“Sto lat!” a happy crowd roared to Chris Olechowski on a Java Street rooftop. A traditional Polish song, “Sto lat” (“May you live a hundred years!”) is usually used to wish a long and healthy life.
The occasion? On Friday, April 20th, the Community Board 1 (CB1) chairman announced his candidacy for District Leader to a gathering of Polish-American leaders in Greenpoint. Among those who came to show their support were Councilman Steve Levin, fellow CB1 member Bogdan Bachorowski, Signature Bank Vice President Henry Lacja, Polish National Congress Long Island Division President Richard Brzozowski, and Polish National Home President Anton Chroscielewski.
While Olechowski talked about of his long history of creating social programs in Greenpoint/Williamsburg, he was quick to emphasize his work on behalf of Polish immigrants. From 1982 to 1988, Olechowski served as director of refugee assistance at the Polish and Slavic Center. During the ‘90s, he operated a volunteer program that assisted Polish immigrants with the citizenship exam.
He also equated his own possible election as a stepping stone for Poles in America. “I’m not doing this for myself,” said the veteran community developer. “It’s an unpaid position. Ever since the Solidarity movement, I’ve wanted to work with my compatriots. This is our opportunity, our chance to be heard!”
Many agreed with his assessment. Bachorowski, a Greenpoint business owner who emigrated from Poland 29 years ago, considered Olechowski “the most qualified person [he] can imagine.”
“He’s the perfect candidate,” said Lacja, who also serves as a board member of the North Brooklyn Development Corporation. “I’ve known Chris for twenty years. He’s very diligent, committed to what he does, and always delivers on what he promises. I’m proud that Chris is out there to represent the community.”
Levin praised Olechowski as “a tremendous asset” who, while supporting the Polish community, has worked tirelessly to attend the needs of all Greenpoint/Williamsburg residents. “CB1 is difficult,” said Levin. “Most community boards don’t argue and end in one hour. It’s not an easy job, but he’s been fair and garnered respect from everyone in the broader community.”
Olechowski in turn thanked all those who came out to support him both in English and Polish. “We cannot have the kind of community that can be pushed around, or marginalized. Raise your voice. Make yourself be known. Have something to say about how resources are allocated. If we don’t use this opportunity now, we might never be heard!”