Music and Art Schools Envisioned for City

The city is looking to build 60 art and music schools and libraries over the next three years, chief city architect Alexander Kuzmin said Tuesday at City Hall's weekly meeting.

The new buildings are expected by 2009 as part of an effort to develop the city's cultural infrastructure by 2020.

Of Moscow's officially designated neighborhoods, 33 lack art schools, 28 are without social clubs, and five do not have libraries, said Sergei Khudyakov, the city's culture committee chairman.

Whether the new facilities will ever be built is unclear: No money has been set aside, no locations have been picked, and no architectural plans were discussed at the meeting.

Mayor Yury Luzhkov, who had said little up until this point, finally weighed in: "It is a question of money."

"Moscow," Luzhkov continued, "is one of the world's biggest cultural centers -- the fourth-biggest, after London, Paris and New York.

"We have a lot of work ahead, but we've done more in the last few years than in all previous years combined," the mayor said.

To make the project more feasible, the city should team up with private investors, Khudyakov added.

Also at the meeting, city officials considered a bill regulating the treatment of wild animals. Victoria Busarova of the federal Natural Resources Ministry noted that federal regulations protecting wild animals had not changed since 1995, and that the city had a right to take action on its own. She lamented that protecting the natural world "had not been a priority" for Russians.

Protecting wildlife could help efforts to boost tourism, Moscow City Duma Deputy Vera Stepanenko said.

"Foreign tourists will stay a few days longer if we do just a little, and the city budget will grow," Stepanenko said.