Speech given by GPBA President Arlene Harrison
On October 8, 1993, my then 15-year-old son Tim was beaten by a random wilding gang of 20 guys in front of my home, one block away on Gramercy Park.
Three months later on January 6, 1994, Rudolph Giuliani became mayor and appointed William Bratton Police Commissioner.
As a direct result of my son's attack, in March 1994 hundreds of neighbors joined together to form the Gramercy Park Block Association. Its mission - public safety.
That same month (March of 1994) Mayor Giuliani's office reached out to me to help organize one of their first neighborhood meetings. Its purpose was to show that crime had become so rampant that neighborhoods throughout the city were affected. That meeting, co-hosted by Congresswoman Maloney, Commissioner Bratton and me, was held at the Brotherhood Synagogue, and was attended by over 900 people.
A major focus was the 23rd St. Kenmore Hotel, which had become the epicenter of neighborhood crime, including drug dealing, robberies, prostitution, gangs, murders and crime that spilled onto the streets.
Maloney and Bratton stayed for hours after the meeting that night, and came up with a plan where Maloney reached out to Attorney General Janet Reno in the Justice Department. The Federal Marshalls and the FBI then began a 3-month sting operation that led to the June 1994 takeover of the hotel, the largest asset seizure in the history of the US government to this day. The success of that operation was credited largely to 13th Precinct Police Officer Scott Kimmins, who for 8 years visited the Kenmore daily to look after those who needed his help, and to document the crime. The headlines read "Police Officer Kimmins - Hero of the Kenmore" and the lobby of the Kenmore was named in his honor at a big ceremony in front of the Kenmore.
This was only one local example of NYPD efforts 20 years ago to make the city safer. In the following two decades, from 1994 until now, as a direct result of effective policing, New York City has become the safest city in the world.
Through the last 20 years, our Gramercy Park family and your police family, including 13th Precinct Police Officers, Emergency Service Unit Truck #1, Patrol Borough Manhattan South, and Detectives have worked together in many ways, and your family has become our family.
On May 19, 1997, when 13th Precinct Police Officer Anthony Sanchez and his partner P.O. Roy Ruland responded to a robbery in progress at 138 W 17th St., Officer Sanchez was fatally shot. Sanchez left behind his wife Elizabeth and seven-year-old son John, and would have celebrated his thirty-second birthday that week. To support your 13th Precinct Officers, every day we attended the three month trial, which resulted in the suspect's conviction of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. In April 1999, Our Gramercy Park Block Association in partnership with the 13th Precinct sponsored legislation, passed by city council, renaming the 13th Precinct street (21st St between 2nd and 3rd Ave) "Police Officer Anthony Sanchez Way." Since that time, we have continued to honor P.O. Sanchez's memory at several Police community events.
During the 2001 horrific attack on the World Trade Center, it was your brothers and sisters fellow 13th Precinct officers Bobby Fazio and Moira Smith and ESU Brian McDonnell who paid the ultimate sacrifice when they raced into the burning buildings while thousands fled. Moira, the only female Police Officer who perished that day, left behind her daughter, 2-year-old Patricia. Few will forget the photo that flashed around the world, of Patricia's dad Police Officer Jimmy Smith holding her hand as they walked across the stage to receive Moira's posthumous Medal of Honor.
They and their fellow officers who perished that day became not only our heroes but New York City's heroes. During the many months of unimaginable devastation, sorrow and anguish that followed, we were honored to be right here in this Muster Room round the clock to feed you, to care for you, and to hug you when you returned each night from that grim search for your brothers and sisters, that soon became a recovery effort. The bonds we formed then, and the closeness we feel became etched in our hearts and will always remain.
You were our heroes then, and you will always be our heroes. Just look down the hallway of this precinct at the permanent 4x8 foot photographic display we installed documenting our partnership with you during that period of time. It's titled "NYPD - You Make Us Proud." Just look outside the Precinct at the Memorial Garden, which in 2003 we had the Epiphany School kindergarten children plant, and which we continue to maintain throughout the year. It's plaque reads "NYPD - You Make Us Proud." Every year, at our annual community event at The National Arts Club, we read the names of those who were lost on 9/11, to honor their memory but to also honor the wishes of their families who pleaded with us "to never forget." And just two weeks ago at our annual Christmas event, we paid tribute to you. Just take my cards, they're right here, and look at our website. We have two big sections - one documenting our community's partnership with you and another documenting our many World Trade Center projects with you. When I said earlier that your family has become our family, I actually mean that literally. Sergeant Sharon Brooks from Homicide is even the Godmother of my 8-year-old grandchild, who lives with me.
We want you to know that every day you come to work and put your lives on the line to keep us safe, you are our heroes. I can think of no other job where you have to wear bulletproof vests and your families have to wonder whether you are coming home at night.
Now, while the President, the Attorney General, the Mayor and the Police Commissioner continue their increasingly dangerous political blame games, your lives are more than ever on the line. When you are not safe, no one is safe. When you are in danger, we are in danger. Once again we return here today to embrace you, to support you, and to tell you how grateful we are to you and how much we love you.
Today we have brought our neighborhood religious leaders here to thank you and to pray for your safety so that you may return home to your family at night, and to our family by day.
Now I'd like to welcome our religious leaders. From Calvary-St. George's on 21st St we have Rev. Tom Pike, Rev. Jacob Smith and Rev. Ben DeHart. From Epiphany Church on 21st St we have Monsignor Leslie Ivers. From Brotherhood Synagogue on 20th St. we have Rabbi Daniel Alder.
Before we have lunch, we'd like to pay our personal tribute to Detectives Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos with a moment of silence, followed by taps.