Could Amsterdam be turning a new, prudish leaf? According to the New York Times, the Dutch capital is pitting plastic mannequins against flesh in the hopes of combating the district’s rising crime.
The city council recently voted to clean up the notorious Red Light District, which, in the NYT's words, “has become bloated with expanding sleaze.” City elders say increasingly violent gangs, many of which are Russian and Eastern European, have infiltrated the historic district, especially amplified since prostitution was legalized in 2000. Earlier this year, a Dutch judge ordered the shutting down of one of Amsterdam’s top brothels, the Yab Yum Club. Plus, more than a hundred million euros have been promised to implement the transformation plan, which also includes cleaning up the area along the Damrak and Rokin main thoroughfares.
The gentrification scheme has started with the city buying brothels, and so far, 18 street-side windows that formerly showcased scantily clad women now display the works of a few lucky young designers and photographers. Five former brothels on the square facing a 14th-century church—Amsterdam’s oldest church—have also been bought by the city.
The Dutch capital elders are banking on the reduction of smut to bring art galleries, boutiques, fine-dining restaurants, and upscale hotels to the district, Amsterdam’s oldest quarter and site of seven medieval churches. But many locals argue that such changes would ruin the neighborhood’s soul. According to the Times, angry residents and landlords have enlisted lawyers and formed action groups to defend the Red Light District. Posters reading “Hands Off” have been plastered to area café and shop windows.
What do you think of the city council’s actions? Is it high time for a more family-friendly Amsterdam, or will gentrification spoil the city’s culture?
Photo: Trey Ratcliff