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1012 in the press, Amsterdam Red Light District

A third of red lights extinguished in crackdown on Amsterdam’s famed prostitution district
Source: The Associated Press

redlight windowsCity officials say they will turn off the red lights and shutter a third of the windows in Amsterdam’s famed prostitution district, where scantily-clad ladies of the night have beckoned customers for hundreds of years.
“We’re not knights on a morality crusade, and this is intended to target financial crime, not prostitution per se,” city spokesman Martien Maten said Thursday. “But we do think it will change the face of the Red Light District.”
The Dutch government legalized prostitution in 2000 to make it easier to tax and regulate. Maten said the city was now making use of a new law to revoke brothels’ licenses when it suspects operators have used them for money laundering or other illegal financial activity.
“In concrete terms (that) means that those involved won’t be able to continue their businesses” after Jan. 1, the city said in a statement. But advocacy groups for prostitutes said the move was misguided, since it will hurt the women who act as independent contractors renting space behind the windows. Brothel owners said they would appeal the decision in court.
belle“The biggest problem we have is with pimps on the street, not the people who own the windows,” said Mariska Majoor, a former prostitute who now runs the Prostitution Information Center in the heart of the Red Light District.
“Local politicians don’t understand that. Because they want to crack down on crime so badly they are acting like bulls in a china shop,” she said.
“Fat” Charlie Geerts, who owns 20 buildings in the district and 60 of the windows slated for closure, said he would appeal the decision. Prosecutors cleared him of any criminal wrongdoing in September 2005.
“You’re hurting a bunch of people who have nothing to do with it (crime),” he told local television station AT5.

The narrow streets near Amsterdam’s center have been known as a hangout for hookers since the city was the hub of a global trading empire during the Netherlands’ 17th century Golden Age.
Even before the formal legalization, prostitution in the district was tolerated by authorities and had become a major tourist attraction.
Women in lingerie stand behind the windows, tapping their fingers against the glass to attract customers, who are no longer sailors on shore leave. The area is home to numerous popular bars, as well as brothels and sex clubs. By some estimates, nearly a third of tourists who visit Amsterdam visit the Red Light District — most just for a peep.
But the area is a magnet for human traffickers, drug dealers, and petty criminals; and Mayor Job Cohen* and members of his Labor party called for the crackdown.

Earlier, Cohen’s administration earned a reputation for prudeness by barring pole dancers from a prominent nightclub and cracking down on public nudity during the city’s annual Gay Pride festival.
Smaller brothels say the financial screening is unfair, because banks and reputable accountants are often unwilling to work with them, making it difficult to keep correct books. “This is a war between the city and the real estate bosses, and it’s the women who are suffering,” said Metje Blaak, spokeswoman for De Rode Draad, a labor union for prostitutes. She said she feared many of the affected prostitutes would end up working on the street, which is more dangerous and where it is more difficult to halt the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. But city spokesman Maten said that business in the area has been in a slump and he suspected that many of the prostitutes affected — around 300, given that the 105 windows that will be shut are often occupied in shifts — will find work at the remaining legal brothels.
He added he didn’t expect the closures to hurt the city’s tourism revenues.

“Amsterdam has many other things to offer,” he said.

*note:
Cohen has resigned as mayor, the new mayor &  aldermen will continue this project

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From Iamsterdam.com:

The city is not planning to eliminate prostitution entirely from the Red Light District, but rather to reduce crime and the concentration of prostitution activities there. A number of the bigger proprietors have already received licenses under new regulations. Read more…

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From Iamsterdam.com:

Quality for the heart of Amsterdam.

The ambition is to turn postcode area 1012 into a safer, more beautiful and liveable area. Proposals to that end are set out in the Strategy Memorandum Coalition Project 1012; Heart of Amsterdam. In December 2007, the City of Amsterdam announced its plans for postcode area 1012. During the past few years, this area has seen an increase in organised crime. Municipal plans show that there will still be room for the sex industry and coffee shops, albeit in clearly manageable locations. Mayor Cohen, Alderman Asscher, urban district chairman Iping and portfolio holder Koldenhof drew up the plans in close collaboration during the past year.

Reason

The City of Amsterdam is of the opinion that there is crime and an infrastructure that is maintained and fed by a host of criminogenic facilities such as brothels, smartshops, currency exchange bureaus, gambling joints, coffee shops, convenience stores, sex clubs and some restaurants and bars. There are indications that they serve as a cover for money laundering practices. A relatively high number of souvenir shops and convenience stores seem to have an actual turnover that is disproportional to the rent they need to pay. Furthermore, the drugs issue and women trafficking are important reasons for the strategy.

