Deputy Inspector Dennis De Quatro, the Ninth Precinct’s commanding officer, speaking at the rebuilt East Village stationhouse’s opening ceremony last Friday morning. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly is seated third from left. Below right: Stilt walker Dan McCarragan in extra-long police blues with Police Officer Figuerdo and his granddaughter Natalia Ortiz, 6, and her cousin Donavan Jackson, 5, at the opening festivities.
Ninth Precinct reports for duty at its rebuilt home
By Albert Amateau
“I know it was a long road but they made sure the building was done right,” said Deputy Inspector Dennis De Quatro, commanding officer of the Ninth Precinct, at the ribbon cutting last week at the new old police station on E. Fifth St.
Police brass Commissioner Raymond Kelly led a contingent from Police Plaza and Patrol Borough Manhattan South to the June 8 celebration uniformed precinct officers and retired cops coming back for a visit filled the middle of the block between Second and First Aves. along with a couple of hundred neighbors.
Five years ago, in May 2002, work began at 321 E. Fifth St., and on May 14, 2007, the precinct officers and civilian personnel returned from the swing space on Avenue C at E. Eighth St. that they shared with District 4 of the Housing Police.
The original plan called for maintaining the original structure of the stationhouse and doing a gut rehabilitation. But the condition of the building completed in 1912 was too far gone, so the sandstone facade was taken down block by block and a new building, with two additional stories went up. The blocks were cleaned, refurbished and rebuilt as the facade, but the interior with a bank of elevators and state-of-the-art wiring and the building’s structural frame are new.
“At first, everyone was upset when the facade came down,” said Bonnie Stein, a resident of E. Fifth St. and Second Ave. for 27 years. “I’ve been taking pictures with my cell phone camera over the past five years and it’s really great to see it reopen so elegantly,” she said.
Joe DeMarco, a security officer at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary on E. 14th St., came down to celebrate the opening and recall the rough days more than 40 years ago when he was a cop at the Ninth.
“It’s a beautiful neighborhood now and the precinct house is great. Just look at that pristine sandstone,” he said.
DeMarco, who retired from the Police Department in 1980, also remembers serving in the Sixth Precinct in the Village.
“West Fourth St. had strip clubs between Sixth and Seventh Aves. The Purple Onion, Tony Pastor’s they didn’t get down to everything off back then,” he recalled. DeMarco has some showbiz background himself. A tenor, he sang at the old Salmaggi Opera on Bleecker St. “I still sing when they ask me to,” he said.
The celebration was essentially a family affair. De Quatro’s son, John, 11, and daughter, Nicole, 8, came to visit the precinct. Officer Christian Menoni, assigned to the Ninth Precinct for the past two years, brought his daughter Kelsey, 14 months, and his wife, Dawn, to see where he works. His brother, John Menoni, is a sergeant in the 72nd Precinct in Brooklyn.
“I’m so proud of both of them,” said Menoni’s mother, Trina, who came to E. Fifth St. for the neighborhood event.
But it was a solemn, official event, too.
Kelly recalled coming to the precinct in January 1972 for the memorial service for two Ninth Precinct officers, Rocco Laurie and Gregory Foster, killed in the line of duty.
“More than bricks and mortar, more than circuitry. This is a living symbol of the department’s efforts to make this area safe for visitors and the people who live here,” Kelly said.