Bizim Bakkal – We are greengrocer
#Bizimkiez #Wrangelstrasse #Kreuzberg #gentrification #expulsion
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.
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!