Downtown Express photo by Julie Shapiro
N.Y.P.D. officers who patrol outside the Goldman Sachs headquarters in Battery Park City are off duty and paid by the financial firm. Goldman is one of many firms that hire the N.Y.P.D.
Goldman’s hired guns also work for the N.Y.P.D.
By Julie Shapiro
They look like police officers and they act like police officers — but the off-duty cops guarding Goldman Sachs’ new headquarters are being paid by Goldman, not the city.
Goldman hired the N.Y.P.D. detail a few months ago, when the bank’s new 43-story tower opened in Battery Park City. The officers wear navy N.Y.P.D. uniforms and carry guns, but their instructions and paychecks come from Goldman.
“That’s shocking,” said Linda Belfer, a longtime neighborhood resident and chairperson of Community Board 1’s B.P.C. Committee. “I have no problem with [the officers] moonlighting, but I’m a little taken aback that they’re allowed to do that with their uniforms and with their guns. The impression they’re giving is that they’re police officers.”
Belfer said she thought many local residents would be surprised to find out that the four officers regularly stationed outside of Goldman’s headquarters are not working for the N.Y.P.D.
The only way to find out the difference is to ask them — which is what John Jiler did recently after Jake, his 13-year-old son, and some other local teens were reprimanded by the officers. Jake and his friends were hanging out between the Goldman building and the adjacent Regal movie theater a couple of weeks ago after school, trying to decide if they wanted to see a movie, when one of the officers told them to move along.
“The police officer said, ‘Kids, school’s over, you have to go home,’” Jake recalled this week. “It was just kind of weird. None of us tried to argue — we didn’t want to get in trouble. [The officer] seemed kind of angry and I don’t know why.”
Disturbed by his son’s story, Jiler went down to talk to the officers himself, and discovered that they were working for Goldman.
“It doesn’t seem kosher to me,” Jiler said. “I don’t think off-duty police officers should be hired and should be wearing police badges and guns. Can I hire a couple of cops and tell them to do whatever I want them to do? Especially in a public space, it just doesn’t feel right.”
Jiler added that the officers seem to just want to keep the area “corporate clean,” and he called their action an example of the “sanitation of Tribeca.”
Andrea Raphael, a Goldman spokesperson, said only, “We have never given any instructions to any of our security detail to keep public spaces clear.”
Raphael declined to comment further, citing Goldman’s policy of not discussing security.
But an off-duty officer outside Goldman this week said he was told to watch for suspicious packages or unauthorized people trying to enter the building. Goldman was particularly concerned about protestors a few months ago, during the backlash against the firm’s billions of dollars in bonuses, said the officer, who did not give his name.
When told of Jiler’s son’s experience, the officer said he would not have bothered the teens.
“My attitude is, if you’re hanging out waiting for your friends, no problem,” the officer said.
But Det. Joe Cavitolo, who works for N.Y.P.D.’s public information office, said the officers are allowed to enforce the city’s no-loitering policy, which prevents people from blocking access to sidewalks and business entrances.
Cavitolo declined to comment on Goldman Sachs specifically but said the city screens all companies who request paid police details. Once a company is approved, it can hire officers as needed. Other companies that hire paid details include TD Bank, Barnes & Noble, Modell’s Sporting Goods and Macy’s, Cavitolo said. Bars and clubs are not allowed to hire paid details.
The off-duty officers are paid a standard rate based on their rank, ranging from $33 to $48 an hour, Cavitolo said. While they must follow the instructions of the company that hires them, they are not allowed to break the law, he said.
Cavitolo added that even when N.Y.P.D. officers aren’t on the clock for the city, they are still required to intervene if they see a crime in progress.
“We’re always police officers,” Cavitolo said. “Even though we’re off duty, we’re always on duty.”
In addition to the off-duty police officers, Goldman also employs a private security firm. One of those security guards told this reporter to stop taking pictures of the building, saying the sidewalk along West St. was private property.
Leticia Remauro, spokesperson for the Battery Park City Authority, said each building in the neighborhood is allowed to hire its own security without getting permission from the authority. She and Jim Cavanaugh, president of the authority, were both surprised to hear that Goldman employs a paid N.Y.P.D. detail.
Belfer, with C.B. 1, said she did not want to question Goldman’s security measures, but the visible police presence is disconcerting. Belfer has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder since 9/11 and said she is sometimes frightened when she sees a large police presence in the neighborhood.
“If they tell us it’s safer, I’m not going to protest,” Belfer said. “But it makes me feel funny.”