The Journal News is the main daily serving Westchester County and its largest town.
Three of the top stories on the paper’s web page that morning concerned the challenges facing the police department in New York State’s fourth largest city.
They were not of the parking ticket variety, as made clear in bold type.
“Man hacked with machete in possible gang attack in Yonkers,” read one of the page toppers.
“Yonkers man stabbed twice, takes taxi to hospital,” proclaimed another.
The third, the latest breaker of the three, was the most serious: “Gang fight in Yonkers leaves 18-year-old dead, 15-year-old stabbed,” the headline coldly stated.
Like any city, Yonkers presents varied faces to the world. It has its pier, made famous in the movie “Hello Dolly” jutting out into the majestic Hudson River and in a part of town that is currently undergoing major redevelopment.
There are tree lined streets that could be anywhere in suburban Westchester County and crowded shopping thoroughfares such as Central Avenue that show off the kind of hustle and bustle you would expect in a conurbation of 200,000 souls served by a police force numbering more than 600 officers.
And of course there are the meaner streets where those challenging headlines are born.
When it came to finding a new police commissioner for this multi-faceted metropolis in the closing months of last year, Yonkers Mayor Phil Amicone didn’t have to look far.
In tapping NYPD veteran Hartnett, Amicone had the comfort of knowing he had a candidate who knew all about street level police work at its most demanding.
“Ed Hartnett brings a breadth of knowledge and leadership experience that is truly second to none,” Amicone said of his pick for top cop.
Hartnett duly made the short journey from his home city to Yonkers. But that was only in terms of physical distance.
As a deputy chief in the NYPD, Hartnett still had a few colleagues with higher rank to consider.
The move across the Bronx line would change the order of things. Now running the Yonkers Police Department from the office of commissioner, Hartnett’s career has reached a pinnacle in terms of rank but also, and most crucially, responsibility.
For those who know Eddie Hartnett, leadership was always in the cards right from the day that he donned a New York police officer’s uniform in 1979.
“Eddie was one of the hardest working guys we had. He knew how to get the job done, but he always treated those working for him well. He’s much missed,” said NYPD Assistant Chief, Michael Collins.
“He’s a great cop and a great guy,” said Miami’s police chief, Dublin-born John Timoney.
Hartnett was born in Brooklyn but grew up in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan when it was known as one of the city’s most Irish neighborhoods.
He was the son of immigrant parents. His father, David, was born in County Limerick while his mother, Peg Buckley, hailed from County Kilkenny. Like so many of their generation, David and Peg met and married in England. From there, they crossed the Atlantic to New York where they would raise four children: John, Elizabeth, Patrick and Edward.
Edward Hartnett had the best of both worlds as a boy. He was learning about the world both in its greatest city, and in one of its most tranquil corners – summers being an opportunity to work and play on his grandmother’s farm in Kilkenny.
Memories of Kilkenny’s green fields would be soothing balm on the tougher days and nights that would be Hartnett’s lot in New York’s hot asphalt streets.
Rising rapidly through the ranks, Hartnett would occupy some of the highest profile command posts in the NYPD, including that senior officer in both the Intelligence Division and the Joint Drug Enforcement Task Force. He also coordinated the department’s security effort during the 2002 World Economic Forum in New York.
Hartnett was regularly assigned the task of organizing the NYPD’s security operations for visits to the city by the President of the United States and other world leaders.
He acted as NYPD liaison to U.S. Secret Service, State Department, the FBI and the United Nations and directed the department’s intelligence work in support of the FBI’s Sept. 11 investigation.
The memories of that awful day have, of course, made the journey with Hartnett to Yonkers.
Hartnett was at the World Trade Center minutes after the planes struck. Along with the FBI’s Barry Mawn, he watched in horror as the South Tower collapsed just yards from where they were standing.
The scene is described in Ronald Kessler’s book “Bureau, The Secret History of the FBI.”
“Mawn heard a rumble. He and Kelley were standing outside 7 World Trade Center, a smaller building in the shadow of the Twin Towers. Edmund Hartnett, the police department’s chief of intelligence, had just joined them. The deafening, earthshaking roar was the South Tower imploding, coming down all around them, along with more people, some holding hands on their way down.
“A firefighter inside 7 World Trade Center told them, ‘Hold on to one another with one hand. Don’t let go no matter what! With your other hand, try to cover your nose and mouth.’
“Even though they were inside the building, a tidal wave of dust, ash, and debris smashed through the windows and engulfed them. Chunks of glass, steel, and concrete were falling all around. It sounded like a freight train whooshing past, and everything seemed to be moving at the velocity of bullets. Then a black cloud, as dense as toner, descended on them.”
Hartnett and his companions were lucky to be alive.
For years a leading figure with the NYPD’s Gaelic football team, Hartnett traveled a few months later with the team to Ireland. In County Kildare, the New Yorkers took part in a ceremony during which 23 trees were planted in memory of the NYPD officers who fell on 9/11.
As he watches over Yonkers, Edmund Hartnett will forever remember Lower Manhattan on a brilliant September morning.
And in the quieter moments, if there are any at all, he will think of a grove of trees rising from the rich Irish soil, silent sentinels standing tribute to New York’s Finest.
The Edmund Hartnett File
Current job: Yonkers police chief
Born: Sept. 27, 1955 in Brooklyn
Academic Education: Fordham University, B.A. Political Science; Columbia University Graduate School of Business, Police Management; Marist College, Masters in Public Administration.
Job related studies: FBI National Academy; U.S. Secret Service Dignitary Protection School; DEA Drug Unit Commanders Academy.
Family: Married to Grace; father of Matthew, an NYPD officer.
In his own words: “This is the next step in what I feel has been a diverse and very satisfying career in the field of law enforcement. Having the chance to lead an agency with as much history and respect as the Yonkers Police Department is a wonderful opportunity and one that I am tremendously excited about.