Hate toward immigrants from Eastern Europe, including Polish-Americans, in Brooklyn


While working on an Open Street story for Radio RAMPA, a post by Brooklyn Community Board 1 member Ryan Kuonen, was brought to our attention by the head of Berry St. Alliance Shannon Phipps. In the post published March 17, Kuonen, known on social media as “ryanlachica“, posted: “Holy f*ck – the exhaustion/anger/rage I have for white peoples (specifically today immigrants from Eastern Europe in the 70/80/90s that won’t admit to the white privilege behind their property ownership in Nyc) Lord help me not knock their fucking teeth out. Reparations Now!”

“RyanLaChica” is an active social media account, connected to Ryan Kuonen in official posts by other local organizations, e.g. MakeMcGuinnessSafe.


Brooklyn Community Board 1 represents Greenpoint and Williamsburg Area. The people that Kuonen is referring to are also Polish-Americans, living in the Greenpoint area for many decades. It is because of them, that Greenpoint is called “Little Poland.” “Poles and many other people coming from other countries of our region, throughout decades, had worked for the development and success of both Greenpoint and Williamsburg,” says Consul General of Poland in New York Adrian Kubicki. “This statement – if not fake – is not only outrageous, but also very harmful. Especially, in the context of Russian attack on Ukraine, which also is an Eastern European country. This statement shows how important education is, especially when it comes to the history of those nations that still build America based on democratic values,” added Consul General Kubicki. 

Many Polish immigrants, through their hard work and dedication, earned enough to buy houses, in the now trendy neighborhoods of Greenpoint and Williamsburg, in which – some time ago – not many Americans wanted to live. 

As reported to RAMPA, some of those home-owners are now threatened to come to their own Community Board meeting and express their criticism on the Open Streets, for example, because of Mrs. Kuonen use of hate speech. 

The hate speech of this magnitude – especially coming from Brooklyn Community Board Member – should not be tolarated. Only last year, New Yorkers witnessed Father Popieluszko’s statue in Greenpoint vandalized. Read full story here: https://rampanews.com/father-popieluszko-statue-in-greenpoint-vandalized/  The incident was then investigated by NYPD Hate Crime Unit. Many local politicians – or candidates for political office at that time – also cited in this article – had then openly condemned the act, assuring that hate crime has no place in Greenpoint. “Father Popieluszko Statue in Greenpoint is a perfect symbol of Polish people who fought for freedom, democracy and mutual respect – Poles have always cared for people of different nationalities to live together in friendship and to build communities based on mutual respect,” said Consul General Adrian Kubicki.

RAMPA reached out to Mrs. Kuonen and Brooklyn Community Board 1 multiple times, but has not received any comments from them by the time this article was published. We were informed, that our inquiry had been forwarded to the chair of the Board, Dealice Fuller. RAMPA also reached out to three Polish-American members on the Board – Bogdan Bachorowski, Arthur Dybanowski, Bozena Kaminski – no comments have been received from them by the time this article was published. 

According to Nyc.gov, “Board members are City officers. Community Boards are autonomous City agencies.” Also, it is “the Borough President that appoints Board members, and City Council members nominate at least half of the appointees (divided proportionally based on the share of the district’s population represented by each Council member).” We reached out to City Hall but have not received their comment by the time this article was published. 

Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso stated in an email statement to Radio RAMPA: “Hate of any kind is not tolerated anywhere in Brooklyn, especially under my stewardship as Brooklyn Borough President. As I undergo my appointment process of hundreds of community board members throughout the borough, my administration also looks forward to publishing and promoting a code of ethics and providing governance training that will guide members in how to conduct themselves and fairly represent their districts free of hate, vitriol, and prejudice. We should all be working towards creating more tolerance and harmony in our communities, and those who do not agree have no place representing any group of people.” 

Councilman Lincoln Restler, representing Greenpoint in NYC Council, did not provide his comment on the action presented by Mrs. Kuonen. 

