The borough is home to a large and thriving Turkish community that dressed to the nines May 21 for a special independence day celebration at Borough Hall hosted by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and the Consul General of Turkey, Mehmet Samsar.
“Brooklyn’s Turkish population is growing,” Samsar told the Brooklyn Star. He placed the Turkish-American population there at around 20,000. “They love Brooklyn because they find so many things from home,” he said, such as restaurants, specialty grocery stores, and other shops selling items. “Brooklyn is the Turkish capital of New York City.”
The ever-enthusiastic borough president took it one step further.
“We’re the proud home of America’s largest Turkish population,” Markowitz said in a speech replete with foreign policy undertones where he connected the county of Kings to the Obama Administration and Turkey’s thriving tourism industry.
Markowitz pointed out Turkey’s increasing importance on the worldwide scene as a powerful nation and tourist destination, a fact evidenced by Barack Obama’s visit to Turkey earlier this spring. No president has visited Turkey so early in their administration, said Markowitz, a clear sign that the country has emerged as an important U.S. ally.
Not to be outdone by the president, Markowitz said he has traveled to Turkey several times and can’t wait to get back. Turkey has risen to number nine on the United Nations’ World Tourism Organization’s list of most-visited countries.
After praising Consul General Samsar’s work in bringing Turkey’s Brooklyn community together, Markowitz said he might follow Samsar’s example and enter the diplomatic arena.
“Much as I love Brooklyn, don’t think I haven’t dreamt of being a Consul General of Istanbul or an Ambassador to Turkey,” said Markowitz.
Samsar returned the compliment in kind, in his perfect, accented English before the assembly of several hundred Turkish-Brooklyn residents listened.
“Like an orchestra conductor [Markowitz] makes all the ethnic groups in Brooklyn live together in harmony,” Samsar said.
Ibrahim Kurtulus, who was born in Brooklyn to Turkish parents, said the Turkish community here is the strongest it’s been in decades.
“From the time I grew up, we’ve grown and continue to grow,” said Kurtulus. “It’s a vibrant community. We may be a minority of minorities, but our love for this community is second to none.”
Erhan Yildirim, a Brooklyn resident and the night’s master of ceremonies who oversaw a lively performance of traditional Turkish dance on the steps of Borough Hall, said the event was an opportunity for Brooklyn’s Turkish community to show the rest of the borough how far its come in carving out a permanent space of its own here.
“We are trying to show the people of Brooklyn that we are part of the community,” said Yildirim.
Markowitz told the Star these efforts are paying off.
“They really make a real contribution here,” said Markowitz. “Even though they’re small [as compared to larger ethnic groups in the borough] they make a major impact.”