Tag Archives: City of Vienna

MA 42 a.k.a. das Gartenamt

8 May

The Parks and Gardens Department in Vienna have pretty much declared summer. They have put out their summer flowers along with a welcome addition of the last few years–a sign telling you what is growing in the bed. One thing I greatly enjoy is watching the flowers grow and fill out until they reach their peak in the fall. 🙂

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Living without a car in Vienna

12 Oct

Once again something from today’s Kurier.

In the city section the Kurier reported on an apartment complex built 13 years ago in Vienna’s 21st district where the rental contracts require residents to commit to neither owning a car nor using one regularly over a longer period of time. Over 700 people have chosen to live this way, filling the complex to capacity.

This is possible, in part, because of Vienna’s exceptional public transportation. But the Viennese mentality, with its deeply-rooted ambivalence about cars, also supports the creation of such a space. The Viennese, for the most part, accept the taxes and so on that make owning and driving a car in Vienna (and Austria) very expensive. For years they have resisted the various campaigns to get car drivers to rebel (although the system of parking permits recently introduced by the red-green coalition currently governing Vienna have finally managed to anger them).

One of the greatest advantages of signing away one’s right to a car should be rather obvious. The money that otherwise would have gone into building a large garage for residents has instead gone into landscaping, which includes large green spaces and even a goldfish pond, and nicer communal rooms for events with even a shared bike repair workshop in the basement. (Well, you would need that, wouldn’t you. ;-))

The assumption was that such an apartment complex would attract a certain kind of person–someone who might choose to have greater control of how the work around the complex is done–and that has been borne out. This means that the work of the Hausverwaltung (the property management, usually outsourced to a specialized company) has been taken on by a group of residents, saving all of them about 1/3 of the usual costs–and the incredible frustration that most Viennese experience when dealing with such a body.

There are, of course, tensions. About 10% of the people do own cars having, as one resident expressed it, “… all the advantages of the facilities without sticking to the rules, and thereby taking away the chance for someone else who would be interested in living in the complex.” In addition, as a kind of co-op housing arrangement residents have the option to buy their apartment after a specified number of years. The no-car rule doesn’t seem to apply after purchase, which another resident said “waters down the concept of freedom from cars.” And there are some political tensions. The initial plan has Green Party written all over it. There’s some feeling that the “Reds” (the Social Democrats, for decades the indisputedly dominant party in Vienna) don’t stand behind the concept and will not be building more in the area–too afraid of losing power to the Greens in the district, according to some of the residents.

That said, in a side bar the Kurier reported on seven new housing projects, scattered around Vienna and supported by the Social Democrats, which will marginalize the cars. For example, the garages will be built on the edges of the developments, leaving the central green spaces free from cars, and residents will have all kinds of other options like car-sharing and free yearly passes for public transporation in their first year of residence.

Out of interest I checked some car ownership statistics because I have the impression that the number of cars in Austria has jumped dramatically since I arrived 25 years ago. The data I could find doesn’t bear this out, but then the earliest year I could find numbers for was 2003, 15 years after I arrived. Since I went to the trouble of getting it, here it is:

In 2003 there were about 4m cars on the roads in Austria (with a population of 8.1m that makes not quite half a car per person ;-)). In August 2013 there were 4.6 m cars and a population of 8.4m making it a little more than half a car per person.

Clearly this would be more interesting if I could make some comparison to the USA, for example, but when I tried to get the data I received the following message: “Due to the lapse in government funding, census.gov sites, services, and all online survey collection requests will be unavailable until further notice.”

Thanks to Statistik Austria for the information on car ownership and population (http://www.statistik.at/web_de/statistiken/verkehr/strasse/kraftfahrzeuge_-_bestand/index.html ).

The information about the apartment complex in the 21st district comes from the article “Ein Leben (fast) ohne Auto” by Josef Gebhard and appeared in the “Chronik” section of the Kurier on 12 October 2013.

Regeneration of a district – Neu Marx

20 Jun

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This morning Mylo and I took a trip out to a part of the 3rd district I haven’t been to in ages, if ever. We needed at health certificate for him for reasons that belong in another blogpost and had to go out to the MA (Magistratsabteilung) 60 to get it.

They are based in an area that used to house the stockyards and the slaughterhouses, as the photo above suggests, and are located on a street that did not appear on my 25-year-old map. (It didn’t matter. I asked a construction worker who at first said he was sorry they came in from Mödling and didn’t know the area. It was clear from his accent that he originally came from somewhere outside Austria, possibly Hungary, and, indeed, he then lit up and said, “The street named for the Hungarian comedian, Karl Farkas?” and pointed me in the right direction.)

