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BY TEQUILA MINSKY | It’s been over a month since Superstorm Sandy, but police Officer Nick Iordanou at the First Precinct still has a mourning band around his badge.
“You spend a lot of time with your partner,” explained Detective Rick Lee, an officer at the Tribeca precinct. “When you lose one, it’s like losing a spouse.”
Officer Iordanou nods; he thinks about Artur Kasprzak everyday. Kasprzak, the police officer who died during Hurricane Sandy, was Iordanou’s partner for five and a half years. They spent a cop’s shift, eight hours a day, for those years, together. Artie — that’s what they called him — graduated the academy in December 2006 and came straight to the First.
Officer Kasprzak was off-duty at his parents’ home in South Beach, Staten Island when the storm struck. As water started seeping into the basement, he shepherd his extended family members including his 15-month nephew — his godson into the attic, accessed from a steep staircase in a closet.
He returned to the basement to check, his brother-in-law just feet behind at the top of the stairs when the water rushed in and in three seconds completely filled the basement and began rising half way up the stairs to the attic. Immediately the family dialed 911, trying to get through to an overwhelmed response system, and then called Officer Iordanou enlisting his help in notifying emergency services.
Fallen poles and debris filled the waters surrounding the house. Rough waves toppled an inflatable Zodiac boat. With power lines down, the rescue was temporarily called off.
The family was rescued by boat around 2 a.m. but the basement wasn’t accessed until five hours later.
“We were partners longer than any two here,” Iordanou says. Having graduated the academy a half year apart in 2006, the two hit it off, choosing to be each other’s partner. “We thought alike. We trusted each other.”
“We had our routine,” Iordanou says, starting their 7:05 a.m. shift with Artie picking up a tea with milk and sugar. “He brought his lunch.”
They’d drive, regularly checking in with people on their beat.
Iordanou recalled their more memorable policing moments. “Most recently in August, we had a gun collar with a 32-calliber on Park Place and West Broadway.”
He points to the green and white bar on his shirt that they both had received for an arrest three years ago on Canal St. and Sixth Ave. Following an assault that bloodied a Parks Department officer in Soho’s Vesuvio Park, a fistfight and foot chase down West Broadway with a big guy ensued.
Kasprzak also helped save a man clinging to a column in the East River, after his attempt to swim the river went awry. Artie retrieved the life ring and rope from the patrol car and heaved it within the man’s reach, pulling him to safety.
The partners often would go out for dinner with their significant others — Iordanou with his now wife and Artie with his long time girlfriend Lisa, who was also saved that night.
For years, Artie’s photo, used on a placard promoting the 3 C’s of police work — crime fighting, counter-terrorism and community relations — hung at police headquarters. Now, a framed copy hangs in the First Precinct. Artie was also known as one with always a smile on his face.
For the time being, Officer Iordanou who recently transferred to crime analysis at the First, works indoors. He misses the street but he’s not ready for a new partner. “You’re starting from the beginning,” he explains.
Officer Kasprzak was born in Rzeszow region of Poland 28 years ago and came to the United States when he was 10 years old with his parents and sisters. His parents speak very little English and considered it a real achievement for them to have a son who was a police officer.
Artie was a high school police cadet before he attended College of Staten Island. He played softball and loved working on cars especially his rebuilt Ford Mustang.
On Nov. 8, rows of police, more than four deep, stretched for blocks outside Staten Island’s St. Stanislaus R.C. at the funeral of Officer Kasprzak where the mayor gave a eulogy.
Kasprzak’s death was reported in Poland, and because of his selfless acts the President of Poland, Bronisław Komorowski, awarded him with the Medal of Sacrifice and Courage, which the Consul General of the Republic of Poland presented to his family.
The family’s house was completely destroyed and they are deciding what their future plans are.
Nonetheless, so moved were they by the outpouring of support from the Lower Manhattan community they sent this letter of thanks:
On October 30, 2012, our family experienced a loss far greater than we could have ever imagined. Our beloved Artur, a police officer from the NYPD’s First Precinct, lost his life at the hands of one of the worst storms this city has ever seen. To the members of the community he served, Artur was a symbol of bravery and courage—qualities inherent in the many brave men and women of the NYPD. But to us he was a son, a brother, an uncle, and his girlfriend’s one true love.
We have received an outpouring of support from members of the First Precinct’s residential and business communities, the Polish community, the law enforcement community and many others. People donated gift cards, baby clothes, food and so much more, but the most valuable gifts our family received were the prayers of those whose lives Artur touched. It is our sincere hope that each of you understands the extent to which your kindness has comforted us. We would especially like to thank Deputy Inspector Edward Winski, all the members of the First Precinct in Manhattan, and officers from the 122nd Precinct in Staten Island. Artur considered you part of his extended family, and in true fashion you have taken care of us as though we were one of your own.
As we prepare ourselves for a future without Artur, we know we will move forward with a heavy heart. Although it will be a long journey, we know your kindness, goodwill, and astounding generosity will carry us far into the healing process.
The Kasprzak Family