Sister act! Bay Ridge and tiny Norway town are now bonded forever

Sister act! Bay Ridge and tiny Norway town are now bonded forever
On Saturday, (from left) Victor Samuelson, a relative of the mayor of Farsund, Norway; Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge); and Henrik Width, deputy consul general of the Royal Norwegian Consulate General in New York; signed a sister city agreement between the small Norwegian town and Bay Ridge.
Photo by Matthew Nedbalsky

A far-flung Norwegian province likes Brooklyn so much that it is recreating the look and feel of the borough during its post-War glory years with an extensive redesign of the center of the town — aptly dubbed Brooklyn Square.

Farsund’s love affair with Brooklyn was consummated on Saturday when the municipality signed a Sister City agreement with Bay Ridge — despite the fact that Bay Ridge is not a city.

The signing between Councilman Vince Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) and Henrik Width, deputy general consul of the Norwegian Consulate, took place in the shelter of a Sixth Avenue church during decidedly Norwegian weather, and has no real legal or binding effect, but is meant to show support and good will toward the region, which has always had an affinity for the borough.

“It’s important to remember where you came from,” said Gentile. “With this signing, we celebrate our two cities and shine a spotlight on the mutual contributions that have vastly enriched all of our lives.”

Farsund, which is a municipality of Vest Agder, Norway, hosts an “American Festival” every year — featuring 1950s and 1960s American music, classic American cars, and a Norwegian Elvis impersonator — and is currently recreating the look and feel of a post-war Bay Ridge on the town’s Eighth Avenue in its “Brooklyn Square.”

“We have American shops, an American bar and supper club with American food and music, a museum — and we have even changed the name of our street into Brooklyn Square,” said Hans-Egill Berven of Farsund, one of the planners of the project.

Brooklyn’s ties with Norway stretch back at least 150 years, when thousands of Nordic craftsmen set sail for the promised land to help build the rapidly growing city.

“They were good carpenters, floor layers, sailors and businessmen,” said Farsund Mayor Richard Ivar Buch. “Many of these Norwegian-Americans came back to Farsund and sent their children and grandchildren to America to make a career like they themselves had done. Farsund today is more Americanized than any other society in Norway.”

Norwegian transplants who remembered Farsund in the economic doldrums following World War II said Brooklyn was appealing because of the prevalence of jobs in the shipbuilding trade.

“Norway has shipped so many people over here,” said Madnar Hansen, a Norwegian contractor who has lived in Brooklyn for 62 years. “There weren’t so many local jobs, so they came here.”

Reach reporter Dan MacLeod at dmacleod@cnglocal.com or by calling him at (718) 260-4507. You can also follow his Tweets at @dsmacleod.

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