The relationship between Bay Ridge and Norway was firmly plantedon Saturday, October 29, 2011.
Despite the rain, a Sister City Agreement Signing and TreePlanting Ceremony was held in the First Evangelical Church, at 65thStreet and Sixth Avenue – within shouting distance of Leif EricsonPark where the ceremony was supposed to occur.
The event was one of both celebration and commiseration. On thatcold and rainy day, Bay Ridge became a sister city with the Farsund Municipality ofVest Agder, Norway. In addition to the signing of the Sister Cityagreement, a Norwegian sunset maple tree was planted to honor thelives lost in the terrorist attack on Norway this past July.
The tree, which is located in Leif Ericson Park near 66thStreet, is a symbol of the support that Bay Ridge and Farsundextend to each other. Victoria Hofmo, one of the founders of theScandinavian East Coast Museum (SECM), explained that, The treeembodies the relationship between countries, our strong roots andable future.
The ties between Brooklyn and Norway date back to the 17thcentury, when Norwegians were among the settlers of the colony ofNew Amsterdam. Although the Norwegian population in Bay Ridge hasdeclined since its peak in the 20th century, there will always be alink between the two areas, with the help of the sister cityagreement.
As City Councilmember Vincent Gentile remarked on Saturday,Norway is in our fabric! Norway is in our blood, perfectsentiments to capture the enormous contributions Norwegians havegiven to Bay Ridge over the years, including Lutheran MedicalCenter and the Norwegian Christian Nursing Home.
The Sister City Agreement has been in the works for over a year.The planting of the maple tree, Gentile’s idea, was a lateraddition to the program.
At the signing, a letter from the mayor of Farsund, Richard IvarBuch, was read. In the letter to Gentile and Bay Ridge, Mayor Buchexpressed gratitude for the sympathy and support that the Bay Ridgecommunity has shown Norway.
Pastor Arne Abrahamsen, chaplain at the Norwegian ChristianNursing Home, concluded the ceremony with solemn words and aprayer, speaking of the faith that all people share, across allother barriers. This faith, he said, allows people to endure duringtimes of grief and hardship, a feeling the mayor of Farsund wouldsurely share.