Queens Chronicle Updated: Oct.14, 2015, 4:46 pm

College Point street named for slain cop Phillip Cardillo

The patrolman was killed in the 1972 Harlem mosque incident

by Christopher Barca / Associate Editor 

   
NYPD  
Patrolman Phillip Cardillo.  

Monday was a day that Todd Cardillo thought would never come. 

More than 43 years after his father, Patrolman Phillip Cardillo, was shot and killed by an unidentified attacker in what became known as the 1972 Harlem mosque incident, the city finally recognized the fallen officer as a hero.

Despite the near-record cold, numerous dignitaries, dozens of NYPD cadets and hundreds of officers, both active and retired, gathered outside the New York City Police Academy in College Point at 11 a.m. to commemorate the co-naming of 28th Avenue outside the building as Patrolman Peter Cardillo Way.

"No, not at all," Cardillo said when asked by a Chronicle reporter after the ceremony if he ever thought such a ceremony would happen. "It's hard to put into words. It's very overwhelming. It's a long time coming and I'm just so honored."

Speakers during Monday's event included Borough President Melinda Katz, Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Bronx, Queens), Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside), Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, who reduced Cardillo to tears in the audience as he spoke about his father's sacrifice.

"Whether it be 40 years or 40 decades, we will never forget," Bratton said. "He lives on in this memorial."

"On a spring day in 1972, Phil Cardillo answered a 10-13 call, a cop needing immediate assistance," he continued. "Now after more than four decades, we are answering his call."

On April 14 of that year, Cardillo, a 31-year-old Astoria resident and member of the 28th Precinct, responded to a call for assistance at Mosque Number 7 on 116th Street in Harlem.

CHRISTOPHER BARCA
Todd Cardillo, right, hugs NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton after Cardillo delivered a moving speech about his father, Phillip, who was killed in the 1972 Harlem mosque incident.

When Cardillo, his partner, Vito Navarra, and two other cops entered the house of worship — where Malcolm X once preached — they were attacked by a group of 15 to 20 men. During the assault, someone took Cardillo's service weapon and shot him in the chest. The married father of three died six days later.

Immediately after the shooting, an angry mob surrounded the responding officers and a proper murder investigation at the scene was never conducted, as NYPD officials ordered the officers out of the location. 

Police officials later apologized to the mosque's leadership, which claimed Cardillo and the other officers invaded the venue with guns drawn.

Neither Mayor John Lindsay nor NYPD Commissioner Patrick Murphy attended Cardillo's funeral, something Bratton called "shameful."

"It was a shame then and it's a shame now. But today we take one step forward in righting a wrong," he said. "It was wrong then that neither the mayor or police commissioner attended Phil's funeral. It was wrong to allow political pressure to interfere with a murder investigation. It was wrong to take what was deemed at the time to be the easy way out and just wish it all away."

Louis 17X Dupree, the dean of the mosque's school, was tried twice for Cardillo's murder, with the first trial resulting in a hung jury and the second in an acquittal. 

He was originally arrested immediately after the shooting, but was supposedly let go after Nation of Islam leader and mosque head Louis Farrakhan and Rep. Charles Rangel (D-New York) arrived at the scene and demanded his release. 

In 2012, Manhattan Community Board 10 considering conaming 116th Street, where the mosque — which now serves a different congregation — is located, in honor of Cardillo, but the idea was squashed when some residents and board members opposed it, citing an unwillingness to reopen old wounds.  

However, Community Board 7 here unanimously approved the Queens street conaming last year, and legislation introduced by Vallone to coname 28th Avenue for Cardillo passed the City Council in July. 

Taking the microphone to a standing ovation on Monday, Todd Cardillo, a Florida resident who was just 1 year old when his dad died, urged the police recruits in attendance to always look up at the new street sign and model themselves after his heroic father.

"I've always been told growing up that my father was a hero. And he is, but not for the reasons I thought," he said. "I always thought he was called a hero because he lost his life. But that's not why he was a hero. He's a hero because he put on that uniform, wore that shield and he did his job the way it should be done.

"You new recruits," he continued, "you do the same thing. You don't know it now, but you're the future heroes of the NYPD."