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Naming Street for Cop Killed at Mosque Could 'Open Old Wounds,' Locals Say

By Jeff Mays | May 10, 2012 11:38am
The Muhammad Mosque No. 7, which is the local headquarters of the Nation of Islam, has a historically contentious relationship with the NYPD.
The Muhammad Mosque No. 7, which is the local headquarters of the Nation of Islam, has a historically contentious relationship with the NYPD.
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Yepoka Yeebo

HARLEM — Harlem community board members told NYPD representatives that they need to hear the opinions of imams at two Harlem mosques before deciding whether to rename a street after a cop killed 40 years ago at the Nation of Islam Mosque No. 7.

Some community members said they were concerned the renaming might open "old wounds."

"The biggest concern is you are opening up old wounds. This was explosive. Harlem was split down the middle," a resident and former Community Board 10 member told Inspector Rodney Harrison, the commanding officer of the 32nd precinct, Wednesday night.

Harrison had come before the board in a push to name 123rd Street, between Frederick Douglass Boulevard and St. Nicholas Avenue — near the 28th Precinct station house — after Officer Phillip Cardillo.

Harrison, who was joined by several former officers at CB 10's transportation committee meeting, countered: "We are not looking to open old wounds but to heal old wounds."

Cardillo was killed April 4, 1972, after he and four officers responded to a fake "officer down" call from Mosque No. 7, at 116th Street and Lenox Avenue. The officers were beaten and Cardillo was shot. He died six days later. A member of the mosque was acquitted at trial for the shooting death.

Many longtime police officers consider it one of the darkest episodes in NYPD history because of the lack of support that came from NYPD brass and city officials after the incident.

Harrison, formerly the commander of the 28th Precinct — where the mosque is located — said he had spoken with the imams at Mosque No. 7 and the Malcolm Shabazz Mosque, which took over Mosque No. 7's former space on 116th Street after it moved.

"Both imams did inquire why I wanted to go forward with this. There was a little concern," said Harrison. "They did state they are not for it, but not against it either."

Members of CB 10 wanted something in writing to confirm the imams' position — or for the imams to attend a meeting. Harrison said he didn't think that was likely to happen.

"They are not going to come in here and say thumbs up," he said.

CB 10 chairwoman Henrietta Lyle suggested the NYPD come up with an alternative way to honor the officer's memory.

"Have you thought about doing something else at the precinct to honor him?" Lyle asked.

Harrison said he believed the street naming was the best way to memorialize Cardillo.

Randy Jurgensen, a retired NYPD detective who was the lead investigator on the Cardillo case, said he was at the mosque the day of the incident and was knocked unconscious during the melee.

He said Cardillo has three children and five grandchildren who would like to see him honored.

"It's been 40 years," said Jurgensen. "I think this would be a healing."

Lyle said she believes the board has a responsibility to take the concerns of the officers and the mosque leadership into account. She said the board will follow the normal process for street renamings and hear from all involved an interested parties.

The issue of the street renaming came before the board two years ago. The police department was supposed to arrange a meeting with the heads of the mosque, but that never occurred, Lyle added.

"The committee wants to hear from the mosques," said Lyle. "We have a responsibility to the police department and the mosques."