RAMPA reached out to Assemblywoman Emily Gallagher, asking for a comment on this story. Assemblywoman’s Press Secretary Andrew Epstein, stated in the email: “Emily is in Albany where intense state budget negotiations are continuing. so she is unable to provide comment on these City-agency related matters.” When asked if the Assemblywoman wanted to condemn the specific hate speech contained in the Tweet, Mr. Epstein’s response was: “There is a lot of hate/vitriol on social media and it’s unreasonable to expect a New York State Assemblymember, at literally the most crucial moment for passage of a $200+ billion state budget, to weigh in on all of them. Community Board members are not appointed, managed, or overseen by state officials–it’s a matter for the Borough President’s office.” 

A candidate for local political office weighed in. Francoise Olivas, Candidate for NY State Senate District 17, said in a statement: “When a community leader expresses hate and disdain for their neighbors, other leaders shouldn’t just pass the buck. It’s irrelevant who appointed Ryan, the fact remains that this kind of commentary is unacceptable no matter where you live or who amplified your voice. The immigrants being attacked were not rich oligarchs, they were poor, hardworking Eastern Europeans who came to the United States for a better life and landed in Greenpoint because it was, at the time, possible to find affordable housing and make a life for themselves. Rather than knocking these people down, we should be advocating for a New York City where it is once again possible to achieve the American dream.” RAMPA reached out to Candidate for NY State Senate District 17 Elizabeth Crowley, but has not received any response by the time this article was published.
Greenpoint is also home to many prominent and active Polish-American institutions and organizations, such as Polish-Slavic Center, Polish & Slavic Federal Credit Union, “Warsaw” Polish National Home. “Warsaw” is also the “home” of Warsaw Uprising mural commemorating the heroes of the World War II. The mural was vandalized in November 2014, couple months after it was unveiled. The crime was considered an ethnic hate crime. 
We must jointly ensure that such statements are clearly condemned and not duplicated,” said Consul General Kubicki, referring to Mrs. Kuonen’s Tweet.

“As an American of Polish descent, I am deeply disturbed by this statement,” said Bogdan Chmielewski, CEO of Polish & Slavic Federal Credit Union. “It is a manifestation of deliberate intent aimed at offending and causing discord among various ethnic groups living in New York City, including Poles and other immigrants from Eastern Europe, which in the context of the ongoing war in Ukraine certainly sheds new light on this type of activity. This statement may also be an expression of simple ignorance and stupidity. I expect that the New York City authorities, with the firm support of Polish representatives on the Community Board, will bring about immediate removal of the person who disseminates such comments. I would like to remind you that the Polish & Slavic Federal Credit Union was founded and grew to the size of the largest ethnic credit union in the U.S. solely thanks to the hard work, reliability, and dedication of entire generations of Polish immigrants who thus contributed to the growth of not only the City of New York, but also of the entire United States,” concluded Chmielewski. 

The statement by this Board Member is reprehensible, downright racist indeed,” said Tadeusz Antoniak, acting Chief Commander of Polish Army Veterans Association of America – world’s oldest, independent organization of former Polish soldiers, operating continuously since 1921 with its headquarters in New York City. “This person should face severe consequences from from their principals, and that is representatives of their party, representatives of City Council and local government. Polish immigrants coming to the United States throughout the years, have always constituted an added value. They were fighting for independence, they have enriched the country culturally and socially. They have worked hard and honestly, gradually increasing their fortune, also enriching their new homeland, by honestly paying federal, state and city taxes,” said Antoniak. 

