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RS Live: Renting Out Your Room

How much do Berlin’s bottle collectors earn? Our guest Wouter Bernhardt has done the math – it’s a measly €150 a month. He thinks it amounts to a form of socially accepted poverty. Wouter is host of the Berlinology podcast. Listen to the full episode of ‘The Bottle Collector’ here: http://viertausendhertz.de/bln02/

The Berlin Senate has changed the AirBnB law to allow people to rent out their flats as holiday apartments for up to 60 days per year. Starting on May 1, you can obtain a registration number from the Bürgeramt, which must be displayed online. But you still risk getting evicted by your landlord for using your flat for commercial purposes.

We talk to Jana Burbach and Niko Schulz-Dornburg, the writers of a new TV series about flat sharing in Berlin. The show is called Just Push Abuba, and it’s the first English-language show produced by ZDF. Watch it online at: https://www.zdf.de/serien/just-push-abuba

In February, Berlin passed a milestone: the Berlin wall has now been down for longer than it was up (28 years). At the same time, an opinion poll found that Die Linke became the most popular party in Berlin for the first time since 1990. The city’s R2G coalition parties (Die Linke, SPD and Die Grünen) would get 57% of the vote. Are they doing a good job? Joel thinks so. Our guest Konrad Werner thinks they could do better.

Some Berliners want to dramatically reduce advertising in the city. Berlin Werbefrei is an initiative collecting signatures to trigger a referendum. They propose eliminating ads on public buildings. It would reduce the Berlin’s revenue by €31 million annually, or 0.1% of the state budget. Find out more at https://berlin-werbefrei.de

How To F#€k Up An Airport – Episode 3: Money for Nothing

BER has been built twice – the first time incorrectly, the second time incompletely. We hear from Marco, an engineer who worked on site. Employees were busy stealing copper instead of fixing the fire system. Some managers got rich taking bribes. Informers had their coffee poisoned.

Joel and Jöran drive out to the unfinished BER terminal to inspect the too-short escalators that end with stairs. They were just one of 150,000 mistakes discovered in an audit after the 2012 cancellation. Cables were stuffed together in overloaded enclosures – a fire risk. The sprinkler pipes were too small to carry the required water. More than 600 fire walls had to be reconstructed. And the builders forgot to install lightning rods.

Even when it’s fixed, BER will need another overhaul: “As soon as they open it they have to modernize it,” Marco says. “The technology is old standards. New airports are already building in a different way. This is going to be from the beginning an old airport.”

But finally, heads are starting to roll… the wrong heads. The BER supervisory board fires the only people who know what’s going on, creating new chaos. Then they fire the CEO Rainer Schwarz, but bungle the paperwork. Will any politician ever take responsibility?

January 28, 2018

How To F#€k Up An Airport – Episode 2: Double The Recipe

Days away from the planned 2012 opening party, nothing seemed wrong at BER. What was really going on? On this episode, we look at how the airport managers and politicians were messing with the plans, even as construction was underway.

They demanded a 70% increase in terminal space to add hundreds of extra shops, and requested special double story boarding gates for the supersized Airbus A380, even though no airline requested it. Instead of a working fire safety system, they planned to hire up to 800 people to act as human fire alarms.

Despite multiple warnings, the airport board pushed ahead with opening party plans right up until May 8, 2012, when the first major delay was announced. We meet the man who put a stop to it all – Stephan Loge, the administrator of the Brandenburg building department.

Also on this episode, Joel and Jöran visit the Schönefeld S-Bahn station in search of the empty train that runs nightly to the unfinished airport to keep air moving through the tunnels.

December 18, 2017

How To F#€k Up An Airport – Episode 1: Without A Plan

This is a series about the biggest scandal in Berlin since Michael Jackson dangled a baby out a window. It is represented by three capitalized cherry-red sans-serif letters – BER.
That’s the international airport code for Berlin Brandenburg Airport, nickname Willy Brandt. It has also become a signifier of failure, incompetence, corruption and Berlin’s general inability to get its shit together.

If you’ve flown to Berlin Schönefeld Airport in the last few years, you’ll have seen BER as your plane taxied along the runway. Look out your window and there it is, lit up bright as a Christmas tree, a big beautiful glass-walled neomodernist construction. But your plane can’t dock there – not now, not in a year, and maybe not ever, according to some critics.

Despite outward appearances, BER is far from finished. It has been under construction for 11 years. It has blown through six opening dates, three general managers and two state leaders. Costs have ballooned from around €1 billion to at least €5.4 billion.

In this series, you’ll learn why the escalators are too short, why the lights are always on, and why the rooms seemed to be numbered by bingo. We’ll interview insiders and disgruntled workers, chase ghost trains running to the terminal, and go inside the unfinished airport.

