Our trip to Breukelen started out as a simple attempt to reconnect with the Dutch town that gave Brooklyn its name, its tolerant values and its democratic traditions.
But then we discovered the terrifying news: Breukelen is about to be merged — under orders from the Dutch government itself — with two neighboring towns. The new town would have an entirely different, non-Breukelen, name.
And Breukelen Mayor Ger Mik is powerless to stop it.
Now, this newspaper has long avoided the temptation to inject itself into international issues, but the dissolution of Breukelen’s independent government is not merely an issue of local Dutch politics. It is an international outrage that will not stand.
Make no mistake, we have admired Mayor Mik’s steady hand overseeing Breukelen during past crises — the Centrum expansion project or the debate over construction of a second bridge over the River Vecht, for example. He is a leader of true integrity and probity, an incorruptible force of good and a model for a leader who knows how to bring all interested parties to the table — a table that they will all leave with an agreement that all can accept.
But on the issue of Breukelen’s dissolution, we can be silent no longer. Mik needs to set aside his duty — the dismantling of his town — and take on his government.
Don’t quote us Dutch administrative codes about how Mik serves as the employee of the town council of Breukelen and, as such, can’t buck the system that hired him — we’ve read the relevant sections. We’ve simply chosen to ignore them.
It may indeed be the Dutch way to accept a compromise and do one’s duty in Queen Beatrix’s Holland. But, unlike Mik, we answer to a higher authority than the Dutch crown; we answer to Brooklyn. And without an independent Breukelen on the other side of the globe, our borough’s name loses its meaning.
Our desperation is understandable, given our reading of Brooklyn’s own bitter history. Though larger and superior to its neighbor, Manhattan, Brooklyn agreed in 1898 to merge with what was then called New-York to anchor a unified New York City.
The result was a Brooklyn that existed as a mere neighborhood in a larger metropolis. Today, Brooklyn is little more than a “Jeopardy” answer. We’ll take “Nostalgia” for $500, Alex.
During our recent trip to Breukelen, we warned all of the relevant parties that they should not stand idly by while Queen Beatrix signs a death warrant for their town.
Yes, we’ve picked a few fights in these pages with the faceless bureaucrats in The Hague, but here is the clearest example yet that those technocrats and meritocrats are blind to how their calls for efficiency play out on the streets of their own land.
Fight for Breukelen — and save Breukelen!