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NYPD Investigating Possible Hate Crime After Statue Of Polish Hero Father Jerzy Popiełuszko Is Vandalized

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The NYPD is investigating a possible hate crime in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, after a statue with deep significance to New York's vibrant Polish community was vandalized.

Bartosz Syrek, a Polish-American resident of Greenpoint, brought flowers to the statue honoring a hero of Polish freedom from communism, Father Jerzy Popiełuszko, who was murdered by Polish police in 1984.

Sunday, the monument in McCarren Park was covered in trash, a garbage bag was over the statue's head and the words "no Polish" were scrawled on the stone.

Syrek says he's troubled by the incident.

"For me it's sad, you know like ... he was killed, murdered," he told CBS2's Tony Aiello.

He says the Poles who gather at the park are upset. He calls Popiełuszko Square "a tiny piece of Poland."

Twenty percent of Greenpoint residents report Polish as their first language.

Civic leader Bogdan Chmielewski, who is also the president and CEO of the Polish & Slavic Federal Credit Union, says news of the vandalism has even reached Warsaw.

"I just hope that this is not an act of aggression against Polish-American community. I hope this is just a lack of education," he said.

"He deserves a lot, a lot of respect. Nobody gave it to him. This is Polish history," Polish-American resident Teresa Wierzechowski said.

The Catholic Church has Father Popiełuszko one step away from sainthood. Many think the statue needs to be watched from above; the Polish and Slavic Credit Union is offering to pay for surveillance cameras.

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