Empty Playgrounds and Gentrification

Canon EOS 20D: Empty Playground
“Empty Playground” (2006) Canon EOS 20D + EF-S 18-55mm 3.5-5.6 18mm@F8 1/50s ISO 100

Would you let your child play here? Would your child want to play here? I am sure both questions have to be answered with a no.

This is a playground in East Berlin. There used to be some playground equipment from before Reunification but under the new West German regulations it was deemed unsafe. On the other hand the city had no money to build new playgrounds. But they put a wooden fence around for safety and added in a typical German way a sign with all the things that are forbidden. It includes littering, playing soccer, dogs and something else I think is bringing bottles.

Fast forward ten years and all the hip people have either moved away or had children and suddenly they formed committees and political initiatives. Now this area is full of modern and well tended playgrounds. There are actually too many playgrounds compared to the number of children. Ironically the area is now so expensive that many families can not afford an apartment here. I sure could not.

Other parts of town where the less affluent and educated live are not as well equipped with playgrounds. And remember the wealthy people did not pay for their own playgrounds. They lobbied the district government to build them with taxpayer money. The less affluent parts of town have also less politically active citizens who would lobby for such improvements.

I think gentrification is a process that can not be stopped but at least cities should not exacerbate it’s effects by spending tax money on people who are affluent enough to finance local improvements themselves. But local politicians are often slaves to interest groups and lobbies. And well educated and wealthy people are very good at lobbying.