Gentrification and the “Berlin Spirit” #FilouBleibt
I live in the middle of a bubbling pool of gentrification. Some of its effects are worrying; some, I’ll admit, are welcome. But this latest move feels personal.
Filou, the little bakery opposite our apartment, is being forced to close. According to the building’s owners, the bakery no longer fits in with “the concept of the neighbourhood.” Apparently, the London-based owners know more than I do about the “concept” of my neighbourhood, where I’ve lived for eight years.
If this little corner of the world is not for people who like good-quality, fresh bread seven days a week, then who the hell is it for? And who decides? We all need our daily bread. Closing the bakery is a threat. It’s a signal of intent towards the people who rely on it. It says, “You’re next.”
The »Taliesin speculator« cookie –
a recipe for displacement
13th December @ 7PM – 11PM
How profits are cooked up on the financial markets out of housing shortages: the international connections between tax avoidance and displacement.
This month’s Bizim Kiez meeting and rally will not be out on the street, but indoors, in Watergate (watergate club “official”). The event will double as our end of year meeting, and we invite all friends of our pressure group, of our neighbourhood and of our city to come along.
Free entry – drinks at reduced prices!
AT 7PM – presentation and podium discussion
In an audio-visual presentation the journalists Adrian Garcia Landa and Christoph Trautvetter will explain monetary flows and profit models which are costing us our homes. They will show how tax dodges based on transactions involving Berlin’s housing stock.
The Taliesin Property Fund Ltd. owns a large building on the corner of Eisenbahn Strasse and Muskauer Strasse. The tenants there each received a notification of modernisation works, and drastic rent increases were planned on the back of the installation of energy-efficient insulation. But, together with Bizim Kiez, the tenants were able to fight back. Two of those involved will report on their successful fight against Taliesin’s modernisation plans. This is aimed at encouraging the people in the many other Taliesin buildings in Berlin to take a stand against what this financial player has in store. Come along, one and all, and see how they’re planning to fleece you.
Hermann Werle from the editorial staff of “MieterEcho“ will give an overview of these privatisations: the first wave rose up rapidly at the turn of the millenium, reaching its initial peak in 2004-5. The second phase followed the financial and banking crisis of 2008, and saw the beginning of exploitation by secondary and tertiary buyers – and this is where those small and medium-sized investors, who are making life difficult for us right now, enter the frame. These include Taliesin, but also GMRE, Akelius, Mähren, Citec and others.
How was, and is, this possible? Philipp Mattern from MieterEcho will outline the urban planning pursued by the various Berlin city authorities which paved the way for these privatisations. Because it was the framework introduced by the politicians which opened the doors for the whole range of investors to tap into the Berlin housing and property market as an opportunity for investment and profit. The result: zero new housing built at a time of increasing population, rising rents and displacement.
We will hold a podium discussion on the financial players’ plundering of our neighbourhoods, and possible countermeasures.
UNTIL 11PM – networking, sharing of experiences and building capacity
to the sound of banging DJ beats, with drinks at reduced prices.
So come along to Watergate – right on the bank of the Spree, with a fantastic view of the passing ice floes.
Bizim Kiez November Meeting on 11/11 will be a Procession by Lantern Light
The neighbourhood is taking to the streets over the building site on the former Cuvrybrache waste ground. The site is where the investor Artur Süßkind is building his anachronistic construction project, which no-one in Kreuzberg wants. It is bound to exacerbate the problems in our district, rather than solving them. This represents a dramatically wasted opportunity on land that could have been made into a shining example of the “social city“ concept.
Besides this, now more buildings have emerged whose tenants are being squeezed out. So the lantern procession will be making a stop in front of the building at number 4, Taborstrasse, where the new owners Samuel Czarny and Ariel Schiff are trying to get rid of their tenants – a practice they have already dismally demonstrated in other projects of theirs.
See the planned route for the lantern procession through the neighbourhood on 11/11 from 6PM:
BIZIM KIEZ WHALE
14th September, 7.00 – 10.00 PM
Living space for all –
Bizim Kiez stay our Kiez
Come to the Bizim Kiez Whale Street Meeting!
