Community Board 1 members overwhelmingly elected Greenpoint resident Christopher Olechowski as their new chair this past Tuesday night, replacing Williamsburg resident Vincent J. Abate, Jr., who has served in the position for nearly 30 years.
By a vote of 27 to 18, Olechowski claimed the chairmanship 90 minutes after the meeting began with a contentious public hearing on the Broadway Triangle rezoning action.
Olechowski thanked the outgoing chair for his years of dedicated service and his opponent, Public Safety Chair Mieszko Kalita, for running a spirited campaign.
After the meeting concluded, Olechowski reportedly said that the meeting resembled a fraternity hazing ritual and he promised to work closely with CB 1 staff to determine how to conduct better outreach with the different community organizations in Williamsburg and Greenpoint.
“I need to put together a strategy for building consensus and making the board as strong and unified as possible,” said Olechowski. “It is a balancing act for bringing different parts of the community together. That will be a challenge and these things don’t happen overnight. I have to think in a new way of being a community board member now that I am chair.”
Kalita, who spoke about his roots in Greenpoint and the role his deli has played in fostering a close−knit community on Eagle Street, was gracious in defeat and vowed to continue his work to ensure the public safety of Williamsburg and Greenpoint residents.
“I hope he will put a new spring in the step of the board,” said Kalita of Olechowski. “We will see his idea about how to run it. There’s always another battle, always another uphill climb.”
The evening, however, belonged to Chair Emeritus Abate, who received a commemorative plaque with a gavel from District Manager Gerry Esposito on behalf of CB 1 and will be honored by Councilmembers Diana Reyna and David Yassky inside the Council Chambers of City Hall later this month.
“Vinny Abate has been a cornerstone of our community for decades,” said Yassky. “His leadership has made Williamsburg−Greenpoint a better place to live, work, and raise a family. I look forward to working with Chris Olechowskei in his new role as he continues his steadfast commitment and honorable service to North Brooklyn.”
Several community leaders from decades past and present arrived to honor Abate’s service, including Jan Peterson, who led the Parks and Recreation Committee during the last years of the McCarren Park Pool before its closure, and El Puente Founder Luis Garden Acosta, who called Abate his mentor and an inspiration.
“Let me just say that on this victorious day, we should be celebrating the years and years of a community hero,” said Acosta. “He has inspired me in many ways and it is sad to see the meeting end like this. You have been wonderful and on behalf of all of El Puente I salute you and your years of service.”