Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Online Forum Section
June 30, 2009
SADLY, Singapore still has a long way to go before it matures as a society, even if it has done well economically.
Hotel 81 - which is a hotel, not a brothel, by the way - in Tiong Bahru bears this out.
Like the issue of housing dormitories for foreign workers in Serangoon Gardens, some residents are saying 'somewhere else, but not here'.
Presumably, it is okay in Geylang.
It is also okay in Chinatown, and many other locations not considered inordinately prone to 'vice' (for the complainants have not, as far as I know, protested against the very existence of Hotel 81).
'But hey. I came to live in this pleasant neighbourhood. Put it somewhere else.'
Unfortunately, there is no social or government contract when you buy a property or choose to live in a particular location, for you to 'expect' things to be exactly how you want them.
Like the recent online letter by Mrs Bendjenni Udiana Jamalludin about how some men dressed well but lacked social graces ('They were well-dressed but behaved like louts', last Saturday), Singapore can develop economically but fall well behind in social development.
Perhaps more can be done in school to ensure the next generation 'grows up'.
Online Forum Section
June 30, 2009
ANOTHER furore seems to be brewing over a location for a budget hotel in Singapore.
If this had been a major hotel development, I wonder if it would have invited such a reaction.
If one goes to Tiong Bahru, one will notice many prominent hotels within a 2km radius.
So why do we pick on a budget hotel to drive home a point of protest?
Hotel 81 is a local set-up, and its business caters to Singaporeans as much as to foreigners.
It provides many employment opportunities for Singaporeans, especially during this economic downturn.
Hence, to deprive it of a decent place to do business is to prevent a prospective employer from expanding its business.
From hospices to funeral parlours to pubs, Singaporeans are fast coming across as possessing a 'my-turf-is-my-turf' mentality.
This siege mindset is harmful to the economy and will deter potential investors from doing business in Singapore.
After all, if businesses are not located within the city, where else do we locate them?
Singapore is an island nation and space is a major constraint.
We cannot build another island as we did for Jurong Island.
Given this constraint, we have no alternative but to change our mindset - be more open with the space we must share with others.
The sooner we do this, the better we will be prepared for the future.
Because, in time to come, as the population expands and public buildings compete for more space, we can count our blessings if we find a hotel in our neighbourhood rather than something else.
Monday, June 29, 2009
A recycling company was seen emptying both the blue and yellow recycling bin into the same truck.
(And this is not the 1st time I’ve seen this)
Okay, back to the Recycling thingy.
If they are going to dump all the contents into the same truck, why must they place two bins all over the Tiong Bahru Estate and the rest of Singapore?
One bin would suffice right?
Next time, I wouldn’t even separate my recycling stuff when I dump it into the bins.
What’s the point right?
Check out my other similar post: Getting Red over Green
Friday, June 26, 2009
The Straits Times
June 26, 2009
AS NEW home owners in Tiong Bahru, my wife and I are naturally anxious about the imminent presence of Hotel 81 in Eng Hoon Street.
The crux of the matter is that if the hotel institutes hourly and transitory rates, it sets environmental conditions and encourages vice activities.
We choose to live in Tiong Bahru because of its vibrant community, rich history and robust heritage.
I find it difficult to appreciate the evolution of the neighbourhood without being critical about what this means to residents and how changes affect the community's values and way of life.
In an estate with conservation status and tremendous cultural legacy, it is perplexing that there is a distinct lack of collaborative and consultative approach by the authorities in planning and developing the neighbourhood.
June 26, 2009
ALTHOUGH the concerns raised by residents are not baseless, approval of a hotel development in the area is in line with demand for more hotels as Singapore gears up for the integrated resorts launch and major events like Formula One and the Youth Olympic Games.
It is shortsighted to claim that an hourly hotel will encourage vice in the area.
Vice can be conducted in any hotel.
Major five-star hotels see engagements between high-class call girls and their high-net-worth customers.
Tiong Bahru residents may have overlooked the fact that the area was once home to drug peddlers and loan sharks.
It was not exactly wholesome to begin with.
Hotel 81 started next to Upper Serangoon Shopping Centre in 2007 in the midst of landed properties and HDB flats.
I have lived in this area for more than two decades and even after the opening of the hotel, there have been no vice activities.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
The Straits Times
June 24, 2009
WE REFER to the letter, 'Don't tarnish image' (June 13).
We thank the residents of Tiong Bahru for their feedback.
On the feedback that the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) has allowed Hotel81 to operate in close proximity to the Tiong Bahru residential area, we would like to clarify that no licence has been issued for the hotel to start operations in Tiong Bahru.
