24 Hour Queens: Protectors

Queens Courier - October 08, 2009

by TONIA N. CIMINIO

Police and Firefighters Watch Over City

In a city that never sleeps, neither does death and destruction.

And in order to keep Queens' more than two million residents safe, New York City's first responders - the NYPD and FDNY - put their lives on the line, often working "midnights" or even 24 hours straight to ensure that you sleep soundly.

Captain Armando DeLeon, Commanding Officer of the 102nd Precinct in Richmond Hill, worked from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. when he was assigned as an undercover in Brooklyn South Narcotics.

"It's a beautiful city at night," remarked DeLeon, 38. "During the daytime there are tons of people, but [overnights] it seems like the city stands still."

And though the city may seem quiet, crimes still do occur.

"That's why we're out there," he said, "being pro-active, not only re-active."

He continued, "You're out there looking to engage in an effort to have a successful night."

Of trying to balance his personal and professional life, DeLeon told The Courier, "I was a newlywed, only weeks."

As his wife was just getting home, he said, he was getting ready to leave.

"When we had nights or days together, we tried to make the best of them," said DeLeon.

Firefighter Joseph Tarantini, 42, was a first-time father when he joined the FDNY 14 years ago.

"It was the first time I left my oldest [now 16] home alone with my wife," he said.

Tarantini, 42, of Whitestone, was working a 24-hour shift at Ladder 138 in Corona on the day he spoke with The Courier.

He explained most firefighters work two day tours back to back, then get 48 hours off.

"There's always someone on the night tour doing two in a row," he said. "Our schedules lend to a lot of flexibility."

So to work the 24-hour shift, two FDNY simply swap tours.

"When you first come on the job, it's a bit of a shock to the mind and body," he said, noting that, at the Corona firehouse, there is always some kind of action.

"We're always running around," he said. "It's one of the busier houses, so you have to be ready to go from zero to 100 at a moment's notice. There's pretty much never a night with no runs."

And when the cold weather hits, said Tarantini, "fire duty seems to go up."

Now that his children are a little older – 16, 9 and 8 – working the hours he does is a little easier, though at first it was difficult, he admits.

"I went into the job with no blinders on, and my wife knew I was chasing my dream. She is very supportive, you definitely need a supportive spouse. There was a lot of sacrifice on her part."

Still, the love of the job is apparent in Tarantini's voice.

"I appreciate working in the borough I was born in and still live in – it gives me a sense of community," he said. "We are always vigilant, always at the ready, constantly training, getting to know the neighborhood. We are not only trying to save the public, but ourselves as well."