Amsterdam mayor's annual address focuses on growth, crowding, public transit

Jozias van Aartsen, Ahmed Aboutaleb
Jozias van Aartsen, then the Mayor of Den Haag, and Ahmed Aboutaleb sitting as Rotterdam's mayor, at an event in Amsterdam. February 7, Jos van Zetten/Flickr

In his first New Year's Day address to Amsterdam, Acting Mayor Jozias van Aartsen praised Amsterdam as a respected capital city, one that "feels connected to the rest of the country." The annual address lauded efforts to reduce overcrowding in the city center, the development of new neighborhoods and hotspots, and focused attention on continued need for public transit investment.

He also called on Amsterdam and the entirety of the Randstad region to create more living space and education opportunities now that relocations to the city are imminent by organizations like the European Medicines Agency.

"Accessibility deserves our full attention in the coming years," he said. "Good public transportation that is accessible to everyone maintains the city's dynamic and gives people opportunities to participate in society," he said.

It gave Van Aartsen a chance to glow about the newly announced Haven-Stad mega-district as one step to improve participation, where the massive harbor area could see the construction of 70 thousand new homes beginning in 2029. Forty percent of those will fall under the social housing scheme, with guarantees for public transportation development as well. Space to house 50 thousand jobs in a variety of commercial and non-commercial ventures is expected to exist in the area once construction is completed.

Speaking in Amsterdam Noord, the first time the annual speech was delivered in that district, Van Aartsen noted the planned redevelopment of the old Hamerkwartier business park into a vibrant residential district. He predicted that soon over 100 thousand people would live on Noord, which he said was once isolated from the rest of the city but now is remarkable for it's bootstrapped approach to community building and peaceful living.

Combined with the creationg of De Hallen, a collection of food stalls and pop-up cafes inside an old tram depot in Amsterdam West, Van Artsen said the developments of the past few years have helped draw residents and tourists out of the center. He also spoke highly of those living in the Red Light District and Rembrandtplein, as well as authorities working there, who have teamed up to reduce the nuisances caused by the areas' popularity.

He also noted the growth of the Zuidas, encompassing the World Trade Center buildings, start-up and scale-up collectives particularly in the West, and the Bijlmermeer as increasing the desire for people to visit other parts of the city.

Van Aartsen opened and closed his speech with a more emotional tone, first praising the message of former mayor Eberhard van der Laan, who passed away in 2017. He asked Amsterdammers to continue in Van der Laan's vision of a loving and united city. He also thanked the city's workers for their dedication in the face of an emotional year.

Van Aartsen is the third person to sit in the Amsterdam mayor's office in under a year. Kajsa Ollongren had taken over for Van der Laan in September just before his death, but left to become the Interior Minister and one of three Deputy Prime Ministers in late October.