By Patrick Markey
County Mayo may be a long way from the streets of Brooklyn South, but for Patrick D. Brennan it’s been a memorable journey.
Brennan retired last week as Chief of Patrol Borough Brooklyn South after 34 years of service to the New York Police Department. Born to farmer parents who had lived in the United States, it seemed Brennan was destined to head to America.
“I grew up in an environment in which America, and New York, were talked about to such an extent that when I finally came here, it felt like coming home,” Brennan said.
Before arriving here, however, Brennan worked for a while in England. London, he said, was a riot at that time, with Irish immigrants working hard on building new towns in the South and gathering in the pubs on Tottenham Court Road and Camden High Road — The Nags Head and the Dublin Castle, in particular.
“Immigrants in those days, you made money and you spent it,” he said. “You had plenty of drink and plenty of food. It was a couple of years growing up.”
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New York always called, however, and on Aug. 21, 1958, after a 14-hour flight, Brennan found himself in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
“When I moved onto my block on 59th Street, the first nine houses were all Irish from different counties,” he said of the neighborhood’s predominantly Irish character back then.
Brennan worked on the meat markets in Hell’s Kitchen as a butcher for several years, and also did a stint as a bar manager in Brooklyn. He already had two relatives on the police force when he was finally persuaded to take the test himself.
He took the exam, did surprisingly well, and found himself walking the beat on the promenade in Brooklyn Heights as a patrolman for the 84th Precinct.
From there it has been up and on, with steady promotions and a career that has encompassed almost ever aspect of police work in precincts ranging from Chinatown’s 5th Precinct to Sunset Park’s 72nd. He has worked as a precinct commander, a commanding officer of a detective squad, served in both the Criminal Justice Bureau and the Internal Affairs Bureau, and finally as a chief of one of the busiest borough commands, Brooklyn South.
“I’ve seen just about all of it,” he said. “One of the advantage with me is that 30 out of the 34 years have been in enforcement rather than administration. If you really want to see the world as it is in the police force, you have to be in the trenches. I loved it. I don’t recall a day that I wasn’t happy in my work,” he said.
Now comes a long trip with his wife, back to Ireland to visit the places he’s never had time to see and didn’t see when growing up. And he plans to spend time with the grandchildren of his six children, two of whom are in the force, one a sergeant and one a detective. Still, the NYPD will never quite go away: “It’s been such a part of me for a generation. I’m never going to leave it in spirit,” he said.