By Sabina Mollot
In a show of support to local cops following the shooting deaths of two officers and amidst the unofficial but can’t-miss-it-either standoff between the NYPD and the mayor, Arlene Harrison, president of the Gramercy Park Block Association, held a luncheon last Thursday to recognize the work of the 13th Precinct.
The low-key ceremony and lunch at the stationhouse was attended by current and former officers on the beat, and organized, along with Harrison, by the precinct’s Detective Ray Dorrian and GPBA Board Member Kathleen Scupp.
At the event, Harrison acknowledged the cops’ rift with City Hall in a speech, saying the community’s support remained unwavering.
“Now, while the president, the attorney general, the mayor and the police commissioner continue to play their increasingly dangerous political blame games, your lives are more than ever on the line,” she told the crowd. “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.”
She also recalled how the GPBA, and the organization’s working relationship with the precinct, began over 20 years ago — as a response to growing violence in the city. In 1993, her own son, Tim, then 15 years old, was beaten by a gang of 20 guys in front of his building on Gramercy Park. After that Harrison formed the GPBA, which became active in seeking help from cops when it was needed, like when the Kenmore Hotel on East 23rd Street had become overrun with drug dealers, and also in providing help in return. She recalled how after 9/11, she and other volunteers from the group made sure cops were regularly provided with food as well as hugs upon their returns from shifts at the World Trade Center.
“The bonds we formed then, and the closeness we feel became etched in our hearts and will always remain,” Harrison told them.
The ceremony also included words of support from local clergy members, who came to pray for officers’ safety.
Monsignor Leslie Ivers, of Epiphany Church, assured officers, “There are far more people who support you than who are criticizing you.”
Following the ceremony, Rabbi Dabiel Alder of The Brotherhood Synagogue, said, “The precinct has always been there for us and it’s important to be there for the police when they feel unappreciated. They put their lives on the line on a daily basis and it’s important to say thank you.”
There was also a moment of silence for the officers murdered in their patrol car, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu. Alex Nguyen, a musician and Harrison’s assistant, played taps.
When asked by T&V if the shootings had made cops at the precinct worried about their own safety, Deputy Inspector David Ehrenberg, commanding officer of the 13th Precinct, responded that cops always have to be worried.
“In every part of the country, officers always have to fear for their own safety whether you’re in a small town or a large city,” he said. “You always see it, you always have that chance.”
Ehrenberg also denied there was a deliberate slowdown in arrests at the precinct, despite a sharp decline in the amount of arrests made last week, compared to the usual activity. Last week, there were various media reports about a citywide slowdown in arrests and summonses, believed to be in response to a perceived lack of support from Mayor de Blasio over anti-police protesters and incidents of violence against cops. The protests began after a police officer was cleared in the chokehold death of Eric Garner. On Saturday, the Post reported that Police Commissioner Bratton acknowledged there had in fact been a citywide slowdown and that cops have since been warned to step up the ticket writing. As of this week, ticket writing has gone back up throughout the city, according to published reports, and at the 13th Precinct, arrest activity has also significantly increased.