TOWN OF POUGHKEEPSIE – In September of 2019 a Nazi flag hanging in an apartment window created substantial public outcry from the community. The flag was in a rear-facing window of a second-story apartment at 776 Main Street in the Town of Poughkeepsie.
The outcry was magnified because office space in the neighboring building was home to Democratic candidate for Dutchess County executive Joe Ruggiero.
The flag is quite visible from the parking lot of Hurricane Grill and the Bank of America on Raymond Avenue. When the public complained, the property management company for the building, Integrity Property Management, had the tenant remove the flag immediately. Chris Orefice, the president of Integrity was credited for taking immediate action.
This week, several members of the community contacted Mid-Hudson News to report that the flag had been put back up on display. Orefice was contacted and asked about the resurgence of the controversial flag. “Enough is enough,” said the landlord. “There is no room for hate or associated symbols of hate in the community. We don’t need reminders of a hateful time in history.” I have contacted the tenant and told him that the flag needs to be removed – permanently. I recognize that people have a right to free speech but this is nothing more than hate speech.”
Mid-Hudson News contacted the tenant, Keith Hayes, on Friday morning to discuss his window decorations. When reached Friday morning, Hayes said “I’m with my parents right now, please call me later.” Repeated calls to Hayes throughout the day were sent to a voicemail that has not been set up, according to the recording.
When asked about the flag flying again, Ruggiero said “My thoughts haven’t changed. That display is unconscionable and needs to be removed. When one segment of our community is attacked, none of us can say we are attack-free. These acts of hate, symbols of hate, hide under the guise of the First Amendment,” he said. “Now we need to use our First Amendment rights and speak out against it and condemn it.”
On Friday evening, Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro weighed in and had a message for the tenant. “We understand his right to do so… yet he should take it down for good. That flag symbolizes extreme hatred, the indiscriminate slaughter of millions of innocent Jewish people and generations of anguish, intolerance, and violence. There is no room for it or the ideology it represents in a free and civil society. This individual needs to search his soul… do what’s right and take it down.”
Orefice has indicated that he has expressed concerns with his client that owns the building and legal options are being discussed to determine the best way to deal with Hayes and his sibling co-tenant who occupy the apartment together.