The Consul General of Finland to New York, Ambassador Mika Koskinen, hosted a two day meeting of thirteen Honorary Consuls from around the United States at the Consulate General of Finland office in New York City on
November 8 and 9, 2021.

At the conclusion of the first day, the group boarded a bus to meet me at the corner of 40 Street and 7 Avenue in Sunset Park, formerly Finntown, to commence the tour at Finlandia Street. From that vantage point, I was able to point out the four Finn co-op buildings on that block alone, plus the sunset Park entrance. We would shortly circle Sunset Park to see the Finn co-op buildings surrounding the park, almost all of which now have plaques memorializing their unique history as having been built by the Finnish immigrants in the early 1900s; and, most importantly, as having been built as the first notfor- profit co-ops in the United States. The plaques memorialize that fact for future generations to see and appreciate.

It was a short walk from Finlandia Street to the Imatra Hall, where a Finnish flag and plaque were present at the entrance. We toured the main floor and hall on the second floor, the scene of Finnish plays, beauty contests and other events in years gone by. The bus took us from Imatra Hall to Alku 1 and Toinen. The plaques stated that these were the first not-for-profit co-op buildings in the USA. They accordingly received National and New York State historical designation as such! The group was able to visit two apartments in Alku 1, which were essentially in the same form as when originally built. The high ceilings and size were clearly far superior to the tenements that people generally lived in when these buildings were built. In one apartment, the owner proudly showed the hole in the wall that had originally been literally an ice box, to hold ice to keep the food fresh.

The next stop was at the entrance to Riverview Homes at the corner of 41st Street and 7 Avenue, where the Finnish flag was present. A Finnish resident came on the bus to say hello. He conversed in Finnish with Honorary Consul Peter Makila from Florida. We departed the bus just shortly up the block to visit the courtyard at the Finn co-op nicknamed Hikipisara (drop of sweat) and Pitkatalo (long house). Surrounding the inner courtyard are four building entrances. All of the Finn co-ops are four stories high with four apartments on each floor. These four buildings together have 70 units. The garden and scenery in the courtyard is typical of most of the 30 or more Finn co-op buildings in the neighborhood. After a visit to the four co-op buildings on 44 Street on the other side of the park, the group walked into Sunset Park to see the clear and unobstructed view of the NYC skyline. The view at sunset was inspiring and a perfect conclusion to the tour.

The neighborhood now has 21 plaques on the walls at the entrances of the former Finn co-ops and Imatra Hall. Today the prices for these co-op units can exceed $700,000 depending on the number of rooms, floor, and view of Sunset Park. A second round of additional plaques are anticipated for the spring of 2022, These plaques are indeed a source of pride for all Americans of Finnish descent, and for Finns visiting from abroad. The Finns may be gone now, but the existence of the plaques presents an opportunity for all to be reminded of the contribution that they made upon their arrival.

Robert Alan Saasto, Esq.