GUEST OP-ED: Saluting Ridge ties to Norway

Last Saturday morning at Leif Ericson Park, we celebrated thehistory and heritage of Bay Ridge as we symbolized ourneighborhood’s significant bond with Norway – a bond dating backsome 200 years. We specifically gathered to recognize the FarsundMunicipality of Vest Agder -a Norwegian town that wears itssolidarity with Kings County proudly on its sleeve.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many Scandinaviansemigrated to Brooklyn – and many found their way right here andsettled in Bay Ridge.

As we all know, Bay Ridge was originally known as Yellow Hookbecause of the yellow soil found here by the original Dutchsettlers. And today, Nordic heritage and Scandinavian contributionsto our community are still apparent in many areas – from theNorwegian Christian Home, to the Leif Ericson Park complex, to theScandinavian East Coast Museum, to the Nordic Deli, to being theonly remaining community in New York City to host a NorwegianIndependence Day Parade each May!

Immigrants who returned to their native Norway after WWII becamenostalgic and soon found a younger generation desperately wantingto know what living in Brooklyn was like back in the’50s and ‘60s.– so much so that in the Farsund Municipality of Vest Agder, thereis an area known as Brooklyn Square and every year they host anAmerican Festival with ‘50s and ‘60s American music, classiccars, a Norwegian Elvis and lots of old Brooklyn memorabilia ondisplay.

Vest Agder even has its own version of Eighth Avenue – whichtoday is Chinatown’s main thoroughfare but was once nicknamedLapskaus Boulevard after a working class Norwegian meat-stew. Notto mention, a project is currently in the works to make some of thebuildings around Brooklyn Square look more like Bay Ridge in the1950s and 1960s!

Back in June, in a gesture of friendship and goodwill, a SisterCity agreement was executed in Norway by representatives of theFarsund Municipality and, last Saturday, it was our turn to signand seal the deal.

Having signed this agreement, it is my hope that we will furtherthe relationships between our two neighborhoods and work tostrengthen the cultural, tourism and business ties between our twouniquely similar communities.

The covenant, which had been in the works for over a year,became even more significant after the terror attacks in Utøya andOslo this past July. Last weekend, in addition to signing thepledge, we planted a very special Norwegian sunset maple tree tosymbolize the roots Bay Ridge shares with Norway and commemoratethe 77 lives lost in the attacks.

As they say in Brooklyn, it’s important to remember where youcame from. Therefore, I am proud to preserve and enhance thehistorical connections between our two cities and shine a spotlighton the contributions that have vastly enriched not only ourneighborhood but all of our lives.

Vincent Gentile represents the 43rd Council Districtincluding Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bath Beach and portions ofBensonhurst.

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