Photo by ml22 (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license, Wikimedia Commons)
Obviously it doesn't take much to make Berlin activists suspicious, but this time, all their antannae got particularly twitchy. A year and a half ago, you might remember, the "100% Tempelhofer Feld" campaign got 740,000 Berliners (or 64 percent of people who took part in the referendum) to vote to keep every last blade of grass on that beautiful pristine flatness free of the property developers.
It was a big defeat for the then-city-development-minister-now-mayor, Michael Müller, and apparently it stuck in his craw a little, because last Thursday his office said they were going to have to change the law that came out of that referendum. The change will mean they can build on that exact same bit of land – a 200-meter-wide strip along Tempelhofer Damm. Because of refugees, you know? While the Tempelhofer Feld activists pulled their eyelids down and stuck their tongues in their lower lips and said "chinny reckon" (it's something we did at school – forget it), Müller's spokesman Bernhard Schodrowski was telling everyone that they would DEFINITELY only be temporary buildings and DEFINITELY only for refugees. BUT they would have to change the democratic decision the people of Berlin voted on last year. "Preparing the legal ground," Schodrowski called it.
But, said the activists (especially Felix Herzog, the 100% spokesman and soon candidate for the VERA party), if you really need new refugee shelters, why not put the refugee shelters on the expanse of concrete in front of the hangars - which A) already has solid ground, B) is closer to the building and so easier to provide with water and electricity (allegedly) and C) not a lush, much-loved bit of park in a brilliant real estate location?
The other thing is that housing another couple of thousand refugees at the former airport is the thing that everyone (including politicians) says you're not supposed to do with refugees – put them all in one place, because it means they can't integrate and it stirs resentment among the local community. Well, anyway. That's what's been going on. In case you wondered.