A visitor parking lot at the Botanical Garden in Hamburg is to make way for refugee accommodation. The residents are divided. Some support the project – others are strictly against it.

Between all the election posters, the announcement on a similarly designed advertising space is hardly noticeable.

On May 27th, the CDU local branch Flottbek-Othmarschen invites you to a panel event entitled “Refugees in the West of Hamburg: How can real integration be achieved on site?” This sums up what people here are dealing with in the run-up to the European elections.

After weeks of speculation, the people of Flottbek have known since the end of April that a parking lot at the Botanical Gardens – not far from an S-Bahn station and a residential area – will initially make way for a refugee shelter. According to the administration’s plans, there will be room for up to 144 people here, primarily families.

Since then, there has been resistance in the upscale district, which has not yet had to clear any public spaces for accommodation. A citizens’ initiative wants to sue against the project because, in their opinion, the infrastructure is not designed for refugees. A solidarity group is opposing this: They want to strengthen the willingness to accept people in the west of Hamburg.

The residents in the adjacent district move between these two poles. Around Baron-Voght-Straße, only Heinrich-Plett-Straße separates it from the Botanical Garden and the parking lot, which currently still offers visitors a place to park. The magnificent houses – some of them villas – are surrounded by spacious gardens.

On a sunny day, the colorful flowers shine at pedestrians. Not far from the hustle and bustle of the city, residents enjoy their privacy here.

Christina Schermaul has a clear stance on accommodation in the parking lot. She has just gotten home and gets out of the car on her property on a side street. “The refugees should be welcomed,” she believes.

The area doesn’t seem particularly large to them, but it should be enough for 144 people. The resident also says: “There needs to be play areas for the children.” If such requirements were met by the location, there would be nothing against accommodation in the west of Hamburg or in the immediate neighborhood.

Schermaul goes too far in rejecting the location across the board. “The citizens’ initiative’s petition is so hypocritical, I don’t think that’s okay,” she says. People have to be accommodated somewhere. She thinks “not on my doorstep” is a weak argument.

A neighbor who is currently working on her driveway with a weed burner appears more indecisive. “I’m not necessarily against it,” she says. The parking lot as a location generally doesn’t bother them.

But the woman considers several points to be difficult. On the one hand, there is a lack of shopping opportunities in the immediate area. On the other hand, there are schools that currently have a more upscale clientele. Gaining a foothold here could be a challenge for refugees. “Others will have to decide whether the location is ideal,” says the resident.

The argument about the schools is also taken up by two walkers who live nearby. “I see this in my own grandson,” says one of the seniors. Without branded clothes and from a family that “only” lives in a three-room apartment, the second-grader already belongs to the “lowest class.”

“That has a big impact on a lot of children,” she fears. And believes that children from refugee families are likely to have a difficult start here. In addition, from the residents’ point of view, the botanical garden lacks opportunities to play and walk.

And: Food prices in Flottbek are significantly higher than in other Hamburg districts. This could represent an additional burden for refugees who are dependent on social assistance.

From the point of view of the two walkers, the parking area is simply too small for 144 people. “What about the disabled?” the senior citizen continues.

If there is no parking space on the site, visitors and commuters would have to move to other parking spaces. As an immobile person, she cannot get down from the first floor of the parking garage opposite with her e-scooter.

From the walker’s point of view, there are no arguments in favor of the location. Not every free space is a suitable one. “All in all, we can’t imagine this,” says her companion.