On 14 September from 7PM in front of number 77 Wrangelstrasse
It is the run-up to the elections in Berlin, and with our symbolic whale we are once again taking the side of those people having to defend themselves against displacement and exclusion. Solidarity and swarm intelligence make us strong in the face of the property sharks who are still coming up from the depths and and pushing a lot of people out of our neighbourhoods. At the same time the political undercurrents threatening to take us off towards the far right are certainly not a solution, but represent the dumbest possible public response to the problems at hand.
And we will be remembering this on the 60th anniversary of the death
of Bertolt Brecht, who said,
“WE HAVE TO CARE ABOUT OURSELFS OURSELFS”
How right Brecht is. Together in solidarity against displacement and exlusion, and promoting protection of the neighbourhood.
The meeting will deal with the following topics:
* current cases of displacement – both housing and business
* compulsory eviction of H.G./M99 coming to a head again
* the situation of Turkish Kurdish heritage migrants in the neighbourhood – polarisation and the threat of splitting apart due to Turkish state policy
* report on the Stop the Rent Hikes Demo on the 10th of September * news via the open mic
We’ll provide some soup to keep everybody going, and the Ohrpiraten will be playing live for us!
Berlin Rents Crisis Update – Latest News
Stop the Rent Hikes Demo,
this Saturday, 10 September, 2.00 PM, Platz der Luftbrücke
This Saturday afternoon sees a major co-ordinated demonstration against the negative social effects of steadily rising rents in the city, departing from Platz der Luftbrücke.
As campaigning for the local elections heats up the numerous anti-displacement groups around the city are coming together to help set the agenda – a combined show of strength to stop people being forced out of their homes and communities, marginalisation, poverty and the selling-out of Berlin. Go along and join them in taking a stand for vulnerable low-income people in our city.
demo materials download:
- poster demonstration 10.September 2016
- poster demonstration 10.September 2016
postcard demonstration 10.September 2016
appeal in german
demo materials also available at:
- Buchladen Schwarze Risse im Mehringhof, Gneisenaustr. 2a (Kreuzberg)
- Infoladen Lunte Weisestr. 53 (Neukölln)
- New Yorck im Bethanien-Südflügel, Mariannenplatz 2a (Kreuzberg)
- Gecekondu Kottbusser Tor (Kreuzberg)
Bizim Bakkal – We are greengrocer
PUTTING THE PIECES IN PLACE – SOLIDARITY AGAINST DISPLACEMENT
The Bizim Kiez June Meeting on the 8th of June, 2016
in front of 77 Wrangelstrasse is going to be a
participatory community action event (from 7PM)
The Bizim Kiez June meeting on the 8th of June, at 7.00PM in the Wrangelkiez neighbourhood in front of what used to be the „Bizim Bakkal“ shop – now sadly displaced – at 77 Wrangelstrasse Berlin Kreuzberg.
To mark the first anniversary of the founding of Bizim Kiez we are setting an example together: in this Berlin of ours people’s lives ought to carry more weight than the rates of return from the apartment blocks. We do not accept that #eviction and #displacement should be perceived as social norms, but choose instead to practise values of mutual solidarity.
We are going to use 150 personalised building blocks to build big words of resistance against displacement. We are using removals boxes to connect individually into a larger whole, creating a symbol of the connection between us and the neighbourhood.
Afterwards those attending the event will be able to take their own or another box away with them to spread the protest beyond the neighbourhood – be it taking the box into their own home or placing it somewhere else in the city as a beacon of public protest.
We will no longer tolerate politicians subsidising the already profitable real estate sector. Whether it be the rent cap, the ban on change of use, mileu protection regulations or other „measures“, the dilemma is always the same. The instruments are inadequate, lack teeth and allow for too many exceptions for them to be effective. On the other hand grants for so-called „energy-efficient conversion“ are effectively a tool for forcing existing tenants out, and push up rents due to lack of controls on the passing on of building costs to tenants. Lobby-driven policy-making is destroying social cohesion in our city, and we are witnessing patterns of increasing displacement in Kreuzberg and throughout Berlin. We must force politicians to forge housing policy for all Berliners, and not just for those unscrupulous enough to force others out.
