Taxi-Men Battling For Space

The Battlefield Park is at the heart of Belize City and for the past four months – it’s been getting a complete re-design, and the news tonight is that it’s nearing completion. The park is expected to be opened by the Mayor next week – but today we got a preview of the finishing touches from the councilor with responsibility for parks, Kevin Singh:…

Kevin Singh - City Councilor
"The final touches that we're putting in is a sprinkler that is going to be set up - water will be timed, it won't run all day; every hour water shoots up and it's going to come up. I was asking if we could put several more benches because as you can see it's a lot of space and we need to put more benches. We're getting dirt bins made so that we can put them out and a few railings to go around and that's about it."

Jules Vasquez
"Now, one of the main things you guys have done is try and move the homeless out of the park."

Kevin Singh
"Well as far as you can see they are not here. What we have done is that we got a Park Warden and acts as a security and he has done a great job. He talks to them and some of them don't like the situation and one of them was really behaving rudely and he told them that he needed a bath and that the lady and her children out there don't want to sit down there if you sit there, he's just trying to do his job to keep them out."

Jules Vasquez
"This is claimed as a public space."

Kevin Singh
"I was out here two days ago and the people are utilizing the park, people are sitting in it and enjoying the space. We have a lot of cement and we tried to put cement because it's better to maintain, we tried to bring back some green and as you can see the little flowers coming up. The trees are not really blooming yet and we'll go back to normal in a while and then we can all enjoy it."

And while motorists may gripe that the expanded park shut down three key connecting streets in the downtown area – the Albert Street taxi-men have their own gripe. You might think they’d be satisfied with holding unto their spot in the downtown area after the mayor had planned to push them back to the fore-shore – but now they say they are being cheated out of parking spaces. We spoke to two taxi drivers today:…

Albert Cattouse - Albert Street Taxi
"From what we understand that we would have gotten ten spots. So far they have marked the park and we got 9 - now they are taking away four spots from us and only giving us five so I am very happy about it."

Jules Vasquez
"But everybody moved, the vendors moved - the band stand is gone, the homeless has been moved - how is it that you all got to stay?"

Albert "Girl" Robinson - Albert Street Taxi
"This has been here."

Jules Vasquez
"But things are moving on."

Albert "Girl" Robinson
"This isn't moving on because they need to move the people too - the people want to move, they complain, they tell us they're glad that you didn't go to courthouse wharf because how will we take bags all the way there when the people want to get a taxi plus it's dangerous for them to go back there if it's at night to get a taxi."

Jules Vasquez
"How do you answer the criticism gentlemen, that things move forward - the park has been completely redesigned and rebuilt and you all are anachronisms - something from the past and that they have changed the entire flow of the traffic. What else do you want?"

Albert Cattouse
"I know you have to move forward with time, time has changed and the thing is I want them to come out and say that 'this is the way' let us move on but so far we're hearing so much different that makes you wonder and that one day there might not be any taxi stand. We want to know the truth so that when we go to bed we can rest and feel safe that when you get up in the morning you have a place to work but so far we're hearing all kind of rumors."

And while they are members of the Albert Street union who want answers, the president, Steven Skeen says it is too early to comment and what will happen because he is still in negotiation with the Mayor.

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