In addition to the monumental statues of steers on the gates to the stockyards, there is other evidence of the past uses of the space–for example, an enormous building still called the “Rinderhalle” or “beef hall” and the Municipal Vocational School for Butchers (photo below). In true Vienna fashion there is also much for the 21st century. The Campus Vienna Biocenter, one of the leading international biomedical research centers, is out there, too. And there are a number of cheerful eateries that lend life and gaiety to the neighborhood.

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I’ll be going back–not just because we couldn’t get everything accomplished today (also in true Vienna fashion)!

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May Day or The Band Played in Tune

1 May

Today is May Day, International Workers’ Day, and a public holiday in Austria among other places. One of the many parades has just passed under my window on its way to City Hall, where there are various celebrations. Because this is Vienna the marching was relaxed and not entirely tidy and the band played musically and in tune.

May Day has a lot to do with Vienna, the city government here being predominantly socialist. There is a lot of red around–flags and flowers and so on–and, true to the apparent Viennese belief that even those who earn less well should be able to enjoy the good things in life, the wine served at the City Hall festivities is decent.

Some things are changing, though. The Social Democrats no longer have an absolute majority in Vienna, as they did for decades. They now govern in a coalition with the Green Party. That may help explain why public transport runs on the usual holiday schedule on May Day rather than not starting until about 2 p.m. as used to be the case, something I found out the hard way my first year in Vienna when I was trying to get to lunch at friends’. (I ended up walking. Luckily, it wasn’t far but I felt I had earned my Schnitzel!)

The People’s Party (Volkspartei (VP), essentially the Conservatives) has its own Fest this coming weekend. Like many things in Austria, the system of providing a “red” option and a “black” option (the color of the VP is black) is alive and well, even if the idea of Proporz–divvying up positions on boards in state-owned industries and other bodies according to who came out on top in the last national elections–is dying out with those same state-owned entities.

Skating

10 Feb

For a number of years now the City of Vienna has set up an ice-skating rink in front of City Hall. Friday evening at about 10 p.m. Maylo and I walked by and this is what we saw.

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A Vienna Charter

28 Nov

This will be a quick post, the harbinger of a longer post. For many months the City of Vienna has been facilitating the writing of a “Vienna Charter” (Wiener Charta), a document that should make explicit the ground rules for a peaceful and productive co-existence in this increasingly multicultural city (or perhaps I should say “once again increasingly multicultural city” given Vienna’s very multicultural past). The writing of the charter was one of those things that I was aware of but didn’t have the time and energy to participate in (thank heavens 8,500 other people did find the time) or even follow step-by-step.

You can read more (in German) at: https://charta.wien.gv.at/start/charta/

Heute, the free newspaper in Vienna, reported today that the guidelines have been agreed upon. What wasn’t clear is what will happen now. To be continued.

One CITY. One BOOK.

27 Nov

I am finally catching up with the “One CITY. One BOOK” initiative of the City of Vienna, among others, which is in its 11th year. (I’m a bit slow about these things!)

The way it works is that the mayor of Vienna together with a team of people from echo medienhaus select a book they feel is relevant to the people of Vienna. 100,000 extra copies of this book are printed and then distributed for free at all kinds of different venues. I picked mine up this morning at the bank across the street from me.

This year’s book is “A Hand Full of Stars” by Rafik Schami, a Syrian (how is that for timely?) author of considerable renown in the German-speaking world. He has lived in Germany for over 40 years, received an overwhelming number of prizes for his books, and still wakes up every morning (he said in an interview) wishing he could walk through the streets of Damascus, his hometown.

As I walked home this morning with my bright, new copy in my hand adages about money and the value of things were running through my head. “You get what you pay for” was one. Hardly relevant here, it seems. I have paid nothing and received a book that promises to be a very good read. The next one was “People don’t value what they get for free.” This one is only appropriate–as far as I can see–in the sense that I first heard it in reference to psychoanalysis, the founder of which was Viennese. 😉

The next saying that went through my head was “Put your money where your mouth is.” This, finally, seemed to fit. The City of Vienna wants people to read–perhaps also wants total strangers to reach out to one another and ask “What did you think of the book?”–and is willing to support the initiative knowing that when people read the same books they suddenly share a language.

Perhaps the name of the initiative should be: One BOOK. One CITY.