New York celebrates Dutch heritage

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NEW YORK — Netherlands Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Tuesday kicked off a week of activities commemorating Henry Hudson’s arrival 400 years ago on New York’s shores.

Soon after Hudson’s arrival, New Amsterdam was founded by the Dutch — hence the occasion for celebration.

Dubbed NY400Week, the commemorative week includes a flotilla of 86 ships, boat races, outdoor concerts, Dutch films, performances imported from Holland, an Oyster Festival and free bike rentals at several waterfront areas. The flotilla includes a replica of Hudson’s ship, the Half Moon.

The Dutch government is investing about $9 million in a yearlong commemoration of its 400-year connection to New York, including funding much of the NY400Week calendar of events.

In addition, the Dutch are giving the city the New Amsterdam Pavilion, which stands in Peter Minuit Plaza in Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan.

The partially completed pavilion will be previewed by the public on Wednesday, but then will close until construction of the building and the square around it are completed, projected for spring 2010. Part of the plaza will be renamed the New Amsterdam Plein.

Meanwhile, NY400Week’s festivities will wrap up Sunday with the first Harbor Day, intended to be an annual celebration. It is being produced by NYC & Company, the city’s tourism marketing organization, and will celebrate the city’s revitalized waterfront.

NY400WeekSome 300 to 350 invited guests and members of the public attended the kick-off ceremonies for NY400Week aboard the Intrepid aircraft carrier with its clear view of the Hudson River and the flotilla.

Prince Willem-Alexander told the audience, "This great city was built on the values of the early Dutch-American pioneers in New Amsterdam that we still share with you today. ... Great things are accomplished by people who are free and respect the freedom of others. No city exemplifies this more than New York."

Clinton recalled that Holland was the second country to recognize U.S. independence after the American Revolution and the first to host a U.S. embassy. She said she "looked forward to another 400 years of close cooperation."

Bloomberg pointed out that New York’s Dutch roots remain evident in place names: Brooklyn, Staten Island, Harlem, Stuyvesant Town, the Bowery and even the name of the local basketball team, the Knickerbockers.

Even in 1660, residents of New Amsterdam spoke 18 different languages, a precursor to today’s diversity, Bloomberg said.

"We were already in the process of becoming a world city. We’re indebted to the Dutch founders, and we are profoundly influenced by the Dutch," he said.

The mayor presented the prince and princess with a commemorative Tiffany bowl, featuring etchings of New York cityscapes. In offering the gift, he said, "You can put fruit in it. It is a New York gift. It is useful."

For more information, visit www.nycgo.com/ny400.

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