With considerable pomp and ceremony, appreciative reminiscences, some laughs, a few tears and a whole lot of good food afterwards, Gardiner’s New York State Police (NYSP) substation was officially renamed on June 3 in honor of retired major Peter J. Brennan. The occasion marked both the centennial of the State Police and the 40th anniversary of the founding of the substation.
It was Brennan — then assigned to the Troop F station in Highland and raising his family in Gardiner — who came up with the idea of creating the local substation. Described by retired State Police sergeant/former Ulster County legislator Jack Hayes as “part of a pride of young lions” working out of the Highland barracks in 1976, Sergeant Brennan became concerned about slow response times being experienced by his Gardiner neighbors and urged that the law enforcement presence in southern Ulster County be decentralized. “We were losing a lot of time traveling back and forth,” Brennan recollected at Saturday’s ceremony.
Changing the status quo of the NYSP bureaucracy in the ‘70s wasn’t an easy effort, according to Hayes. “There was no buzzword of shared services back then,” he recalled. “It was hard to change people’s minds.” But with support from the Gardiner town officials of the day, and the Gardiner Fire Department willing to set aside some office space, the new substation was established.
Captain James Michaels, NYSP zone commander for Ulster and Greene Counties, picked up the story of Brennan’s 24-year career, noting that thanks to his efforts, “Shortening the response time has saved an untold number of lives.” Sergeant Brennan was promoted to major in 1988 — one of only 20 in New York State at the time – and retired in 1992; he now lives in Florida. The NYSP substation was able to move across Main Street to roomier quarters after the renovation and expansion of Gardiner’s Town Hall in 2004.
A proclamation of the dedication in Major Brennan’s name was on display at the ceremony, right next to an enormous sheet cake. The document expressed “grateful recognition of his diligence and foresight” and noted, “The presence of the New York State Police Substation at Gardiner enhances the security and quality of life of the people of Southern Ulster County.” Brennan was also given a Pride of Ulster County Award praising his “initiative and foresight” by county legislator Tracey Bartels, and an aide to US representative John Faso presented the substation with a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition.
“I think I’ve been struck by thunder. I feel very honored and very humble,” said Brennan. “It’s great that this has lasted so long — great for the town and for the county.” Acknowledging all the support that his idea had received from municipal leaders of the day, the honoree became a bit choked up, saying, “I always had a special place for the Town of Gardiner.” But he managed to wrap up his remarks with a joke, noting appreciatively that “Most people have to wait until they die” to be honored in this manner.
After a benediction and a NYSP color guard recessional brought the solemnities to a close, the festivities and socializing continued for the large crowd at the Gardiner Firehouse. Town residents past and present, regional law enforcement officials and other guests enjoyed a generous hot and cold buffet, coffee and desserts. Sponsors for the event included the New York State Police, the Town of Gardiner, the Gardiner Fire Department, the Police Benevolent Association of the New York State Troopers, the Former Troopers’ Association Tri-State Chapter, the Ulster County Chiefs of Police Association, zone sergeant Gary O’Reilly NYSP, trooper Mike Gagliardi NYSP, former investigator John Morrow NYSP, sergeant Jack Hayes NYSP (retired), the Mountain Brauhaus, Tantillo Farms and the Brennan, Eidel, Marks and Wolfburg families.