Sunset Park’s Last Scandinavian Institution Could Close

11/01/2011 4:20 PM |

Business is...not so good

  • Business is…not so good

The Scandinavian population in Sunset Park peaked in the 1960s, when Eighth Avenue was nicknamed “Lapskaus Boulevard,” after a popular stew. Already by then, though, a new wave of Latino immigrants had begun to arrive, and in the 1980s they were followed by those from China; the former settled mostly in the neighborhood’s west, the latter in the east. The Scandinavians scattered. “Many of them returned to Northern Europe just as they’d always planned,” Brooklyn Ink reports, “while most of those who remained in the U.S. moved away to other neighborhoods and other cities throughout the region.”

Still, holdouts remained, and for a short time the neighborhood boasted a peculiar multiculturalism, best embodied by Wee Kee—a former Norwegian restaurant reborn as a “Chinese-Norwegian-American” one. (I remember eating here as a kid, and my family getting quite a kick out of the novelty, an experience surely repeated by many Brooklyn families of Scandinavian heritage in the early 90s.)

Perhaps the last institution representing the bygone Scandinavian population, the Danish Athletic Club, a social club and party space-for-rent (where my parents had their wedding reception!), may not be open much longer, Brooklyn Ink reports. Club membership once numbered upwards of 700, but today has dwindled to below 50. “People move away and people die,” the club’s president told the website. “It’s hard to keep the club open when we’re down so low.”