Amsterdam news summary | January 2019

Written by on 31/01/2019

Here’s a news roundup for Amsterdam this month …

In 2019, the redevelopment of the Zuidasdok, in the Zuidas business district, starts. Costing €2b, the whole project is forecast to take about 10 years to complete. By the end of construction, the southbound A10 South will go from four to six lanes and will be partially underground, and the two separate parts of the Zuidas will be linked via a residential, work and shopping area. The Amsterdam Zuid train station will also be refurbished.

The leader of the Amsterdam socialist party, SP, hit the headlines in January by calling on the city council to take steps to stop ‘Amsterdammers being displaced by expats and international students’. Sebastiaan Capel, of the liberal democratic party, D66,  criticised the comments as ‘xenophobic and populist’. Recent CBS figures show that the population of Amsterdam grew by 10,000 over 2018, largely due to the arrival of more international workers. However, research by the International Community Advisory Platform has shown that 80% of new expats get no help with housing costs and a large majority said they are paying more than they can afford for a place to live.

Local passports for illegal immigrants proposed | Amsterdam city council wants to issue an estimated 10,000 undocumented migrants with a local identity card with which to use certain Amsterdam facilities. These migrants include Filipinos and Brazilians who entered the Netherlands on a temporary visa but have stayed longer, often working as cleaners or in restaurants without a contract. With an Amsterdampas, a special identity card, migrants without a residence permit to remain could then get access to city assistance in cases of extreme poverty, for example. Similar schemes already operate in Barcelona and NYC. The council have shown support for the idea, but how it could be implemented is still up for discussion. It’s possible that the Amsterdampas could also be extended to include regular residents, symbolising a citizenship of Amsterdam, and could be used to provide discounts for Amsterdammers at museums and cultural institutions.

Udo Kock, the Amsterdam finance alderman has said that because of Brexit, around 30 companies have already chosen to move to the Amsterdam region and a further 100 companies are considering it. As a result, Amsterdam Port and Schiphol airport are already being expanded to meet the additional demands. Kock also warned that a no-deal Brexit will cost the Amsterdam region at least 1 billion euros gross. Despite the fact that the city is attracting many businesses moving from Amsterdam to London because of Brexit, research has shown that 18% of the Amsterdam region’s economy would be affected by a no-deal Brexit.

On 1 April 2019, Amsterdam and nearby Weesp are due to complete an offical merger. After this, civil servants from Weesp will be officially employed by the municipality of Amsterdam. Further ahead, after 2022, the plan is that Weesp would fall under the responsibility of the mayor of Amsterdam. Weesp would probably not form it’s own district or stadsdeel but possibly become part of the Zuidoost district.

New housing projects in 2019 | From 2018-2025, Amsterdam city council aims to build an average of 7,500 homes each year. Two of the biggest new housing projects are the new Bijlmerbajeskwartier and the Sluisbuurt. The first new homes in the Bijlmerbajeskwartier should be ready in 2020 or 2021. In autumn 2019, the infrastructure work for the Sluisbuurt will start, installing waterways, construction roads and road bridges, for example. The first lots for the Sluisbuurt will be issued in the second quarter of 2020, after which the construction of the first homes will start.

There will be fewer catering and building permits allowed in Amsterdam West in 2019. Following the recent growth in what’s known as horeca (hotels, restaurants and catering) in the area around De Hallen, Stadsdeel West has decided to put on a brake on things for now. So if you planned to open up a new take away or something in the Hugo de Grootgracht, the Singelgracht, the Zandpad, the Vondelpark, the Schinkel or the Kostverlorenvaart, you’ll have to wait until 2020 at least. Also, existing hospitality locations will not be able to expand or pivot to horeca activities. The aim is to preserve quality of life for residents in Amsterdam West, residents concerned about local shops being replaced by hospitality businesses.

Broadcast group Discovery shifts jobs from London to Amsterdam | Broadcasting companies like Discovery, BBC, and Viacom are all preparing for Brexit. For some, that means renegotiating UK licenses which will no longer be valid to cover the rest of Europe. For Discovery, that means moving their London base to Amsterdam. As well as some staff moving to the new office, this should also create new jobs.

Ban children from Amsterdam’s Red Light District: Ombudsman Arre Zuurmond, the Ombudsman (or the public’s representative) of Amsterdam, has been observing the Red Light District over the last four months. Zuurmond has said that residents’ complaints are rarely heard, and that more needs to be done by the municipality to combat the issues like crowd, crime, and noise. His suggestions include monitoring taxis via their GPS, limiting number of cheap flights into Amsterdam, and putting an age limit to Red Light District visitors. (NL Times)

In January, Prime Minister Mark Rutte defended Donald Trump against the “white wine sipping elite” of Amsterdam. He was speaking during Dutch television program, Buitenhof. The story made ripples across the world, including the Washington Post, and photos of Rutte sipping white wine with Vladimir Putin, and on a posh boat, were tweeted in response. Rutte has also at one point described Amsterdam as being “lost to the left”.

CRIME

Noord Holland police are investigating a series of stabbings by a car driver over the last few months. Most recently, a female cyclist was attacked by someone in a passing car in Barsingerhorn, near Den Helder. Three other similar attacks have taken place in the province, in Egmond aan den Hoef and Castricum. All the victims of the attacks were female and none of the women were seriously hurt. Police are investigating if the incidents are related and are looking for witnesses.

