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I was overwhelmed that Lt. Mark DeFazio of the NYPD would take the time to write to Cigar Aficionado with regard to my small contribution to the volunteer effort at Ground Zero. Further, I would like to express my gratitude to you for printing his letter. That being said, I would like to make some additions and adjustments to Lt. DeFazio's description of me and my involvement at Ground Zero.
The most important change is that of the role played by my cousin, Dr. Joe Johnson, described as a "friend" in the good lieutenant's letter. Joe was the moving force in my even getting to Ground Zero. He arranged for the Nassau County boat to pick us up and deliver us to the site. As a chiropractor and New Jersey PBA physician, he wanted to give aid and comfort to the men and women struggling to find their brothers and sisters who had given their lives at Ground Zero. I went with him to help carry some of his equipment in the furtherance of his goal. He is a "cigar aficionado" in the truest sense and it was his offer of his personal cigars to relief workers that generated the idea to come back regularly to distribute cigars to those doing such great and noble work. None of the volunteers at Ground Zero went to the site for recognition, but if anyone deserves an accolade, it is Joe Johnson.
There's also a correction: while I appreciate the promotion, I am a former member of the Alpine, New Jersey, Police Committee, not the police commissioner.
Again, many thanks to Mark DeFazio and to you.
Alpine, New Jersey
I am a recently retired sergeant with the New York Police Department and although we have an ongoing, friendly feud with the firefighters of the city, I stand with them and applaud your column in the April issue. The police officers and firefighters of New York deserve much more than the city is willing to offer. This has been the case for decades.
Neighboring departments recently won a 25 percent raise over five years, but NYPD was given 11 percent over the same period, exacerbating an already large disparity in salaries. When the mayor was told how pathetic it was to give the NYPD a little over 2 percent a year raise, the response from City Hall was that it wasn't that bad since we were getting 0 percent in each of the first two years, which made the raise 11 percent over the remaining three years. That translated to almost 4 percent a year! Temper that with the fact that the contract had already expired over four years previously and we had gone without any raise during that period and it was an even more bitter pill to swallow.
Unfortunately, because of the high-profile nature of the job, the news media and TV shows, the public's perception is that we are very well compensated because we are very good at what we do. Those close to a member of the service know that NYPD is and has been one of the lowest paid, large city departments for some time. Mayor Giuliani was great for the city, but when it came to the uniformed services, it was the old adage "you can tell me how much you appreciate me but show me in my paycheck" and all we got was lip service.
Thank you for bringing this thorn in our collective side to the forefront. I was fortunate to have retired before the 9/11 attacks, but lost four friends and coworkers in the World Trade Center and seven others during my tenure with the NYPD. Thanks again.