So, I was headed to my neighborhood Albert Heijn on the Westergracht (which neighborhood in H’ town doesn’t have its own Albert Heijn nowadays) when I had this strange feeling that something was off. At first I couldn’t place it. It felt like my body was in one way or another out of proportion with the environment around me. The sky seemed larger than normal. Something was different. It dawned on me that there was all of a sudden actually no environment around me. That all the trees along the Westergracht, in front of the bohemoth ‘bouwput’ labeled as ‘Plaza West’ had been cut down. Every tree fucking gone and ready for the shredder.
Now as it turns out (I got sources all over this town) that the developers of Plaza West in there haste to turn the whole area into some deluxe ‘woon/winkelcentre’ asap, had taken it upon themselves to cut down the trees to make room for the apartment complex that would be build where the parking lot now is. The AH supposedly had no idea that this was going to happen at that time. Via via I was given behind the scenes access to view the schematic plans for the new ‘Hoofdoorp in Haarlem’ aka the Plaza West. As someone who lives in one of the neighborhoods around there let me just say I was not so pleased. Sure, having two supermarkets, a sport school, an indoor kids playground and best bullshit shop Holland has to offer, around the corner is super handig. But at what cost to the enivronment around us. Something needed to down with the desolated buildings that once housed the Gemeente and the Post but as more and more suburban sprawl takes over Haarlemtown from every direction, I begin to really wonder what sort of nature will be left? I read recently in one of the smaller local Haarlem rags about the upcoming plans for more housing in Haarlem South and the potential for 10,000 more living spaces to come. Now that is all fine if it will be affordable housing. Social housing for Haarlemmers who need it, AUB. But what I fear is that it won’t exactly be so. That unless the housing market bubble burst sometime in the near future (not that I necessarily want that either) but these apartments will most probably go for an exorbitant amount, thus catering to one social/economic class. Thus making this city just another place for yuppies and expats to park their bakfiets. And even if it is so, and well every city needs to go through a period of flux now and again, but at what cost to the natural surroundings around us. I imagine that it won’t be long before tiny houses pop up in the Hout and an Action pops up in Elswoud. Atheist, Agnostic, whatever…God help us all.
When I got home from doing my shopping, I told my wife about the trees being gone from in front of the Albert Heijn. She asked me what I thought about Alkmaar. Something inside me said, well it’s actually not that far.
Meer columns? Check M.H.R. Puttmann
Fotografie: Wiebrig Krakau.