PARK SLOPE — A Brooklyn pet store is sending holiday warmth to the NYPD by offering free Christmas trees to officers.
NYC Pet.com put the free trees — 100 in total — outside all nine of its Brooklyn locations with signs encouraging police to take them after the shooting deaths of officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu at the hands of gunman Ismaaiyl Brinsley on Dec. 20.
NYC Pet.com owner George DiGuido, whose father was an NYPD officer for 20 years, said he was heartsick at the officers' deaths and wanted to make a gesture of support for law enforcement. DiGuido was making deliveries two blocks away from the site of the shooting on Saturday. At first he assumed there had been a terrorist attack because he saw NYPD officers with machine guns in the area, he said.
"When I heard that the cops were killed — it was very sad," DiGuido said. "It’s a tough job. No matter what side you’re on, when something goes wrong, you call the police. We just wanted to give something back this season."
His initial plan was to drop off trees at NYPD precincts, but police asked him not to because the gesture could be interpreted as a bribe. The trees in front of his stores have been slowly disappearing. He said he hopes they've ended up with police officers but he can't be 100 percent sure because none have come into his stores to identify themselves. DiGuido has NYC Pet.com stores in Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bushwick, as well as two in Park Slope.
At NYC Pet.com's location on Seventh Avenue near 11th Street in Park Slope, four of the seven trees placed outside the business were gone by Tuesday afternoon, a store employee said. The remaining three leaned against the storefront with a sign reading "Free Christmas Tree for Cops. Enjoy Your Holiday."
Though one observer on Twitter criticized the free trees as "graft," the gesture won praise from customers and passersby.
Local resident Harlene Katzman stopped to snap a photo of the trees to post on Facebook.
"I just like the sentiment. Why can't we all just get along?" she said, paraphrasing Rodney King, the Los Angeles man who was beaten by police in 1991.
"I think it's great," agreed NYC Pet.com shopper Lani Halliday. "It's time to simmer down. We all need to come together. It's not good guys versus bad guys. We're all people."