Dozens of first responders from local fire departments and police departments lined up Cedar Drive to pay tribute to outgoing Great Neck Estates Police Chief John Garbedian.
A Nassau County Police helicopter buzzed overhead, momentarily capturing residents’ attention, as officers played bagpipes nearby.
Garbedian went on to shake hands with everyone in tow, seeing both familiar faces and ones he said he hasn’t seen in more than 10 years.
“The new chief, Rick Moreno, kind of talked me into doing this. I’m not one for big fanfare and, I said, ‘No, I’m not going to do anything, I’m just going to go home and put my feet up,” Garbedian recalled later, as his six grandchildren played outside the office. “But he says, you have to do it, let’s do the walk out and he took care of everything and he did a phenomenal job.”
“I’m very proud to have served this village,” Garbedian goes on to say, describing his day of retirement as a bit “bittersweet.”
Garbedian first began working with the Great Neck Estates Police Department on Jan. 31, 1983 and was promoted to sergeant in 1995 and chief in 2007.
In those 35 years, he said there has been considerable change – he recalled a time where the department used carbon paper and call boxes dotted the village – and “a lot of stories.”
One of those stories, which Garbedian said illustrates the kind of police department the village has, involved an older woman who lived alone.
After getting a call from family, Garbedian said, an officer traveled to the home. When they got no answer, they found a way inside.
“She had fallen the night before and couldn’t get up. She was on the ground for a long time,” Garbedian said. Then after helping her up, getting her water and seeing if she was okay, an officer fetched her eggs and cooked her breakfast.
“I’d like to say to my guys that they’re tremendous police officers. They have the village residents in their mind,” Garbedian said. “They just have helped me become a better chief just by being of service to the village, the way they’ve been.”
John McNulty, who served as police chief while Garbedian acted as a coordinator for the department, said Garbedian was also “tremendous” in his own way.
“He’s a blessing to me,” McNulty said of his time as chief working with Garbedian. “Every boss needs someone they could count on. He definitely was the guy and they’re handing [it] off to Rick now – another incredible guy. The community’s been served well for the whole length of the department.”
Ricardo “Rick” Moreno has worked in the Great Neck Estates Police Department for nearly 29 years.
About 20 of those were spent as a “regular cop” for 20 years, Moreno said, and around six of them as a sergeant.
Car chases into the Bronx and Queens are not unheard of, Moreno said.
They also do many car stops – the most likely time officers can get hurt — and in general try to make sure people feel safe in the village.
“Believe it or not, for a small place like Great Neck Estates, there’s a lot that goes on,” Moreno said. “You would think not, but there’s enough that goes on. It keeps us busy.”
“You see them at their best, you see them at their worst,” Moreno said of serving the people of Great Neck Estates. “We’re the first ones there before the ambulance, the first ones there before the fire department, and every guy is actually willing to do anything, even risk their lives, to protect the residents.”
Moreno said that as police chief, he hopes to maintain what Garbedian is leaving – a quality police force with a mix of veterans, former NYPD officers, and others.
Moreno also looks forward to ensuring the safety of the community.
“I’m here for them and I have the department and community’s interest in my heart and I will do everything I can to protect them and take care of them,” Moreno said. “This really is our second home.”
Harriet Becker, a Great Neck Estates resident who served as police chief in the early 1990s, said commemorations like the one for Garbedian are relatively new— but definitely good to have.
“It really is an incredible experience. As former police commissioner, I was just very touched by the whole ceremony – the cops here are incredible,” Becker said. “I’m going to miss John [Garbedian] a lot, but the police are in great hands and the residents of Great Neck Estates are in great hands because Ricardo Moreno is the new chief and he’s going to be wonderful.”
As for Garbedian, who is also an avid golf player and member of a couple of bands, he said he looks forward to spending more time with his family, enjoying his retirement, and “the next adventure.”
“I wasn’t sure how I’d feel on this day, because of a lot of thoughts go in and out, but I’m very happy, I’m very excited about starting my retirement,” Garbedian said. “But like I said, it’s bittersweet because I’m going to miss the people. That’s the bottom line right there.”