITC in a meeting chaired by chief minister Eknath Shinde, four RWITC senior officials on December 6 at his official residence, Varsha.

Chahal clarified: “Apart from the stables, there are 70 slum houses abutting their plot near Mahalaxmi bridge towards St Regis hotel. So, we agreed to relocate the slums in nearby SRA projects and get the racecourse’s three to four acre land vacated as a gift. Except these two, I am not extending any other favour.”

Objecting to Thackeray’s allegation that he will not let BMC put a single brick in this open space and let a few people give the land away to builder-contractor sarkar, Chahal said, “It is so unfortunate that when we are trying to create a lung of 300 acres for the city with 175 acres from Coastal Road garden to be connected with 120 acres through a subway, and the minutes of the meeting underlines that it will be a public garden only, still people are continuing with the allegations.” He emphasised that he was the first to float the theory for coexistence.

He added that 175 acres of Coastal Road garden is being monitored by the Supreme Court; the court has taken down in writing that nothing can be built there.

“We wanted a helipad there, which was denied by SC. Now we are constructing a subway on Annie Besant Road abutting NSCI, which will be at least four times wider than existing subways of Mumbai, as a pedestrian connection between two gardens - the Coastal Road garden and the Mahalaxmi garden. Ultimately, it will become a single garden of 295 acres,” added Chahal.

He underscored that “for the next 100 years, people in Mumbai will bless us that we created a 300-acre garden for the first time in India. Hyde Park in London is 400 acres, Central Park is 500acres.We are building a product along those lines”.

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