WE ARE THE STEERT – COME OUT
AND SHAPE THE DISCOURSE!
Featuring the band:
The Neôfariuş V. Occasionally Flying K. Orchestra #249« (klezmer, Balkans, polka)
ON WEDNESDAY, 11th MAY FROM 7PM
in front of 77 Wrangelstrasse (formerly Bizim Bakkal).
Adding value to apartment blocks
Finally it’s spring: come together on the street
to protect the neighbourhood:
Our neighbours are resisting modernisation and energy-efficient renovation.
How can we offer each other mutual support and stop the sell-out of our local area?
How do we create pressure so that milieu protection and the ban on holiday homes take proper effect? How are the small shops faring? As always there is an open microphone available for you to share your news with us!
There will be a reading of new local stories, as well as music and soup
promoting protection of the Wrangelkiez neighbourhood
bizim-kiez.de | #bizimkiez
Invitation to the Plenary Meeting
on Wednesday, the 27th of April, 2016
at 7.00 PM in the community centre*, 13-14 Cuvrystrasse
The campaigning and protests for Bizim Bakkal showed that resistance has the power to get a termination of tenancy withdrawn.
We mean to continue our opposition to ALL forms of displacement. This is about living space, the local small businesses, our public spaces, and our living and working together as neighbours. We will not accept the dominance of a social climate which accepts displacement as “normal“. Our living space and our neighbourhood are not commodities, but part of our lives.
We have a lot to discuss:
general information on developments in the neighbourhood
can we change the legal framework for milieu protection?
current cases of displacement in the neighbourhood
forming teams for the “one of 99 shops in the neighbourhood“ campaign
HG/M99 – next steps
how to deal with vacancy speculation and holiday homes?
If you are also having problems with your landlords/landladies, or can see some looming, or if you want to stand up and show solidarity to prevent other neighbours from being thrown out and displaced, support Bizim Kiez.
Come together, united we are strong!
No-one need go through this alone!
WE ARE THE STREET
All best wishes,
The Caliskan family and we neighbours say thank you for 29 years of fresh vegetables, kiez culture and everyday neighbourhood solidarity. Bizim Kiez March Meeting on Wednesday, the 16th of March from 6PM in front of Bizim Bakkal (number 77 Wrangelstrasse)
We are making the March meeting on Wednesday, the 16th of March (from 6PM!) into a farewell party for our the Caliskan family. In front of Bizim Bakkal at number 77 Wrangelstrasse, as always. A party for our greengrocers. We will be celebrating together with a lively programme, masses of fruit, delicious soup, music and dance!
(This time exceptionally on the 3rd Wednesday of the month and not, as is usually the case, on the second one.)
Last year our whole neighbourhood collectively and successfully opposed the termination of “Bizim Bakkal“’s tenancy agreement. For health reasons “Our Shop“ now unfortunately has to close after all.
The Caliskan family and we neighbours want to say thank you – for 29 years of fresh vegetables, kiez culture and everyday neighbourhood solidarity.
Bizim Kiez remains active opposing many other displacement cases: we urgently need effective protection for existing small businesses and for social infrstructure – e.g. nurseries – in the kiez. We remain united against removal of tenants and luxury modernisation, and we want to have a say in what happens to vacant retail units in future. We demand usage be aimed towards public welfare, and fair to the kiez, instead of it being aimed towards profit for investors!
February meeting on the 10th of February
on Wednesday, the 10th of February at 7PM
Bizim Bakkal, Wrangelstr. 77
Ahmet Çaliskan has told us that Bizim Bakkal will be closing on the 31st of March primarily for health reasons. We are very sad that the shop cannot now be kept on after all, and we wish Ahmet every happiness. We are grateful to the whole Çaliskan family – not least for having given us the ímpetus to come together as the neighbourhood movement “Bizim Kiez“.
