After months of protest, and contentious meetings between Mayor Femke Halsema and local residents, the political leadership of Amsterdam-Zuid have told Halsema and the full city council that the district is firmly opposed to plans to build an erotic center in either of the shortlisted locations in the district. The district published a draft version of its advice on the matter to city council on Tuesday, with a final draft expected by mid-June. Two of the three locations are based in Zuid on opposite sides of the RAI convention center. The third is in Amsterdam-Noord, where district leaders already told Halsema they were opposed to the erotic center.
Both districts think the erotic center will permanently affect the character of those neighborhoods. Amsterdam-Zuid was a bit more amenable to altered proposals where several locations with up to 30 windows could be spread out in different areas. They also thought quickie motels or love hotels that could be rented by the hour for paid or unpaid sex might be an option.
Now that both districts have shot down the plan, it pushes Halsema and the coalition governing Amsterdam into a position where they either have to try forcing an erotic center into a neighborhood that doesn’t want it, pick a new location from the original list that the mayor and aldermen previously rejected, admit defeat and pull the proposal from the table, or modify plans entirely.
The erotic center was one of the pieces of legislation included in the coalition agreement between PvdA, D66, and GroenLinks. It is meant to facilitate about 100 workspaces for sex workers regardless of gender or sexual orientation. The high-rise was also proposed to have more professionalized services, like break rooms for the workers, as well as hospitality facilities and a theater.
The erotic center was proposed as a potential alternative to the Red Light District in De Wallen, part of the city center. The city has been aggressively trying to reshape its image as a drug and sex tourism hub, and has stepped up efforts to stop what it calls “nuisance tourism.” The municipality shut down or bought out several brothels in the area under Mayor Eberhard van der Laan, effectively closing a few dozen spaces for window prostitution. During Halsema’s time as mayor, the city stepped up campaigns attempting to spread tourists outside of the city center and to neighboring municipalities, while flat out telling tourists looking for sex and drugs not to come to Amsterdam. The city also implemented more restrictions in the Red Light District, like banning people from drinking alcohol or using soft drugs on the street.
It also cut down on opening hours for cafes, bars, and window prostitution. The opening of the erotic center is expected to lead to the further closure of dozens of spaces for sex work, leading to angry protests from sex workers who say they do not want to leave the area and work in a location they feel will be less protected and more subject to human trafficking.
The districts of Amsterdam-Noord and Amsterdam-Zuid have both said they do not want the hundreds of thousands of people the erotic center could bring, with some estimates pegging the total at 1.5 million visitors. In Zuid, district leaders think this will just shift the nuisance from the center to neighborhoods filled with families, workers, students, diplomatic missions, and the European Medicines Agency. Additionally, it could lead to even worse traffic on the A10, traffic jams in residential areas, parking issues, and more difficulty completing large construction projects, like the Zuidasdok.
Similar issues were raised in Amsterdam-Noord. The district council there said the NDSM wharf is “absolutely not a suitable place” for an erotic center. Putting the center on the eastern side of NDSM will exacerbate existing accessibility and safety problems, while stalling plans to develop the area with sports, cultural, and greenery projects.
The extensive controversy regarding the erotic center has already delayed plans to move forward with the proposal. Halsema was inundated with so many questions from local residents and stakeholders that she said earlier she needs at least an extra month to adequately answer them and address their concerns.
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