Before they begin operations, hotel developments must be licensed by the Hotels Licensing Board (HLB), and applications to the board are required to comply with the requirements of the relevant government agencies.
A licence will be issued only if the application meets all requirements stipulated in the Hotels Act.
However, HLB can also revoke the licence if there is any deviation from the hotel licensing conditions, such as evidence of vice activity in the hotel.
The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) had granted approval for a hotel use at 1-9 Eng Hoon Street, as it is located in a mixed-use area where there are existing hotel developments in the vicinity.
With regard to the heritage value of Tiong Bahru, URA is mindful of maintaining the unique charm of the area.
In fact, this was the reason why URA decided to conserve the flats at Tiong Bahru.
Regarding the concern on illegal operations of workers' dormitories, URA has already served Enforcement Notices on the persons responsible for converting the residential premises in Tiong Bahru to unauthorised workers' dormitories.
If the unauthorised use does not cease by the stipulated date, court actions will be taken against the persons responsible for the infringements.
STB and URA believe that the residents' concerns can be addressed through collaboration with law enforcement agencies, and other government bodies to ensure that the Tiong Bahru area retains its distinct charms.
Muhamad Rostam Umar
Director (Communications) Singapore Tourism Board
Peter Tan Director
(Development Control, Central) Urban Redevelopment Authority
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
I've spotted these foreign workers having a haircut at Block 74 Tiong Poh Road whilst driving home before.
But I never bothered to stop to snap a picture.
The opportunity presented itself today and I cannot resist whipping out my phone to snap a picture.
您为什么要拍照片?(Why are you taking pictures?), the lady hairdresser asked in a very suspicious tone.
我认为这是非常有趣 (I think this is very interesting.), I replied.
Not wanting to disrupt her business or make her customer nervous, I walked away with my buyers to the next apartment.
Man! I just love this sight.
It brought back my childhood memories.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Let me elaborate.
Everyone who lives in a HDB has to pay a Service and Conservancy (S&C) charge to a town council on a monthly basis.
And since 99.99% of HDB flats are owner occupied, the lessee will be alerted to the reminders if there are any arrears.
This is where the problem lies for the Tiong Bahru PRE-WAR residents and the ONE SIZE fit all process does not work here.
Some of the Tiong Bahru Pre-War flat owners bought their units as investment homes and they do not live there even for a day.
They may have missed all the numerous reminders that the Town Council had been sending out diligently.
The end result, the “accused” may finally end up in court for some bills which they were unaware of in the first place.
There is a simple solution to the whole matter instead of wasting so much time and resources to recover these “bad” debts.
All the town council needed to do here is to check with the HDB for the owner’s mailing address or contact number.
And the HDB has to insist that the conveyancing lawyer furnish them with the necessary contact details of the new owners.
Once the loop is closed up, there will not be any more “criminals” owning these Tiong Bahru properties.
How would you react if you see this notice pasted on your front door?
If you are reading this post and you are an absentee owner and landlord, please sieve through your records to check if your S&C bills has been paid.
If you are planning to buy a property here, please remember to visit the Tanjong Pagar Town Council to get this administrative process done. Your lawyers or realtors are not responsible for this part of the process.
If you have already received such a notice, go down to the Tanjong Pagar Town Council to explain to them your situation. They will help you out of this mess.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
The Straits Times
June 13, 2009
Don't tarnish image
WE WRITE in response to recent reports regarding the declining quality of life in the conserved Tiong Bahru estate.
Since the gazetting of Tiong Bahru as a conservation site in 2003, committed residents have consistently collaborated with grassroots leaders and the town council to improve its heritage value.
We are deeply distressed that current developments will reverse much of this work, and are dismayed that government agencies have shown a lack of regard for the concerns of the community.
We are extremely concerned that the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) has allowed Hotel 81 to operate in close proximity to the Tiong Bahru residential area.
Without prejudice to the hotel, we naturally fear the exposure of our families to potentially negative activities, which may be linked to the availability of hourly- stay rates.
We also do not want the image of our estate tarnished.
We are disappointed with the lack of response from STB when queried by the media, and call on STB to explain immediately.
We similarly call on Hotel 81 to clarify its intentions - to many of us, having this hotel adjacent to residential property is simply not acceptable.
A second concern relates to landlords and agents in the estate who operate illegal workers' dormitories without any thought of the noise, litter and fire hazards.
We request that the Housing Board, Urban Redevelopment Authority, National Environment Agency and Singapore Civil Defence Force respond urgently to enforce the law to eradicate what is a persistent and festering problem.
