The Bijlmermeer (pronounced|bɛilməʁmeːʁ) or colloquially Bijlmer (IPA| [bɛilməʁ] ) is one of the neighborhoods that form the Amsterdam Zuidoost ('Amsterdam South-East') borough (or "stadsdeel") of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. To many people, the "Bijlmer" designation is used to refer to Amsterdam Zuidoost and Diemen Zuid as a pars pro toto. The other neighborhoods in Amsterdam Zuidoost are Gaasperdam, Bullewijk, Venserpolder and Driemond.

The Bijlmermeer neighborhood, which houses thousands of people, was designed as a single project. The neighborhood is built up out of several, nearly identical high rise buildings. The apartments were meant to attract a suburban set, rather like condominium housing. The buildings have several features that distinguish them from traditional high-rise flats in The Netherlands, like tubular walkways connecting the flats and garages. The flats are separated by large areas of 'green'; fields of grass and trees. Each flat has its own garages where cars can be parked.

The Bijlmer was designed with two levels of traffic. Cars drive on the top level, the decks of which fly over the lower level's pedestrian avenues and bicycle paths. This separation of fast and slow moving traffic is beneficial to traffic safety. However, in recent years, the roads are once again being flattened, so pedestrians, cycles and cars travel alongside each other. This is a move to lessen the effects of the 'inhuman' scale of some of the Bijlmer's designs. It is felt a direct line of sight will also improve safety from muggers.

Because of the Bijlmer's perific position relative to the city centre, it was decided a subway line was to be built towards the Bijlmer. The "Oostlijn" ("east line", actually two lines later numbered 53 and 54) linked the Bijlmer to the Central Station of Amsterdam.

Bijlmermeer in trouble

Bijlmermeer was built for success, but it never attracted many middle class families. Reasons for this can be found in numerous areas. First, following Surinam's independence in 1975, many of its inhabitants migrated to the Netherlands. The government placed these immigrants in affordable social housing in the Bijlmermeer.

The neighborhood quickly gained a reputation for being a "black" part of town. The relatively low incomes and social status of its unsettled inhabitants made for a problematic mix with the area's large scale buildings, which afforded little social control. It has a high crime rate, but this decreased in recent years; the number of registered complaints to the police decreased from 20,000 in 1995 (2,000 of which were robberies) to 8,000 (600 robberies) in 2005. The latter figure may be underreported due to the presence of illegal immigrants who are afraid to report crimes to the police. [Schenk, Weert in De Volkskrant, 5 January 2006, "Het tij is gekeerd"
Er ontstond een multiculturele Bijlmer met meer dan 130 nationaliteiten. Door hoge werkloosheid onder de bevolking en overbewoning van de flats verloederde de buurt snel. De Bijlmer werd de wijk met de slechtste reputatie van Nederland. Ad Smit verklaarde het eigenmachtig tot 'nationaal rampgebied'.
In 1995 nam de politie er meer dan twintigduizend aangiften op. Het magische getal van tweeduizend straatroven werd geregistreerd, wat neerkomt op gemiddeld bijna zes berovingen per dag. Het aantal auto-inbraken kwam uit op tienduizend.
Deze cijfers liggen nu aanzienlijk gunstiger. In 2005 waren er rond de achtduizend aangiften, waaronder ruim zeshonderd voor straatroof en ongeveer twaalfhonderd voor autokraak. Dat dit nog veel is, hoeft niemand Smit te vertellen. En hij weet ook dat het er vermoedelijk meer zijn, omdat illegalen vaak geen aangifte durven doen."
] [Schenk, Weert in De Volkskrant 7 January 2006 [ Opereren in de ‘warzone’ van de Hopi Boys]
"De Bijlmer was tien jaar geleden de meest criminele wijk van Nederland. Hoe is de situatie nu?"

As people came and went, cheap social housing remained a central fixture of the area, attracting more immigrants. As a result, the Bijlmer lost its desirablity as a place to settle for middle class families. However, the Bijlmer has always been host to many different ethnicities simultaneously. Throughout the years, claims of rising social segregation or ghettoization have been both denied, and pre-empted by local government.

After El Al Flight 1862 crashed into two Bijlmermeer buildings in 1992 (the incident was known as the Bijlmer disaster), it was decided that the neighbourhood needed some positive change. In recent years, many of the high rise buildings are being renovated or torn down. More expensive low-rise housing is being built, to finally attract more middle- and high-income residents. This has led to protests from lower-income residents who are being displaced.

Events and sights

Amsterdam Zuidoost is host to Ajax Amsterdam's "ArenA" football stadium, which hosts football matches and musical concerts, the Pathé ArenA multiplex cinema with 14 screens, the Heineken Music Hall and music and theatrical venues, located in the business park area of Amsterdam Zuidoost, just to the west of the Bijlmer. The recreational strip is called the ArenA Boulevard. The strip mostly hosts concerts, with a very small number of bars and no night clubs. It has not been able to compete with Amsterdam's city center for the casual Saturday night crowd.

The Bijlmer boasts Amsterdam's biggest shopping centre, the "Amsterdamse Poort", though Amsterdam's city centre remains the largest shopping area. Alongside the shopping centre, the "Anton de Kom plein" (square) is nearing completion, which will house a cultural centre and the borough administrative offices ("stadsdeelkantoor").

The annual Kwakoe Festival is a six-weekend long, free, multicultural festival during the summer, with Surinam, Antillian and African food, music and other events.

ee also

*Amsterdam Bijlmer ArenA railway station

Footnotes and references

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