Dutch Help to Celebrate Hudson’s Journey

January 28, 2009 at 10:51 pm Leave a comment

The mayor of Amsterdam, Marius Job Cohen, and the mayor of New York, Michael R. Bloomberg, joined forces on Wednesday to announce NYC 400, a yearlong celebration of the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s arrival in New York Harbor in 1609 aboard the Half Moon.

The fact that Hudson was English — like the people who eventually conquered the Dutch colony in New Amsterdam, in 1664, and renamed it for the Duke of York — and that, moreover, New Amsterdam wasn’t officially founded until 1625 — making New York more like 384 years old than 400 years old — did not seem to matter much to either mayor.

“We are a relatively young city, but we really do have a very deep history and it can be traced back to Hudson’s arrival and the small settlement that sprung up in his wake,” Mr. Bloomberg said.

Mr. Bloomberg cited the Dutch influences across the city, including the blue, white and orange colors of the city’s flag.

“There are endless Dutch names and places, a neighborhood called Harlem, a borough called Brooklyn, a team called the Knickerbockers, although we call them the Knicks, and a tunnel called Holland,” the mayor said. “Actually the Holland Tunnel is named after its engineer, but you never know. Those first years as a trading post are so important to our identity and we are committed to giving that period the recognition that it fully deserves.”

The NYC 400 celebration will include performances, festivals, art exhibitions, historical tours, and events in park and cultural institutions. Helping to coordinate the effort is NYC & Company, the city’s tourism marketing agency.

Among the highlights of the NYC 400 celebration will be a display of thousands of Dutch tulips at the New York Botanical Garden, an exhibition on early encounters between Europeans and Native Americans at the Staten Island Museum, and a display of Dutch artifacts, discovered during the rebuilding of the South Ferry subway station, at the Transit Museum.

Mr. Bloomberg also mentioned that on June 5, River Day will be observed, with a fleet of old-fashioned ships retracing Hudson’s journey from the harbor to Albany. And on Sept. 13, the approximate date of when Hudson’s entrance into the harbor, the city will celebrate its first annual Harbor Day.

“It’s going to be an event that people can get out and enjoy our waterfront,” said Mr. Bloomberg, who added that New York City is the top destination for Dutch and Belgian tourists to the United States.

As part of the celebration, the Netherlands is giving New York City the New Amsterdam Plein and Pavilion, a small plaza — with picnic tables, benches, and a beautiful pavilion that will include either a concession stand or information kiosk — to be built in Battery Park. The 5,000-square-foot plaza, being designed by Ben van Berkel of UNStudio in Amsterdam, will be shaped like a white flower or a windmill, depending on your perspective.

“Pioneers from Amsterdam settled into the Manhattan area and planted the seeds of democracy, entrepreneurial spirit, freedom of expression, and freedom of religion in what we now know as New York, the unofficial capital of the world,” Mayor Cohen of Amsterdam said. “Amsterdam and New York share a commitment to quality of life. Amsterdam and New York share the same DNA.”

The news conference at which the two mayors spoke was attended by Dutch media as well as American. Lels Quaegebeur, a New York correspondent for Het Parool, an Amsterdam newspaper, who said she would be following around Mr. Kohn throughout his visit, said, “It’s not every day that New York and Amsterdam are so intertwined.”

Frans Timmermans, minister of European affairs in the Dutch cabinet, explained the Dutch influence on New York this way:

Four hundred years ago my country had only very recently gained independence against overwhelming odds, why because the Dutch were driven by their zeal for freedom, by their passion for tolerance, by their unwavering belief that everyone should have a shot at the pursuit of happiness, and these were the principles that Dutch brought to these shores when they settled here starting in 1624, and these are the principles in which this great city was built and these are still the principles that govern the city today, the greatest city on earth, one might say. I do believe that we had a small contribution to New York’s DNA and I think it is important to pay attention to this contribution in this year.

Officials also announced that Continental Airlines will offer a special fare of 450 euros ($591), including taxes and surcharges, for roundtrip flights from Amsterdam to New York. The fare will be valid for travel from Jan. 28 to Feb. 28.

By Sewell Chan & Mathew R. Warren

City Room
New York Times

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Entry filed under: Get Wet, Manhattan, Maritime.

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