Bizim Bakkal will remain forever in our hearts – Bizim Kiez will continue working for a lively, social, displacement-free neighbourhood!
Read the press release on the closure of Bizim Bakkal
> There have been numerous media reports
(The March meeting on the 16th of March will take the form of a farewell party for the Çaliskan family, with everyone welcome.)
Nothing can replace Bizim Bakkal
– but can the site not still remain “our shop“?
Will the investor now simply rent out the premises for maximum profit, rather than providing space for a small shop meeting local needs with the local area at heart? We want to intervene on this issue to get the real needs of the neighbourhood heard.
The shop has become an encouraging worldwide symbol of how gentrification can be held in check by solidarity and cooperation. This site is no place for an investor’s destructive drive for profits, nor for luxury items, souvenirs or yet more restaurants. It is high time that we as a neighbourhood determine how we want to live here together, and what we need to make it work. We still need OUR shop as a place where the needs of the residents are respected, and which strengthens social cohesion.
We are putting pressure on the landlord and will call upon the public and politicians to take a stand with us for a socially sustainable use of the shop premises at an affordable price.
At our February meeting in front of Bizim Bakkal (number 77 Wrangelstrasse) we want to initiate a conversation:
what do we need here in the neighbourhood (a vegetable co-op, a drug store, a training project for new Berliners who have fled here from elsewhere? … Or all of it at once?…)?
And how can we achieve it together?
We will bring along large format paper and pens, you bring your ideas and wishes!
There will once again be tasty food, braziers, music and additional information, including on the housing community at 20, Zeughofstrasse and the threatened enforced clearance of HG’s shop M99. As always the mic will also be made available for news from other buildings.
Come to the first meeting this year:
Wednesday 13.01.2016 in front of Bizim Bakkal
Bizim Kiez is a local initiative aiming to prevent further selling out of Berlin’s established neighbourhoods, with their different and ever unique mixes, to the real estate industry. Added value built up over decades must not be pocketed by those seeking to cash in by forcing people out, but should instead be paid out as a quality of life and humanity dividend to those living here who stand up for one another.
This is why we are putting pressure on the so-called “investors“ in the neighbourhood, and we demand action from politicians to put an end to the whims of the real estate industry. In total 85% of Berliners are tenants – we will not be discouraged and forced out!
Since summer 2015 Bizim Kiez has been putting on numerous events, most of which have highlighted a particular aspect of the advancing “gentrification“. Some of the events were envisaged as confrontational demos, whilst others were more aimed at everyone getting to know each other, and others still were more cultural in nature. Our street events not only enable us to take aim at the speculators, but also channel community strength – we connect people and skills to facilitate urgently needed self-help.
We are also working on many other levels to tackle displacement directly – in general as well as in individual cases. We create pressure and negotiate to force concessions from the displacers, and we work at a political level to make those in power and the parties come up with solutions to really help the neighbourhoods and their residents.
Number 66 Wrangelstrasse:
district pre-emptive right of purchase, and how it should be
The media is full of reports as we have managed to get the district to exercise its right to purchase in order to block speculation, which is the first time this has been done in Berlin. But can this “solution“ be an effective means to counter displacement in the future?
The district pre-emptive right of purchase needs reorganising
- the full story on number 66 Wrangelstrasse and why it is right for the local authority to act against speculation (german)
Our Facebook team is super fast with news and the community is getting bigger and bigger. Join with us – give our Facebook page a “like“.
or simply post it right into our mailbox at 77 Wrangelstraße
Bizim Bakkal – Bizim Kiez
Our neighbourhood greengrocer Bizim Bakkal (meaning ‘our little shop’ in Turkish) recently received a notice that they must vacate their premises by September 2015. The notice was sent by the new landlords of Wrangelstrasse 77.
The tenants of the building have been offered monetary compensation to encourage them to leave as soon as possible. The plan of the new landlords is to refurbish and redevelop the building into luxury apartments which will be targeted at wealthy investors.
