Rotterdam will partly dismantle its iconic Koningshaven Bridge, better known as “De Hef” among locals, so that a new pleasure yacht for Jeff Bezos can pass through it, Rijnmond reports. This to the annoyance of the Rotterdam Historical Society, which pointed out that the municipality promised never to dismantle the bridge again after its restoration finished in 2017.
Rotterdam’s plans to dismantle the middle part of monumental bridge De Hef so that Jeff Bezos’ brand new pleasure yacht can sail through it was met with mixed reactions from the city council, and locals on social media. While some point out that temporarily dismantling De Hef is relatively little fuss for a major project involving many jobs, others think Rotterdam shouldn’t jump to the wishes of one of the richest people in the world.
On Facebook, some 1,900 people have shown interest in an event calling on Rotterdam residents to through rotten eggs at the yacht as it passes through De Hef.
“Rotterdam was rebuilt from the rubble by the people of Rotterdam, and we won’t just take that apart for the phallic symbol of a megalomaniac billionaire. Not without a fight!” the initiators wrote.
Alblasserdam company Oceano is building Bezos’ yacht for him. The ship, the Y721, is 127 meters long and thereby the second largest sailing yacht in the world. The three-master can’t fit underneath De Hef, so the plan is to temporarily remove the middle part in the summer.
The GroenLinks faction in Rotterdam asked for an emergency debate about the matter, Rijnmond reports. “This man has earned his money by structurally exploiting staff, evading taxes, avoiding regulations, and now we have to take down our beautiful national monument? That is really going a bridge too far,” GroenLinks city councilor Stephan Leewis said. “I understand that it has been agreed that the shipbuilder and Bezos pay the costs of the dismantling and reconstruction. I would like to see those agreements. Because there really can’t be a cent of public money.”
The Labour party (PvdA) in the Rotterdam city council sees value in the job prospects a contract like this brings to the region, but has “mixed feelings about the idea that some American billionaire can enjoy certain privileges,” councilor Denis Tak said to the broadcaster. “It is, of course, a strong example of Dutch pride that these yachts are built here. The shipbuilding sector has had a hard time in recent years. Almost no ships are built in the Netherlands anymore. All container ships now come from Asia. This project offers a lot of local employment and also at a high level. Plus, I think it’s good that we can take some money from Bezos and put it in the region.”
Robert Simons of populist opposition party Leefbaar Rotterdam called it great news for the shipbuilders but is furious that the municipality did not inform the city council about the plans in advance. “I was really surprised when I heard. How can the municipality make such a strange decision? De Hef is a monument and has just been renovated, so you have to keep your hands away from that.” He thinks other solutions should have been considered. “There are enough people in the region who earn a living in the maritime sector. We have to keep an eye on that. But it remains a very strange solution. They can also finish the yacht elsewhere.”
On social media, opinions are also divided. “For my part, they can take [the bridge] apart every year if we can get 400 million projects in the area,” Rodney Yauandi wrote on Twitter.
BOOS presenter and producer Tim Hofman chimed in: “How wonderful it would be if the municipality of Rotterdam had simply said, ‘Sorry, it doesn’t fit,’ like Bezos tells his warehouse staff when they want a break.”