Berliners block development of historic airport

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BERLIN (AP) — Berlin voters on Sunday decided leisure comes first and blocked plans to develop a big part of the former Tempelhof airport, the hub of the historic 1948-49 Berlin Airlift.

Built in the 1920s, Tempelhof's vast runways and grassy spaces in the heart of the German capital are bigger than Monaco and have become a popular site for kite-flying, barbecues and cycling since the airport was closed in 2008.

It was used by the allies to supply much of the city by air when the Soviet Union blocked land access to the western sector during one of the first crises of the Cold War.

Official results based on more than four-fifths of ballots cast showed that over half of voters backed a referendum to preserve the airport as a leisure space. City officials had wanted to use about a third of the land for housing because of Berlin's growing population.

The result is a setback for mayor Klaus Wowereit, already embattled over the much-delayed opening of Berlin's new airport at Schoenefeld, south of the city.

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