Quality

The City of Amsterdam wants to give the city centre a quality boost. It involves a combination of small & diverse and large & international. This will be an area of quality hotels and stores that sell high-quality products. Everyone must come to know the 1012 area as one of the most exciting, most varied and most interesting centres of Europe. The balance between the different functions in the area will improve. It should eventually attract a wider audience. The current effect of grandness and authenticity will be enhanced. Summarising, there are five targets:

  • to dismantle the criminal structure
  • to reduce crime-sensitive functions
  • to stop and reverse degeneration
  • to recover the good balance of functions
  • to realise a high-quality and varied city entrance

Opportunities

In spatial-economic terms, the city centre and the Amsterdam region are undergoing many developments. The southern IJ bank is nearing completion. The NoordZuidlijn will optimise accessibility by metro to the city centre. There are a number of market parties that also recognise the opportunities: NV Zeedijk, NV Stadsgoed, NV Stadsherstel, Ymere, De Key/Principaal, ING Real Estate, Corio, Am Vastgoed, IPMMC, Redevco Nederland, Stable International, Rabo Bouwfonds, ABN AMRO, Fortis, Multi Vastgoed, Kroonenberggroep. They are all involved in the 1012 strategy or have shown an interest therein. Parties such as Victoriahotel, Krasnapolsky, Bijenkorf and also cultural organisations such as Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder and the Oude Kerk are working on concrete initiatives that are in line with the municipal ambitions.

Strategy

The city is tackling quality improvement in three ways: by realising so-called key projects, restructuring and improving the public space and opting for a street-oriented strategy.

First pillar: 9 key projects

The city will make space available for alteration and development projects in important locations in postcode area 1012, which projects will contribute to the economic development of the inner city. The plan is to set a flywheel in motion aimed at improving the quality of the entrance area. This involves a total of nine key projects: Beursplein, Chinatown, Geldersekade/ Oosterdok car park, Oudekerksplein, Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder, Victoriahotel and the Kadasterpand, the Fortis building at Rokin, Krasnapolsky, Binnengasthuisterrein (University of Amsterdam). There will no longer be any room for prostitution at Oudekerksplein. It will be replaced by commercial activities, shops, culture, art, bars and restaurants. Beursplein will become a beautiful and lively square of significant importance to the city centre. A bicycle storage facility and possibly a car park with underground links between the Beurs van Berlage, the Bijenkorf and C&A will be built underneath Beursplein. Moving the Bijenkorf car park underground would create space for quite a few shops and possibly houses on the northern side of the building.

Second pillar: public space

An important second element of the strategy is improving the quality of the public space. The ‘heart of Amsterdam’ is to become an area where everyone feels welcome. Pleasant surroundings are an important factor in that respect. Streets, parking spaces, but also street furniture and public lighting set the scene here. It is back to basics: clean, intact and safe. Important roads such as Zeedijk, Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal, Geldersekade and Oudekerksplein are given a facelift. De Rode Loper area, i.e. Damrak and Rokin, is a key factor in that respect.

Third pillar: street-oriented strategy

The city wants to push back the criminal infrastructure and one-sided economic structure by means of a street-oriented strategy. These are streets that show the early signs of degeneration. The number of window brothels will be reduced, as will the number of coffee shops. By reducing and zoning these types of functions, manageability increases and the criminal infrastructure can be tackled further. Additionally, there will be fewer smartshops, callshops, convenience stores, massage parlours, sex shops, sex cinemas, sex amusement arcades, sex theatres, souvenir shops and headshops. Currently, there are too many of them. Breaking through the existing monoculture will create opportunities for a more varied use. Another plan is to improve quality of the bars and restaurants in the area.

Zoning

Prostitution will be reduced and zoned to two well-organised areas: 1. Oude Nieuwstraat and 2. Oudezijds Achterburgwal and its side streets. As such, half of the supply will continue to exist. Prostitutes working in brothels that are destined to close can request a medical examination via the prostitution and health centre P&G 292. Here they can also obtain information on, among other things, terms of employment, legal aid and how to quit the game. This also applies to the coffee shops. Streets will be subjected to a phased clearance. The 1012 strategy will herald the closure of a maximum of 26 coffee shops.

Download the brochure here (pdf)