These issues continue to adversely affect the heritage value of this gazetted conservation estate which should, in fact, receive special attention from policy- makers and enforcement agencies.
The estate has already suffered a loss of heritage - the treasured and historic Bird Corner now relocated to the Link Hotel - due to poorly regulated commercial development and conservation efforts.
As a community, we hope to continue collaborating with both the private and public sectors to maintain the quality of Tiong Bahru estate as a national heritage.
We do not want to see a heritage site - Singapore's first public housing project - irreversibly destroyed.
We welcome urgent engagement by the organisations concerned and are eager to contribute constructively to reach a resolution acceptable to all.
Margaret Chung (Ms)
(This letter carries 33 other names)
Thursday, June 11, 2009
The Straits Times
June 11, 2009
I READ with concern Monday's report, 'Planned budget hotel causes a stir', on the Hotel 81 being developed at 1-9 Eng Hoon Street in Tiong Bahru, and how some residents worry it will give a sleazy image to the neighbourhood.
I have lived in Tiong Bahru for the past four decades.
This is a clean and green estate with a tranquil environment and unique buildings, such as the pre-war flats that have been conserved.
Singaporeans who appreciate the charm and identity of these buildings have even suggested that the estate be a nominee for Singapore's first Unesco World Heritage Site.
People from all walks of life and different locations come to Tiong Bahru for its good food.
The wet market has also been featured in The Straits Times' Life! section.
The estate draws tourists and even celebrities.
In fact, not too long ago, former Thai prime minister Samak Sundarajev visited the Tiong Bahru wet market.
We cannot allow the estate to be turned into a red-light district, as this would destroy its heritage and historic charm.
Florence Chua (Ms)
Monday, June 8, 2009
The Straits Times
June 8, 2009
By Jessica Cheam
AN ALMOST completed, nondescript building in one corner of Singapore's bustling Tiong Bahru estate is raising eyebrows within the community.
Several residents are concerned about the latest addition to their estate - a new hotel built by budget accommodation chain Hotel 81.
The prospect of an hourly-rate budget hotel in their estate has got them worried that the development might give a sleazy image to the neighbourhood, and depress the values of their properties.
When contacted, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), which approves the use of buildings as hotels, confirmed it had 'granted approval for a hotel development at 1-9 Eng Hoon Street' on Sept 12 last year.'
The proposed hotel development on the subject site is acceptable from the planning point of view as it is located in a mixed-use area where there are existing hotel developments in the vicinity,' it said.
Although a sign proclaims the name of the hotel to be 'Hotel 81 Osaka', it is unclear if the hotel will be an hourly-rate one or one that charges only a full-day rate.
Hotel 81 declined to comment when contacted.
The budget hotel chain has aggressively expanded in the past few years to a network of 30 hotels islandwide.
Most are located in the red light district of Geylang and other areas such as Joo Chiat and Balestier.
The chain has one hotel in a residential area - Hotel 81 Kovan.
Residents said they are hoping the hotel will at least be one that offers a full-day rate.
'Short-term stays lead to other social problems,' said resident Eugene Yip, 38, an advertising executive.
Another resident who declined to be named pointed out that there are already a growing number of female hostesses from China living in Tiong Bahru, due to the estate's proximity to bars - such as the Tiananmen karaoke lounge - in the Havelock Road area.
'At the moment, they live here and solicit their business elsewhere.We don't want them to start touting for business here too.We don't want it to go the way of Joo Chiat,' he said, referring to the district in the east which in the past saw an influx of bars, massage parlours and prostitutes together with hourly-rate budget hotels.
Recently, The Straits Times also reported the rise of illegal dorm use in the estate, where landlords have been cashing in on the demand for cheap housing by converting conserved pre-war flats into dormitory-style housing for foreign workers, leading to concerns over noise, littering and overcrowding.
The laidback, historic charm of Tiong Bahru has in recent years attracted a growing number of young professionals and expatriates.
It is gradually being gentrified.
'Many owners have invested heavily into rejuvenating their flats, and want to keep the estate clean,' said Knight Frank realtor Alvin Yeo.
So while mid-tier hotels, such as Link Hotel Singapore, have sprung up, residents want to know how chains like Hotel 81 get approval to set up hourly-rate hotels in residential areas.
The Singapore Tourism Board's hospitality arm, which gives the approval for the type of hotel licence, refused to comment when contacted.
The estate, which was designed in the 1930s in the Art Deco style, was gazetted in 2003, where 20 blocks of pre-World War II flats as well as 36 units of shophouses have been conserved to keep the charm and identity of the estate.
