By Thomas Tracy
Unlike most jobs with the NYPD, Harold Meyers’ position automatically came with a good number of raises. It also had its share of highs and lows, as well as uplifting experiences for both himself and for those in his charge. However, upon his retirement Monday, the ride was over. The question is, what’s an elevator operator to do when he’s reached his final stop? Meyers’ answer was simple: enjoy his retirement, which has been coined as an “end of an era” for the cops in the 78th Precinct, where Meyers has been working a 1925 manually operated elevator since 2000. Meyers, a South Brooklyn native who currently resides in New Jersey, is the last elevator operator employed by the NYPD. After 33 years, his last day came on January 9. His wife Priscilla was in attendance. On the Friday before, cops from the 78th Precinct, located at 65 6th Avenue in Park Slope, held a going-away party for the outgoing civilian employee, who began his career with the NYPD in 1972. “We’re all going to miss Harold and we wish him well,” said Deputy Inspector Tom Harris, the commanding officer of the 78th Precinct. “Certainly [his leaving] is an end of era for the 78th Precinct, as well as the NYPD.” “I don’t know if I’ll miss the job, but I’ll miss the people,” said Myers, who began his career at Broome Street in Manhattan, which, at the time, was an annex to police headquarters. During his first few months “on the job,” Myers helped transport members of the Mollen Commission to the upper floors to hear testimony about police brutality and corruption. After a tour of duty at Broome Street, he was transferred to 72 Poplar Street, where he worked until his reassignment at the 78th Precinct, where he operated his special HOV lane to the upper floors for cops, maintenance workers and others wanting to avoid the precinct’s abnormally steep staircases. “The cleaners have to bring the garbage up and down and every day we would have people go to the second and third floor for accident reports,” said Myers. “Sometimes we would get elderly people or parents with baby carriages and they can’t make it up the stairs.” Of course, people always thanked Meyers for the free ride as he brought them to the second to fifth floors (the elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top – the sixth floor) during the ascending and descending small talk. But, those expressions of gratitude pale in comparison to the great signs of relief he saw on the ashen faces of cops coming back from Ground Zero on September 11, 2001 who no longer had the energy to schlep up four stories to their locker. “I’m glad I was there to take them up,” he recalled. “They really appreciated that.” Despite his retirement, the cops from the 78th Precinct won’t be left grounded. In Meyers stead, the precinct’s two elevators will be run by the building’s maintenance staff. Meyers, a former resident of 12th Street, has plenty of memories about “riding the cables” in the 78th Precinct. When he first got to the Park Slope precinct, for example, the elevator was broken for several weeks. He had to take it upon himself to get city maintenance crews to repair it. Meyers was “always up [the city’s] backsides” to keep the elevator in pristine condition, he remembered. During one of his first rides, the elevator decided to take a break in between two floors, leaving him stranded. “They had to call emergency crews to free me, but I wasn’t phased by it,” Meyers said. “I knew somebody was there to get me.” He also recalled the words of encouragement he would give those who stepped into the rickety elevator with a bit of trepidation. “I wouldn’t worry,” he told them. “We only have four floors to fall…and I doubt we would fall all the way down.” Although he was planning to continue working until he reached 35 years, a fall down the elevator shaft from the first floor to the basement — which left him with a dislocated elbow and two pins in his ankle — encouraged him to put in for early retirement. Now that he’s taken his leave of the 78th Precinct and the NYPD, the only thing he will be lifting will be any one of his nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, he said proudly.