Rotterdam said “no” to Jeff Bezos-

from Irene Soave

The billionaire’s mega boat, costing 500 million euros and built in the port of the city, was too large to cross the De Hef bridge that the owner proposed to dismantle (at the expense of the owner of Amazon). The city is opposed. And the sailing ship took off sad sad without trees

To the not very long list of things that money cannot buy, along with health (in part), love (perhaps) and certainly happiness, an entry has recently been added, at least as regards the Netherlands, and: “Removal or dismantling of a national monument”. The case in point that of the bridge over the Konigshaven canal in Rotterdam, and to ask for its temporary dismantling was one who was not short of money, that is the founder of Amazon Jeff Bezos, to pass us his super yacht from the record height.

The push of citizens to the mayor

The dispute lasted a few months, and soon acquired the rigidity of the questions of principle: What can you buy, he asked the New York Times a former city councilor from Rotterdam, promoter of the petition against the super yacht, if you have all the money in the world? Can you bend every rule? Can you dismantle the monuments ?. If indeed the bridge had been dismantled to allow the record ship to pass, on the banks of the canal three thousand would have gathered to throw eggs and tomatoes, already coordinated on a Facebook bulletin board. A photo opportunity to avoid. The impasse of the yacht was resolved in early August: with a no from the mayor, driven by the fury of the citizens and cost several thousand euros.


However, Bezos’ yacht did not go the way of the ship in a bottle and was able to set sail. Simply, not passing through Rotterdam. What irritated the citizens of the Dutch metropolis, first of all, was the arrogance of the yacht itself, to date the largest sailing vessel in the world. Costing almost 500 million euros, already the most expensive in the world; seven decks and an area of ​​3,500 square meters (of which 250 only for the owner’s suite); 127 meters long; equipped with three masts over forty high, that is, just too high for the bridge.

Omani shipyard

Y721 was for more than three years, after the commission in 2018, under construction in the Oceanco shipyards in Alblasserdam, in the hinterland of Rotterdam: yards not even Dutch-owned, they pointed out. the citizens angry in their petition, but owned by an Omani billionaire, Mohammed al Barwani. At the end of 2021, Oceanco asked the Municipality for permission to dismantle the bridge and reassemble it for the passage of the yacht through Rotterdam, from the shipyard to the sea, naturally at the expense of Jeff Bezos. A municipal official, on the spot, granted permission. Within a few days, the news was in all the newspapers. On the other hand, the bridge that risked being “sacrificed” arouses much greater sympathy in the hearts of the inhabitants of Rotterdam. The Konigshaven bridge was built in 1878, bombed by the Nazi Luftwaffe during the Second World War and later rebuilt, until the “definitive” restoration which lasted three years between 2014 and 2017. It is no longer used, and has become a national monument which also has its nickname: De Hef. At the end of the restoration, the mayor of Rotterdam promised that the bridge, “the symbol of the city”, would never be dismantled.

Clash of values

Then comes someone with a lot of money, and here is the exception, a citizen blurts out on Facebook. A voice in a chorus: the petition against the passage of the yacht has collected 77 thousand signatures on And Der Spiegel, one of the many European newspapers to deal with the issue, also reported “threats” to the engineers of the shipyard, fortunately never translated into reality. The protests lasted for months, and Oceanco’s permit was revoked. Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb, a naturalized Dutch Moroccan, in office since 2009, took note of the mood of his fellow citizens. was an opportunity to see Dutch and American values ​​in a tough head-on collision, he wrote the New York Times. Bezos against ordinary citizens. The yacht against the bridge. Money, ultimately, against the rules.

American greed

A lot of international press covered the case, and in all the reconstructions there are always Dutch citizens furious with the “greed” of the Americans. When I was in high school, we hosted an American student at home, in the classic exchange, says city councilor Ellen Verkoelen, of the retirement party, at the New York Times. At first he was in favor of dismantling the bridge, but reading the text of the petition of his fellow citizens he changed his mind. My mom brought some sausages to the table on the first night. We all took one, he took five. My mom said nothing to him, but to us, in Dutch, intim: none of you will ever eat like this. At school the next day, Ellen Verkoelen investigated her among her classmates: everyone who was hosting an American had the same report. Those were the years when it was said that the sandwich with butter and cheese was the devil’s sandwich: either butter or cheese. We Dutch are keen on moderation.

Parallel universe

And so Verkoelen also voted against. The super rich, he writes a citizen named Hajar Jagkoubi in the petition he later posted on, which collected 77,155 signatures, they live in a parallel universe, above the law. And it also applies here: De Hef does not disassemble, unless you are very rich. Someone will say: and what does it do, in two weeks they will reassemble it. But that’s the point. Is it enough to be rich and you no longer have restrictions? Are the rules that apply to everyone repealed? The reference then to the Amazon workers: The complacency with which he is welcomed in stark contrast to his refusal to offer his workers the most basic human rights, such as a break to go to the bathroom.

Accounts and trees

At first, the administration opposed the citizens by citing economic reasons. Completing the yacht in Alblasserdam, with masts and all, was important in order not to change contracts with the owner, and to preserve wealth. But the benefits in the area are relative, the petition continues. The owner is an Omani oil billionaire. Finally, Bezos is the third richest man in the world. In the pandemic, 99% of the planet’s citizens are impoverished, and 1% become madly rich. If one of the ten richest men in the world lost 99% of his wealth, he would still be in the 1%. And so on. The super-rich are increasingly above the laws. They can ignore the laws, wreak havoc on the environment, evade taxes. Bezos, the petition concludes, has exaggerated. The mayor, in the end, listened to the citizens of him. He announced it on July 31st; on 2 August, at three in the morning, the luxurious Y721 sailed without masts and without sails to the Greenport shipyard in Rotterdam. Without masts or sails he could easily have passed under the dispute bridge. But the owners have decided to make him change direction. In the launch videos (a test launch) Y721 leaves the yard with royal elegance, very slowly, preceded by a court of tugs. In his slowness there are those who read a sense of lesa Majestic.

August 25, 2022 (change August 25, 2022 | 09:49)

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