Amsterdam: Future of the Torensluis. The city wants an exclusive Canal District

torensluisbrugLast night the Dagelijks Bestuur of the Central city district made a decision about the future of the Torensluis. The district wants to begin renovations soon, after which neighborhood groups will be abloe to sign a contract with them. As soon as the necessary permits have been obtained (which will probably be around May or June), the district will no longer tolerate us in the space.

The negotiations about a joint plan for the future use of the space were reaching their final stage in November 2016 when our negotiating partners, Stadsdorp 7 and Brug9buurt abruptly left the talks. It turned out that they did not want to sign our jointly devised plan because they wanted to submit their own proposal.

Contrary to the proposal of our former negotiating partners, the Spinhuis Collective wanted to keep the space open for use by a range of groups. We therefore saw the necessity of submitting our own proposal, in which we articulated our vision about public space in the city, specifically in the Torensluis. We therefore went in search of other socially engaged projects for possible collaborations. Neighborhood center D’Oude Stadt and Stichting Het Gespuis, both of whom have been forced to find a new space because of the commercialization of the city center, indicated their willingness to work with us in the future.

For us it is highly important that the space under the bridge is maintained for the neighborhood and the city; that it continues to facilitate debates, discussions, and cultural activities; that it continues to be a place where marginalized social groups can come together. A place where there is room for everyone, not just immediate neighbors living in canal houses. A place where we treat one another with respect and dignity, regardless of social status. You can read the proposal we submitted to the municipality here (in Dutch):

It is disappointing that this proposal will not be realized. We spent countless hours talking with Brug9buurt and StadsdorpBuurt7. Looking back now it appears that these groups were never serious about reaching an agreement. While we were busy running a bustling social center with a full program, it was unclear what the other groups actually wanted to do with the space, what kind of program they envisioned, and how they would keep the place running.

Brug9buurt turned out to be the pet project of a local business owner, Peter Hagendoorn. It focused on the “entrepreneurial” inhabitants within 150 meters of the Torensluis, i.e. its businesses. In its entire history, Buurt9buurt organized just one actual event, with the clear intent to claim the Torensluis for its own use in the future. We got the impression that this business owner is using the neighborhood as a tool for his own commercial schemes. During the negotiations he never came with concrete ideas about the program, but was insistent on keeping open the option of commercial subletting.

In time, more details about Peter Hagendoorn surfaced. He turned out to extract rent from a number of properties in central Amsterdam in a family venture with his father. He has a history of letting monumental buildings go to waste, leaving properties empty in the middle of a housing crisis, and getting rid of renters by failing to keep up on maintenance. What could such a figure want with the monumental Torensluis?

Recently we obtained some more clues. On their website, a certain “Sven” suddenly appeared as co-initiator of Brug9buurt, while we, in more than a year of close contact with Brug9buurt never met this person. Through some investigative online work we found out that this was Sven Pinck, owner of Hollandse Pepers, a human resource consultancy company based just inside the 150 meter radius that Peter Hagendoorn devised- not so arbitrarily, it turned out. He is also the chair of a networking organization for HR professionals. Are these the “entrepreneurial” inhabitants that will soon be able to host their nefarious networking events at this unique 17th century location?

The proposal that the district has now accepted leaves a lot of room for exploitation by these business owners. After a small yearly donation, neighboring businesses will be able to use the space for free. The future clientele will be exclusive. The bridge is located within Buurt7, the northern end of the western canal ring. Population: 7000. The area known as Buurt 6 starts not more than 200 meters south of the Torensluis, but the inhabitants of this area are excluded from the proposal.

We have always believed that the Torensluis should be for the city, and not just for the people who are privileged enough to be able to afford canal houses. Of course immediate neighbors should feel welcome in the Torensluis. Over the past year and half we have welcomed all sorts, and our neighbors frequently come to our events, and have occasionally even organized their own. Brug9buurt’s proposal has a very circumscribed vision of who counts as being part of the neighborhood. Those studying at PC Hoofthuis apparently do not belong to the neighborhood. They would rather chase away groups that are already pushed out of our society ( And this while, in our opinion, the Torensluis should remain a place where people that usually do not come into contact can meet one another and work on a shared future.

Through the continuing sell-off of Amsterdam, through Disneyfication and hypergentrification, the city is becoming less and less diverse. There is no longer any room for social and political initiatives. What could have been a non-commercial and accessible place in the city center, what could have been kept open for debate, discussion, and culture, is now being given to a specific part of the canal ring by the district council. It will be inaccessible for the rest of the city.

But the coming months we will be active again! As announced earlier, we want to contribute to the growing resistance against the sell-off of the city. Against gentrification, against the destruction of social housing, against the massive tourist industry, and against the disappearance of alternative culture. We will do this in our program in the coming months, but also (especially!) outside of it, on the streets and in social movements.

Here is our program for the coming month:

Get involved! Send us a message if you want to organize something, or help us agitate against gentrification and commercialization.