From helping newly transported Polish immigrants in the early 1980s during the Solidarity Movement to chairing the community board's 2005 Rezoning Committee and now fighting for a better situation for Greenpoint's – as well as the city's – homeless population, the father of two is committed to improving the diverse Brooklyn neighborhood.
But he doesn't stop there. Olechowski is also the executive director of PSC Community Services, a non-profit home care agency for Medicaid-eligible clients, also located in Greenpoint.
Born in England, Olechowski settled in Greenpoint in 1990 and since then has watched the neighborhood transform.
“The community's dynamics are changing,” he said. “We have the gentrification of newcomers coming in, it’s a new breed with a different economic status.”
The mixing of the old with the new, he said, is causing some resistance from longtime community residents, who value the ethnic makeup of Greenpoint and who feel as if they are being pushed aside.
“We know that [change] is happening and it's going to happen, but it's painful for some people – the noise at night, the bar scene, the applications for liquor licenses are mushrooming month-to-month,” he said. “We get tons of them and everybody is applying for liquor licenses.”
One other big concern in the neighborhood is the noise from waterfront concerts during the summer. Olechowski and the community board has fielded many complaints from residents about noise, rowdiness and other quality-of-life complaints.
Another ongoing issue also revolves around a homeless shelter proposed for Greenpoint at 400 McGuinness Boulevard. Olechowski, along with other community members and local elected officials, has been battling against placing another shelter in the neighborhood if it won’t help the current homeless population there.
“It’s going back to community versus city infringement,” he said, adding that the city’s process of helping the homeless only reshuffles the problem instead of really solving it.
Though Greenpoint has its fair share of burdens, he noted that the changes are helping the neighborhood.
“Even though you have the problems and the challenge of the new groups coming in, there is also positives coming out of that,” he said. “You have people that are really building a foundation, a new foundation for this community.”
Calling it an “interesting polarity” of the old and new, the juxtaposition he says, is adding something more to the mix.
“There are all types of groups here,” he said. “The art and film communities are flourishing and in conjunction with diverse, ethnic quality, Greenpoint is turning into something even more unique.”