FDP campaign to allow building on Tempelhof pushing ahead despite corona

The FDP wants to overturn a 2014 referendum banning construction at the former airport.

Is the sun setting on Berlin's largest green area?
Is the sun setting on Berlin's largest green area?Photo: dpa/ Christoph Soeder

Berlin-The business-friendly FDP is campaigning to open up the edges of Tempelhof park to housing construction. The party's Berlin chapter is collecting signatures for a petition calling for a new citizen's referendum on the issue even as the pandemic reignites in the city.

The party says the city needs new space to build in order to address the housing shortage. It would like to overturn the building ban laid down in the Tempelhofer-Feld Law, itself the result of a successful citizen's refendum from 2014. 

"We know that this will not make things any easier," said Berlin party spokesman Peter Kastschajew, referring to the pandemic. He said collecting signatures on the street would become harder due to the risk of infection.

"It's possible with a mask, distance and disinfectant," Kastschajew said. In view of the rising infection numbers, fewer teams were being sent around the city than originally planned. Instead, the party is increasingly relying on mail outs to its members and signature lists that can be printed out online.

The signature campaign kicked off at the start of October and the FDP plans to take stock at the end of the month. If they can collect 20,000 signatures of support, the campaign can be taken to the next level: an official petition for a citywide referendum. 

The 2014 referendum followed a campaign by the 100% Tempelhofer Feld initiative that gathered 220,000 signatures. Tempelhof Airport closed to air traffic in 2008 and, at 355-hectares, is now Berlin's largest park. 

Unsurpisingly, 100% Tempelhofer Feld opposes the new signature campaign.

In an online statement the association said: "What the FDP calls a wasteland it Berlin's favourite green space. During the corona pandemic, the field was a godsend, especially for families with children." 

Local Green politician Antje Kapek called the move by the FDP a "cheap electoral stunt."

Adapted from the German version for Berliner Zeitung English Edition by Maurice Frank