ADM - out in the industrial wilderness to the west of Amsterdam lies a squatted land, a village some say, in relative freedom from outside interference. About a hundred people live there now, another hundred or so make their lives just outside it’s boundaries. Trees and wildlife have flourished here together with the more human inhabitants. Cultural free-zone, social experiment, last free-haven in Amsterdam, it’s been called many names. But for those living here, the land and the community are simply home. From the original settlement in 1987 until the present day the people that have come to live here share a common history of good and bad times, births and deaths, and all the other stories that make a community. How did this come to pass in this unusual place, what’s up with all the court cases and what about the future?
ADM, as we know it today, would not have existed without excessive speculator’s greed and a fair dose of corruption in Amsterdam’s chain of office, back in the days. Without either of these ingredients the 40-something hectares would have been put to industrial use a long time ago. Because of a contract from 1970 worth many millions, as long as the ‘ownership’ is in the hands of people whose greed, by any moral standard, stretches well into the criminal realm*, the current situation isn’t likely to change much - save such naturally occurring mutations and alterations as time deems fit to impose on us, as it does on all the world. ADM is much the same happy little forest-village that it has been for quite some years now. Had it not been for some dark clouds on the horizon, this story would be quite short and rather boring.
Those clouds are coming towards us in the form of court cases, threats of violence and even physical attacks, both on the surrounding wildlife and on the humans that live here. Whether these attacks will some day make life here completely impossible depends entirely, as will be explained below, on the direction of the local political winds. It takes but a single signature to make the value of this land go from say twenty million, up to around one hundred million euro’s. And eviction of ADM very likely. If our municipality were to put all morality and her own financial interests aside and, after nearly 40 years of struggle, finally give in and let our ‘friendly neighbourhood speculator’ have his fifty-odd million (and possibly much more) profit - that would really change things.**
So far, ADM has been able to fend off most of the ‘legal’ attacks on the terrain and its inhabitants, mainly because without special permission by the city council, the terrain can only legally be used for one single purpose. Since it is extremely unlikely there will ever be a need in Amsterdam for that highly defined purpose, the judges have, in a handful of cases over the last couple of years, (rightly) ruled that there isn’t sufficient cause to evict anyone from the terrain. (Since 1970, any ‘owner’ of the terrain is only allowed to use it as a shipyard that very closely resembles the now long-gone ADM-wharf. Needless to say, this restriction makes the land almost valueless- hence the very low price that was payed for it.) As long as the Municipality (or the city council) keeps the ‘owners’ to the contractual constriction, there isn’t much to fear. Although of course lawyers are still expensive***, and there are more useful things to do than defend against what you know to be complete nonsense. (Brandolini’s Law: the amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.)
Those who stand to profit from it would love to see the planning - restriction lifted, and they are doing everything they can (in their own, rather clumsy way) to make it so. Clumsily, but persistently. It is amazing to see, in this process, how plenty money will motivate some people. The art of lying shamelessly is, apparently, not preserved solely for natural psychopaths. It can be learned. Journalists (right-wing press, at least), bailiffs, lawyers, it seems the presence of (the possibility of) a large amount of money makes them forget even the most basic of ethical insights. Is it any wonder that people with too much money get separated from the rest of humanity, when everyone they meet will so readily give up their moral considerations?
Whilst acknowledging the fact that handing out public funds to private entities, criminal or not, is a favorite pastime in certain political circles, we still believe - or want to believe - that there are those in politics who are not corrupt at heart. Who do not wish to subsidize a half or wholly criminal real-estate enterprise with unearned millions. Even (or especially?) if that means ADM will stay just the way it is- apart from naturally occurring changes, of course.
*The same contract states that the terrain can only be sold (back) to the city of Amsterdam. An offer was made constituting a whopping 120% profit for the ‘owner’. It was turned down with the statement that at least 300% profit is expected.
**If the terrain were to be sold back to Amsterdam that would most likely change things as well. But that would still be preferable to giving about three times Amsterdam’s annual anti-poverty budget to people who need nor deserve that money.
***The basic underlying conflict between Amsterdam and a ‘criminogenous’ real-estate family, this fight over a piece of land that, legally speaking, should have been returned to Amsterdam when the ADM-wharf bankrupted in 1985. Arguably, we have been and still are fighting Amsterdam’s city council’s fight for them. In the next couple of months alone there will be 4 more court cases to fight and pay for.