Follow

Following discussions and decisions on the town’s plans to regulate prostitution (only four brothels), which the central government has decriminalized as of October 1st, Leiden’s Town Council debated the Aalmarkt demolition plans in its meeting last Tuesday, September 12, 2000. Despite eloquently expressed opposition to large-scale construction and to demolition of the historic sites in the Aalmarkt area, the coalition led by the Labor Party (PvdA), circumvented attempts by the opposition parties to require preservation of historic monuments as well as to require competitive bidding and plan proposals, thus retaining complete control of the develement within the cabinet of the mayor and aldermen. After several months of further work on the drawing boards, that group intends to present a choice to the council of two develement alternatives, both of which presuppose large-scale demolition to accomplish the amount of new floor-space for large stores that private investors want to build where numerous sixteenth and seventeenth-century houses and other historic monuments now stand. The cabinet of the mayor and alderman have expressed their entire confidence in the ability of the single private develement company they have chosen (without competitive bidding) to achieve plans which will represent the best way to accomplish a profitable future for the city's selected investors and to provide employment to local contractors who traditionally support the Labor Party. The damaging effects on existing small businesses and the traffic chaos that can be foreseen are topics that were postponed by promising future clarification.

Recent architectural surveys of the buildings prove that the hospital wing where Myles Standish recuperated from wounds is practically intact, with enough of its timber roof from 1571 still there to make complete restoration a real possibility. The cabinet, however, has explicitly retained the “right” to determine that such monuments will be demolished if it is otherwise impossible to achieve the financial goals of the property eloper and the investors.

In a public debate (Sept. 5) and at an open meeting of the town council’s Commission on Urban Planning (Sept. 7), numerous groups hoping to improve the city through preserving its cultural and historic fabric echoed the pleas of the (essentially powerless) National Monument Service and spoke in favor of devlopment without demolition. These groups included the Aalmarkt Foundation, The Leiden Cultural Platform, The Leiden Antiquarian Association “Oud Leiden”, The Heritage Preservation Society “Heemschut”, The Arent van ‘s-Gravezande Foundation for Architectural Heritage Preservation, and The Leiden American Pilgrim Museum. The public response is overwhelmingly in favor of preservation, and several speakers specifically pointed out the need to preserve places that serve to commemorate the city's role in the Pilgrim story, in addition to the widespread general concern that a few politicians and their friends, making decisions behind closed doors, are destroying irrevocably the city these citizens love.

Privately, however, word has leaked out that the cabinet of the mayor and aldermen are very sensitive to the fact that one of the major investors, AHOLD, has discovered that its American shoppers are unhappy that their money is going to a company that intends to participate in the destruction of an aspect of America’s heritage. AHOLD is the Dutch holding company that owns STOP & SHOP, Giant-Landover, Giant-Carlisle, Tops Markets, BI-LO, and Pathmark Stores.

Your letter to AHOLD will help in the preservation effort. Write to:
Royal Ahold
P.O.Box 3050
1500 HB Zaandem,
The Netherlands

e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Another company interested in investing in this demolition is the Fortis Financial Group. They are included among the addresses to which all reports from the eloper are sent. You may want to contact their American offices, also.

Write to:

Fortis Investors Inc. P.O.Box 64284 St. Paul, MN 55164

or contact them at e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

It is impossible to predict the outcome of this conflict between the interests of those with hopes for a future grounded in the reminders of a proud heritage and the interests of those searching to maximize profits in the short term. Your letters will count, now.

Thank you,
Jeremy Dupertuis Bangs