The shop itself will cease to exist in its current form. The new owners plan to split Bizim Bakkal into two shops, allowing them to maximise their profits by bringing in two tenants.
For those of us who have lived in Berlin for some time, this scenario is nothing new. It has happened to numerous buildings in our kiez (neighbourhood in German) for the past 20 years: gentrification, modernisation and expulsion.
#Bizimkiez #Wrangelstrasse #Kreuzberg #gentrification #expulsion
If this is allowed to happen, it will affect all of us. If Bizim Bakkal is being ousted – we are all being ousted!
We want to keep Bizim Bakkal and its owners the Çaliskan family in our Wrangelkiez. The store has been here for 28 years and the entire family rely on it as their livelihood.
Furthermore, the shop is a meeting point for everyone who calls this neighbourhood our home. It provides us with a community reference point, for social cohesion and for making and maintaining the connections that are sometimes lost in a large city.
Bizim Bakkal is the last shop in Wrangelstrasse that is family owned and operated. The closing of the shop would be a clear sign that the community and family spirit of our neighbourhood is being pushed out, which is something we cannot allow to happen. We are under siege and we will fight for the preservation of our neighbourhood.
This neighbourhood is our home.
We must stand strong in the face of corporate interests, and show that what we have and enjoy every day is more important than commercial real-estate profits.
The desirability of our neighbourhood is not because of corporate interests or luxury apartments, it is the community spirit that we have all built together. We have all shaped this neighbourhood with our creativity and liveliness. We invested ourselves into the neighbourhood and into the community. We did not do it for financial gain, we did it because this is where we live. We deserve to be the ones that can enjoy what we have built.
We will not give in to the financial interests of investors. This is our neighbourhood. And we want it to stay our neighbourhood long into the future, for our friends and families to enjoy.
We stand with Ahmed Çalişkan and Bizim Bakkal.
How is this allowed to happen?
Legally, there is very little we can do against the notice of termination.
The law clearly states:
- Commercial area rents can be terminated without further reasons;
- Incentive programs allow for areas to be refurbished and consequently leased out with higher rents;
- The so-called ‘Milieuschutz’ (the Berlin law protecting neighbourhood environments) may not be helpful in this case;
- The real estate market is dominated by large corporate interests and offers very little chance of participation to residents and community members.
Nevertheless, the tenants in the house have no reason to be intimidated. They don’t have to leave if they don’t want to. Their rights are strong and they are clear – they cannot be forced out.
However, it is a different story for small businesses like Bizim Bakkal.
How can we support the campaign?
We all can show that we will not take it anymore. We don’t want to stand passively and watch as our greengrocer is kicked out before we all are.
We want to show our influence with unified voice, creating publicity and spreading the word throughout Berlin and even further.
We are one community of vastly different people who work in different areas and have different lives. We want to maintain the colourful mix of people that live in the neighbourhood. Rich and not-so-rich should keep on living here in peace together.
We are being active in working groups. We have already gathered together several times to discuss our options and brainstorm ideas. We meet Wednesday at 7pm each week to protest against the planned changes and show that we support the diversity of our neighbourhood.
Everyone is invited to attend. Each week, more people are coming. Each week, more people are rallying and showing their support.
We have organised the working groups so that different people have different tasks. Even if you have little time, there is still something you can do to help the cause!
What can I do?
You can subscribe to our newsletter on the top right hand side of the page. On social media you can visit us at www.facebook.com/bizimkiez and show your support and find out more about the campaign. On Twitter and other forms of social media, we are supporting the #bizimkiez hashtag.
We have also started petitions, which you can sign at Bizim Bakkal’s shop. Each day in the neighbourhood we have an information desk where you can sign the petition or ask questions about the campaign.
You also may have noticed our banners in the street, which are displayed in shops and outside the apartments of our supporters everywhere.
If we all stand together, if as many people as possible come to the Wednesday gatherings, we may be able to move something.
Every day we have new ideas. This is just the beginning. As time goes on, more and more people are joining us in the fight. We need to preserve our community and what we love about our neighbourhood.
Together we can prevail!