On this episode we’ll go way back to before any plans had been drawn, before even the Berlin wall had come down, to discover the foundational flaws that continue to haunt the unfinished airport.

November 27, 2017

RS Live: A Supermarket for Trash

Germans throw out one truck’s worth of good food each minute. SirPlus is a supermarket that sells groceries that are past their best-before date but are still edible. Founder Raphael Fellmer joins us with a basket of typical products from his shelves.

Konrad Werner explains why Germans are terrified of fresh elections

Bloody Hell Magazine is an English-language blog that celebrates local football teams. Writers Ben, Dave and Alex join us to share their passion.

Iconic Berlin illustrator and musician Jim Avignon joins us to perform live and talk about his new art book, Business As Unusual,

November 24, 2017

Watery Grave for Shared Bikes

The number of public bikes in Berlin increased to 6200 this week when Chinese company Mobike placed 700 of their orange and silver bicycles on the streets. They’re not to be confused with O-Bike, the Singaporean company that introduced 500 yellow-framed bikes just a few weeks earlier. In other cities, Mobike gives users credits for reporting broken bikes, and takes away credits for poor parking and “abandoning the bike when intercepted by police.”

The Berlin transport department says another three bike sharing companies have expressed interest in operating here. Radio Spaetkauf co-host Jöran Mandik discovered a watery graveyard of Lidl Bikes in the Landwehrkanal near Admiralsbrücke where some hater has been throwing them.

Police in Berlin recovered over 100 stolen items formerly belonging to John Lennon. A man has been arrested for allegedly selling the objects, worth an estimated €3 million, via an online auction website. They items were stolen from Yoko Ono by her former chauffeur, and passed on to a fence in Berlin. The auction website’s former managers says it didn’t know the items were stolen.

November 10, 2017

Put Up Rent, Cheat Tax: How Berlin Landlords Stay Rich

Dodgy Berlin real estate deals have been discovered in the Paradise Papers. According to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, a company called Phoenix Spree based on the Isle of Jersey has been buying Berlin property, forcing out tenants, putting up the rent, then sending the profits to offshore accounts where they pay little tax. Wondering why rents are going up and where that extra money is going? Now you know. Another trick highlighted in the Paradise Papers are so-called share deals. Investors avoid Berlin’s 6% property sales tax by buying shares in companies that own property, instead of the property directly. This trick robs the city of €100 million euros annually, according to the Berlin finance department. The Sony Center was sold for €1.1 billion in October under such a share deal. None of these tricks are illegal. They’re simply immoral.

The Berlin Police Academy in Spandau is in the headlines. An anonymous letter published in the Tagesspiegel alleged Arabic gang members were being accepted as recruits. A police union spokesman claimed gangs were grooming some of their members to get into the police academy, by holding them back from committing crimes to keep their records clean. Berlin’s chief of police, Klaus Kandt, says there’s no such infiltration going on. The anonymous claims were fueled by racism toward people from immigrant communities, he said.

Hasenheide, Kottbusser Damm, Karl Marx Straße will get bike lanes in spring 2018. They will be up to 2 meters wide, painted bright green, and separated from cars by posts in some places. Berlin getting another bike sharing company. O-Bike will soon place 500 of its yellow bicycles across the city. The city now has 5500 public bikes, and will have at least 9000 by the end of 2018. O-Bike will charge €1 for 30 minutes, €20 a month, or €80 a year – which could be an alternative to buying a bike.

October 27, 2017

Paint Your Own Bike Lane

Air Berlin’s turbulent descent into insolvency has reached its end. At 10.45pm on October 27 the final Air Berlin flight AB6210 from Munich will touch down at Tegel Airport, and the airline will cease to exist. Lufthansa won the bidding war to take over the majority of the bankrupt airline. It will purchase 81 aircraft and take on around 3000 employees and integrate them into its Eurowings brand. Lufthansa will soon carry over 90% of domestic German air traffic. Don’t be surprised if ticket prices start going up. Time to take a train? The low-cost rail company Locomore has recently re-launched, offering tickets to Frankfurt and Stuttgart for €9.90.

Berlin authorities have cracked down on homeless people camping in Tiergarten, where the murder of a 60 year old woman sparked politicians to claim the park had become lawless. Evictions have taken place in other locations. A homeless camp of around 70 people was cleared out from behind the Berghain nightclub. The Neukölln district council chartered buses to take homeless people back to Romania and Bulgaria. The number of homeless people staying in shelters has risen from almost 8000 in 2013 to over 30,000 in 2016, and an estimated 2000 are sleeping rough on the streets. Rising rents are forcing more Berliners out of their homes.

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Radio Spätkauf is Berlin’s English-language news show, keeping international residents informed about local politics, public transport, urban development, culture, bicycles, bars and more.

Learn more here.