Media reports of a request to temporarily dismantle the middle section of Rotterdam’s iconic Koningshavenbrug, a first-of-its-kind for Europe railway lift bridge that first opened in 1927 and was subsequently restored after the May 14, 1940, bombardment of the Dutch city by German forces, have been greeted with groans and eye-rolling from Rotterdammers along with criticism from local historians—and the backlash largely has to do with why the bridge, locally known as De Hef, will likely be taken apart.
Just outside of Rotterdam in the municipality Alblasserdam, custom yacht builder Oceanco is finishing up work on its latest creation: a three-masted beast of a vessel for Amazon founder and executive chairman Jeff Bezos. At 416-feet-long, Bezos’ new $500 million boat is set to be the largest sailing yacht in the world and is so massive that a section of De Hef must be “partly demolished” so that it can move from Oceanco’s Alblasserdam shipyard to the North Sea, according to English-language Dutch media outlet DutchNews.nl.
Per DutchNews.nl, the beloved bridge, which carried train traffic up until 1993 when tunnels opened in the Nieuwe Maas, underwent a significant renovation in 2017 that Rotterdam council members pledged would be the final time the steel- girdered landmark would be deconstructed and put back together. Fast-forward five years, and it appears that this promise could be bent to accommodate the passage of the Bezos megayacht, known as Y721.
(Update: Although initial reports indicated that officials had agreed to the temporary dismantling, AFP and other sources later reported Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb as saying that a final decision has not been made and permit requests had not yet been filed.)
In conversation with local broadcaster Rijnmond, project leader Marcel Walravens relayed that if the effort is executed as planned without snags, the middle section of De Hef will only be removed for a day. “It is about a ship with high masts which cannot pass through the bridge,” he explained. “The only alternative is to take out the middle section.”
Despite the short duration of the planned bridge disassembly scheme, locals are already planning to express their displeasure with the move. As reported by NL Times, a June 1 rotten egg-throwing event at De Hef has, as of this writing, already attracted 2,600 interested participants on Facebook.
“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!” reads the event page.
As noted by the Washington Post, although costs and a formal timetable for the project have yet to be announced, the city has assured Rotterdammers that Bezos and Oceanco will foot the entire bill for the deconstruction effort.
Speaking to the New York Times, a spokeswoman for the city relayed that Y721 will be able to successfully clear Rotterdam’s other bridges on its way out to sea. Designated as a Dutch national monument, De Hef is the second bridge at that same site spanning the Nieuwe Maas to connect the Feijenoord district and Noordereiland (North Island). Preceding it was a collision-prone swing bridge built in 1877.