TRANSPORT

The city council plan to divert cyclists from the Haarlemmerstraat via a new bicycle connection over the Haarlemmer Houttuinen. The route along the Haarlemmerstraat and the Haarlemmerdijk has become one of the busiest bicycle routes in the city: 20,000 cyclists and just as many pedestrians use the streets every day. It’s hoped that by offering a parallel connection, more space would be created in the Haarlemmerstraat and on the Haarlemmerdijk. However, there’s some resistance to this, saying getting rid of the high concrete bridge over the Korte Prinsengracht would be unsafe.

From April 2019 a high-speed Thalys train will run direct from Amsterdam to Disneyland Paris. The stops include: Amsterdam, Schiphol, Rotterdam, Antwerp, Brussels, Roissy-Charles de Gaulle, and Disneyland Paris. The complete journey will take 3 hours 40 minutes, or less. The Thalys train company also announced that there will no longer be any Amsterdam trains direct to Lille and that they are increasing the bike capacity on their trains by 7%.

Following a series of fatal accidents involving Uber drivers in Amsterdam, the company is increasing the minimum age for new Uber drivers from 18 to 21 years, together with other measures. However, in the accidents reported, none of the drivers involved were under the age of 21. The company has also set up a task force with the city council to investigate all accidents involving Uber taxis. The Dutch traffic safety association, VVN, are happy about Uber’s response, so far.

Changes to tram infrastructure | From 1 January 2019, Amsterdam trams will run entirely on green electricity, with the energy sourced from Dutch wind farms. New 15G trams will also be introduced about mid way through the year on the Amstelveen line.

Riding the Noord/Zuidlijn in your underpants (Zonder broek met de Noord/Zuidlijn) | Following in the tradition of New York, Berlin, and London’s subways, Amsterdammers have also joined in riding the Noord/Zuidlijn in their underwear recently. The idea behind it being to counter Blue Monday, the most depressing day of the year. Whether it went down well enough in Amsterdam to do it again next year, we’ll have to see.

Various bodies have indicated that the Noord/Zuijdlijn could be extended as far as Schiphol airport. There seems to be no specific plans or financing as yet, but it’s certainly looking more likely, according to a report from Het Parool newspaper.  The idea is that if local train journeys to the aiport could be moved onto the metro, this would free up space for more international high-speed trains to run through Schiphol and ultimately help cut short distance flights in and out of Amsterdam.

In June Eurostar will add an extra service from London to Amsterdam, so there will be three daily direct trains to choose from The route only launched in April 2018 but it’s already proved overwhelmingly popular. The journey from St Pancras in London to Amsterdam takes 3hrs 52mins and Eurostar say that London-Amsterdam by train emits 80% less carbon compared to flying. The extra service will leave London at 11.04am arriving in Amsterdam around three o’clock, and, the early train will depart 75 minutes earlier, arriving in Amsterdam at 12:11. However, the return leg is longer, with a connection at Brussels for passport controls and security screening. Passport checks cannot take place in the Netherlands until an agreement has been reached between the two governments. Though the extra service won’t start till June, tickets are already available for booking.

Night Jazz Express from Amsterdam to Berlin starts in summer 2019 | Tickets are now on sale for a special night train service from Amsterdam to Berlin, the Night Jazz Express. Operated by Noord West Express, the new service promises several stages with live jazz acts throughout the journey, with a range of restaurants and bars on board, and sleeping compartments. It’s basically a mini jazz festival on a train. It will run from 28-30 June but they also hope to run another edition in July, and eventually on a weekly basis if it takes off. It would be the only night train out of Amsterdam to any destination. A one-way ticket costs €149.

LEISURE

Visitors to the Johan Cruyff Arena, the home of Amsterdam football team, Ajax, will no longer be able to bring in bags larger than A4 size. So that’s bags, suitcases or other items bigger than 30 x 21 x 10 cm. If you have a bag with you that’s too big, you will be able to place it in a safe at the Arena (but this is not at the gates). If you have a medical reason for carrying a large bag, you should contact the arena in advance to obtain special permission to bring it in. The new security policy is intended to improve safety in the arena.

The Sugar Factory nightlub on the Lijnbaansgracht has gone bankrupt | It looks likely that ticketholders for cancelled events will not get their money back, and around 50 employees have lost their jobs.

In Amsterdam, Albert Heijn supermarket chain has started hot meal deliveries via Thuisbezorgd.nl and Deliveroo. This new service is not available all over town yet, but Broadcast Amsterdam has already tried it out, and say this: “We were pretty happy with our beef curry with rice dish and pasta with salmon. The meal sizes are appropriate for one person per dish, and it’s pretty good value for money compared to other takeaway options.”

A newly formed Amsterdam boyband has released an anti-Brexit single. The group, Breunion, have appeared on UK television such as, Good Morning Britain on ITV and Sky News. The band is a creation of visual artist, Julia Veldhuis, and is made up of four Dutch nationals and one Spanish member. Veldhuis took inspiration from British band, Take That. The video for their single, Britain Come Back, contains typical boyband posturing; the guys kneeling on the beach, look at the North Sea, as if gazing at a lost love. Breunion are hoping to tour the UK this spring and bring their message in person.

NB We’re looking for volunteer news correspondents for online and radio. Get in touch with us at info@broadcastamsterdam.nl.

Sources: Het Parool / AT5 / NLtimes.nl / Dutchnews.nl.

 


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