It has even been suggested, among Singaporeans, as a nominee for Singapore's first Unesco World Heritage Site.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
He has no regards for people around him and was standing in the open doing his thing.
I walked straight at him and asked him in a very rude manner.
“How could you do this here?!”
“Can’t you find a proper place to do it?!”
I think the man was kinda surprised that I ticked him off.
With a very humble and apologetic voice, that old man said these:
“I did not mean to do it here”
“ I cannot control myself already”
From the way he said it, I immediately understood what was going on and I regretted speaking to him in a harsh manner.
Though I see no reason to apologise, I really felt bad ticking him off.
That old uncle could be suffering from urinary incontinence and I just made him feel worse.
I will try to be more sensitive towards others in future....as well as where I stepped on.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
(Profound Loss @ Eng Hoon Street)
This was how the new building looked like about 3 weeks ago.
And suddenly it took on a baby blue and white colour on the facade recently.
If their marketing campaign would have you believe them, it is the place where husbands or boyfriends go and watch soccer on the free football channels while their bored wife or girlfriend chats on the phone with their friends.
When a Straits Times reporter called me on Monday to ask about the illegal dormitories in Tiong Bahru, she passed a remark about a budget hotel being set up here.
Initially I thought she was confused with several of the new boutique hotels that seemed to have sprouted out of the blue in this area.
My curiosity got the better of my and I emailed my “TiongBahruSource” to check and he said he heard it from voices on the street.
“Voices on the street”?
I was puzzled.
Were the voices Supernatural or just plain natural ones?
Whatever it was, there was still hope that it might not be true.
But today, the reporter called me back to tell me that it is going to happen here in Tiong Bahru!
Still reeling from a state of denial, I walked over to Eng Hoon Street to take a look.
Yes, the colour scheme is correct but maybe someone just happened to like the same colour scheme.
So I walked over to ask the workmen about the building they were working on.
In his heavy Indian accented English, he said “Hotel Eighty One, Hotel Eight One”
The Voice on the street has spoken and my heart sank.
The reception counter look quite the part too:
Soon there will be many football fans and bored wives or girlfriends who will be heading this way.
I wonder how the landscape will be affected by these football fans.
One thing for sure, the eating places will be more vibrant than before.
And who knows, we may even have our own famous beef kway teow noodles here in Tiong Bahru!
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
The Straits Times
June 2, 2009
By Jessica Cheam
SOME landlords in the heritage-rich Tiong Bahru estate are cashing in on the demand for cheap housing by converting conserved pre-war flats into dormitory-style housing for foreign workers.
Residents are becoming increasingly concerned about the impact on their estate and have complained of noise, littering and overcrowding.
A Straits Times check last week uncovered several units ranging from 800 to 1,300 sq ft in size housing as many as 24 tenants in each flat.
Resident Chris Kwek, 33, said he has no qualms about living near foreign workers, mainly from China and India, but the transient nature of their stay means they tend not to take care of the estate.
Rubbish is strewn on the streets, unsightly rows of clothes are hung outside the units and some tenants even dump unwanted bulky items in common areas.
A Chinese worker who wanted to be known only as Mr Wong, 28, said people like him sometimes do not have a choice of accommodation.
Many pay a lump-sum fee to an agent in China, who arranges for a flat, and they have to live there for six months to a year or lose their money.
The monthly rent is about $200 each.
Some simply cannot find cheaper housing in city-fringe locations and have to accept cramped conditions.
'We have to get used to it since we have no choice,' Mr Wong said in Mandarin.
His landlord is a 40-year-old Chinese citizen turned permanent resident, who rents flats and then sub-lets them to workers.
And he is just one among many in the estate, said residents.
Using private residential estates for dorm-style housing is illegal, yet many landlords have built sizeable businesses.
Mr Wong's landlord, for example, 'operates' four units, each about the size of a three- or four-room HDB flat and rented for about $2,000 a month.
With 24 tenants in one unit paying around $200 each, he makes almost $3,000 in profit from each flat each month.
Realtor Alvin Yeo, 37, who has lived in Tiong Bahru for several years, said the estate had always been attractive for migrant workers as it is central and affordable.
At the same time, the estate's charm and rich history has attracted increasing numbers of young professionals and expatriates, many keen to maintain the area's heritage appeal.
Resident Eugene Yip, 38, said locals who live there 'love this area for its style and history'.
Tiong Bahru was designed in the 1930s in Art Deco style, privatised in the 1960s and gazetted in 2003.
The Urban Redevelopment Authority told The Straits Times: 'Private residential properties are for residential use only and are generally not allowed to be converted to dormitories.'