I am outraged by the comments made by Ryan Kuonen, a Community Board 1 member. Her speech is discriminating and filled with hate towards the Easter European community which Polish people are part of. She clearly is not aware of history of Greenpoint and it’s people,” said Gregory Fryc, President of Pulaski Association of Business and Professional Men, as well as an active representative of Polish population in New York City. He and Polish Army Veterans Association of America were the ones behind the idea of creating Warsaw Uprising Mural in Greenpoint. “Majority of Polish people that came to Greenpoint in the 70s, 80s ,and 90s, came here as political refugees escaping communism. Many of them were freedom fighters who fought for democracy and freedom of Eastern Europe from the Soviet occupation. Just like the Ukrainian refugees now – they came here with nothing, started their lives from scratch separated from their families, not speaking English, facing constant discrimination and Polish jokes and many other unimaginable obstacles. If this is a privilege then I do not wish that type of the privilege upon anyone,” said Fryc. “They worked the hardest jobs and that hard worked allowed them to buy property and provide stable life, many of them succeeded, many of them didn’t and ended up in despair. To be a hate speaker against basic American values like the pursuit of happiness, hard work and the right to pursue the American dream is un-American and does not have a place in a City of New York. City that prides itself as a place of tolerance and diversity. Polish people are an ethnic jewel of New York, adding to the vibrance and diversity of our city with our unique culture, hard work, family oriented values and countless contributions that are making this city great. Ms. Kuonen is clearly not educated well enough to know that Polish General Tadeusz Kosciuszko was a strong anti-slavery advocate in the American Revolution and he was the first one high ranked officer to devote to that cause by not only advocating but also by providing all his money to free and educate African slaves. His will was not honored by Thomas Jefferson but that is one of the reasons Jeffersons statues are being taken down where are the same time Kosciuszko got a new statue elected in Greenpoint just last Fall.  Polish soldiers were the only caucasians that fought on the side of the African slaves of Haiti against colonial France. The leader of the Haitians, General Jean Jacques Dessalines, referred to the Poles as the Black people of Europe, in recognition of the exploitation and repressions of Poles by the foreign occupiers of Poland at the time. Poland never had colonies and Polish people never benefited in any way from the so called “White Privilege” in that regard we have always stood on the right side of history and on the side of the oppressed, whatever skin color they might be. The comments made Ms. Kuonen derive from lack of education and are saturated with rage and hate against an Eastern European minority ethnic group. That person should be removed from Community Board 1 immediately as hate speech should not be tolerated in any way in our great city and she clearly is not fit to represent a community where Eastern European population lives in great numbers,” Fryc concluded.

Polish Slavic Center did not provide their comment by the time this article was published. 

Radio RAMPA sources say, that new community board members will be appointed throughout the borough’s boards by May. Also, RAMPA through its sources was informed that Mrs. Kuonen is not seeking reappointment to the community board and her service will come to a conclusion by June.


After the article was published, we received some more reactions from politicians and candidates for office:

When asked for comment, former New York State Assembly Member Joe Lentol, who served as New York State Representative for 48 years, said, “Greenpoint and Williamsburg is home to generations of Eastern European immigrants who are the backbone of this community and have made our neighborhood better for present and future generations. This hateful and divisive rhetoric has no place in North Brooklyn. North Brooklyn’s immigrant population – Polish, Ukrainian, Irish, Lithuanian, Hasidic, Italian, Russian, Asian, African American, Haitian, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Colombian and beyond, many who are homeowners – are all vital to the social and economic fabric of our communities.”

New York City Councilman Robert Holden, representing Ridgewood, Maspeth, Glendale, Middle Village, Woodhaven and Woodside, said: „This is disgraceful, hateful language for anyone to use, let alone a member of a community board. If Ryan Kuonen made these posts, she must be removed from the board immediately. There is no place in this city for such blatant, dangerous racism. You don’t need a written code of ethics to know that vile hate speech is unacceptable. I stand with the Eastern European people of this city and beyond.”

Paddy O’Sullivan, running for NYS Assembly District 50, representing Greenpoint & Williamsburg, Tweeted: “This hatred has no place in our community and those who hold such prejudices should not be serving in positions of public influence. New York is a proud city of immigrants and the successes made by our hardworking Polish American neighbors attest to that and should be praised.”

RAMPA story on Open Street conflict in Williamsburg Area coming soon.

READ THIS STORY IN POLISH: https://radiorampa.com/nienawisc-wzgledem-imigrantow-z-europy-wschodniej-w-tym-polakow-na-brooklynie/


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