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Fate of Javastraat elms sealed

Alex van Veen

5 October 2006 – Most visitors of the public enquiry meeting about the restructuring of the Javastraat last Wednesday were in for a disappointment. The cutting down of the beloved elms had already been decided.

The Indische Buurt urgently needs to be ‘pepped up’, policy makers of the Zeeburg district find. The current ‘grubby character’ of the Javastraat, the shopping street of the neighbourhood, must change into a ‘mediterranean shopping precinct’ which is a nice place to stay, Public Works Alderman Dennis Straat said Wednesday evening at the district office.

The restructuring plans were conceived in the mid-1990s, but now that the European Commission is making a contribution (2/3 of the costs) they are being sped up. Contrary to the original 2004 plan – which was based on one-way traffic and keeping the elms – the district council has now decided to maintain two-way traffic, make the road narrower, allowing cars to park alongside the sidewalk and to replace the trees.

Especially the latter element of the plan elicited incomprehension among neighbourhood residents. The giant rustic elms – some twenty old ones and fourty young ones – determine the atmosphere of the street. The idea of cutting down healthy trees gives palpitations to many city dwellers. “Do you realise what you are doing, we only have one cosmos!” yelled one neighbourhood resident, who later left the room cursing and angry.

Her most important motivation to leave is a classic: even though a public enquirty had been organised about the ‘preliminary’ plans, these plans are at a stage where neighbourhood residents’ suggestions and complaints hardly seem to matter anymore. Like the choice of the new trees, the American mapletree (“why not a local variant!”). This pear-shaped tree reminded the attendees of the style of Almere.

The speaker on behalf of the Green and Blue action group, which struggles for the conservation of the elms and which was supposed to stir up emotions, made a rather timid impression. He asked himself in all seriousness when the decision to cut the trees had been taken, for it had escaped his attention. The same applied to most of the one hundred people who were present.

But there were also positive contributions, for example from the chairman of the shopkeepers’ association, who criticized the ‘negative attitude’ of those present. “The district council has been preparing plans for four years, and where were you then? There are now more people present than at all the previous meetings combined”. The owner of the photo shop at the Javastraat concurred.

Most questions that were asked will be responded to in writing before the end of the year. The restructuring plans can be inspected until 20 October at the Zeeburg district office, or at the Internet. In December, the district council will take a final decision, after which the project will be executed in 2008.


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