By Audrey Yoo
Brooklyn has sisters — six to be exact — in Europe and Asia. Yet no one seems to know, let alone pay attention to, Brooklyn’s sisterly relationships. Here is the Ink’s attempt to discover the borough’s lost relatives.
The Baltic seaport of Gdynia is the “birthplace of shipyards in Poland”, says Anna Frajlich, a native of northwestern Poland who now teaches at Columbia University.
While the heyday of the city’s shipbuilding industry is over, Gdynia is still home to the Polish Navy and multiple maritime institutes.
Greenpoint (“Little Poland”) may be the closest you can get to Poland without leaving Brooklyn. Nearly 72,000 Brooklynites claim Polish ancestry and roughly 25,000 were born in Poland, according to the 2005-2009 American Community Survey.
Anzio became an official “sister city” of Brooklyn in 2001, but it turns out that the two have a relationship that goes all the way back to WWII.
On January 22, 1944, Allied forces launched a landing at the coastal city of Anzio. Anzio, roughly 35 miles south of Rome, was also the site of the four-month battle that followed the landing.
Some of the American soldiers who died in the battle were from Brooklyn, although the exact number of them is unknown, says Mico D. Licastro, the president of the Brooklyn-Anzio Sister City Partnership.
Other than the WWII connection, baseball is the most important link between Brooklyn and Anzio. Licastro says Anzio is the birthplace of Italian baseball because several American soldiers stayed in the city after the war and established a baseball school. In the 1970s, Licastro started a youth baseball program for Italian youngsters to visit Brooklyn; in the 1980s a team from Kings County visited Anzio.
But now, sadly, there are no more exchange programs between the two cities.
Leopoldstadt’s nickname used to be “Matzo Island” because it was the center of Vienna’s Jewish community from the 17th century until the 1940s. (Notice any similarities with Brooklyn?)
In November 1938, the Nazis destroyed all the important synagogues in Leopoldstadt (the Schiff Shul, the Leopoldstadter Tempel, the Turkischer Tempel, the Polnische Schul, and the Pazmanitentempel). Tragically, during WWII, Nazis assembled Viennese Jews and deported them to concentration camps. Other Jews were forced to flee.
Today, Vienna’s Jewish population is slowly growing (around 10,000), compared to more than 500,000 in Brooklyn.
Lambeth (London), United Kingdom
Episcopalians (Anglicans) in Brooklyn may be pleasantly surprised to hear that the London Borough of Lambeth is a sister city of Brooklyn. The Archbishop of Canterbury, who heads the Church of England, lives in Lambeth Palace.
That might be one reason for the members of Brooklyn’s 27 Episcopal churches to check out its British sister borough.
Besiktas (Istanbul), Turkey
Besiktas Jimnastik Kulubu, one of Turkey’s top soccer teams, is the arguably the most recognized icon of Besiktas. (In fact, the New Yorker published a story last month about the passionate fans of Besiktas J. K.)
Deniz Torcu, a resident of Istanbul, says Besiktas (on the European side of the Bosphorus) is also known for the Dolmabahce Palace, the administrative headquarters of the Ottoman Empire from 1856 to 1922.
The founder and first president of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, died in one of the bedrooms of the ostentatious palace in 1938.
Brooklyn is home to one of the largest Turkish communities in the U.S. It is home to more than 3,600 Turkish-born residents and nearly 6,000 others who claim Turkish ancestry, according to the 2005-2009 American Community Survey.
Chaoyang District (Beijing), China
The Chinese population in Brooklyn is getting larger. Hence, the relationship with Beijing’s Chaoyang District. (More than 102,000 Brooklynites were born in China, says the 2005-2009 American Community Survey.)
Most tourists remember the district for two things: the Silk Market, where knockoff designer goods are readily available, and Sanlitun where expatriates (many of them considered underage in the U.S.) flock to bars and clubs.
Chaoyang is also home to most of the foreign embassies in Beijing.