Having lived in Symphony since 2010, John Andringa saw for himself six years ago how the northern part of Mahlerplein was transformed and visibly improved. ‘I thought that was great, but I was astonished when no further action was taken in the southern section of Mahlerplein.’ Soon after, the neglected section became home to countless bikes, scooters and even cars parking on the pavement. ‘I found it quite weird – on the other side of the square, action was taken in response to badly-parked vehicles, but there was no enforcement between Symphony Towers and Gustav Mahlerlaan. So, what happens? Loads of vehicles, some even obstructing the road.’
A hundred emails
From 2015, Andringa says he sent at least a hundred emails to the City of Amsterdam to draw attention to the problems. ‘I must admit that they did listen and involved us as residents in the process and the design. But I really don’t understand why it had to take so long. I’m glad that I’m still around to appreciate it.’ The square also irritated Emile Rietveld – resident at Intermezzo some distance away– and Ralph Sandelowsky, a neighbour of Andringa’s. Rietveld: ‘You’d think it was Amsterdam Central station.’ Sandelowsky nods: ‘And on top of that, the square is quite dark.’
The men now look around them appreciatively. There is one bike still there, but it appears to belong to a builder inspecting the work. Sandelowsky: ‘Of course, it doesn’t look as green as the artist’s impression yet, but it will. It reminds me of places in Canary Wharf, London’s business district. But I do still worry that there may not be proper enforcement starting in May, and the lovely natural stone benches will end up serving as a luxury bicycle rack.’ Andringa: ‘I agree, the success of this whole new square depends entirely on enforcement. By the way, I think it’s a shame that the new enforcement zone doesn’t also include the streets in Gershwin, the neighbourhood behind this.’ He laughs: ‘Perhaps I need to send another email.’
There are also improvements. Rietveld: ‘More rubbish bins.’ Andringa: ‘Signs saying what trees have been planted here.’ Sandelowsky: ‘Planters alongside the cycle path.’ ‘And an insect hotel’, adds Andringa. Above all, the square needs to be used properly. ‘I can see it now – in the summer when things are busier, there’ll be people enjoying lunch or having a chat on the natural stone edging’, muses Rietveld. ‘That would be absolutely wonderful’, agrees Sandelowsky. ‘In any case, it’s a hundred times better than it was’, concludes Andringa.