When Lynch saw a flier for a charity “plane pull” at JFK Airport, he gathered a group of officers from his precinct to join a contingent of 140, including members of the FDNY, teachers and Pan Am employees, to pull a 220-ton Boeing 747 jumbo jet nicknamed the “Clipper Mandarin” 102 meters in 68 seconds.
“I thought to myself, ‘This is a good cause, and there’s no reason that we can’t have a strong showing from the 90th Precinct to help make it a success,’” Lynch said. “It was a good early lesson in the power of union organizing. There are plenty of people who are ready and willing to give their time to support a cause. They just need somebody to tap them on the shoulder and say ‘hey, let’s do this.’”
The event raised money to buy Christmas presents for the children of the Little Flower Orphanage in Wading River on Long Island. It established an annual toy drive that celebrated its 30th anniversary this past year.
As for the “Battle of the Badges,” Lynch believes the legend of the rivalry is more infamous than the reality. He believes there were a few isolated incidents between the two departments that were subsequently blown up on the front pages of the city’s tabloids.
“On a daily basis, cops and firefighters are working side-by-side and treating each other like family,” Lynch said. “Every cop who has worked a midnight tour in the dead of winter has stopped into a firehouse and been welcomed with open arms and a cup of coffee. That was as true in 1988 as it is today.”
On March 30, Lynch will accept the “Man of the Year” award at the 6th Annual Bishop Ignatius Catanello Memorial Mass and Scholarship Dinner at Immaculate Conception Center in Douglaston. The annual event raises money to provide financial help for students at Cathedral Preparatory and Seminary High School in Elmhurst.
“It is a tremendous honor,” Lynch said. “I had the pleasure of meeting Bishop Catanello a number of times over the years, and we became fast friends. But I have also heard from many, many police officers who grew up or were educated in Queens and Brooklyn who were influenced by him.
“In fact, our PBA First Vice President John Puglissi served as one of his altar boys at his parish in Howard Beach,” he continued. “I would consider myself lucky to have one-tenth of the impact Bishop Cantanello had in his ministry.”
Lynch grew up in Bayside, the seventh of seven children of a mother from County Mayo in Ireland and a father from Queens. He met his wife, Kathleen, while attending Monsignor Scanlon in the Bronx, and together they raised two sons, Kevin and Patrick, in Bayside just a few blocks from where Lynch grew up.
Kevin and Patrick would eventually join their father in the NYPD, so two of Lynch’s union members aren’t just fellow police officers, they are his flesh and blood. He says like any concerned parent or family members of a police officer, he wants his two sons to return home at the end of every tour, but it doesn’t necessarily affect how he approaches his job.
“When it comes to my role as union president, I always know that the conversations going on around my kitchen table are also happening in 24,000 other cop households,” Lynch said. “The work we do doesn’t just affect cops while they’re on duty, it has an impact on every aspect of their life, especially on their families.
“I experienced that as a young cop, and now my sons are going through the same things,” he added. “Like every other PBA member, they want to know what their union is doing to improve their lives.”
Lynch took the NYPD test while he was still in high school, but after graduation he followed in his father’s footsteps and became a subway conductor. However, he was always intrigued by the stories he heard growing up from his great-grandfather, who retired from the force as a deputy inspector, and an uncle and older brother, who were an NYPD sergeant and lieutenant, respectively.
“The NYPD’s greatest recruiting tool has always been the cops who go home and talk about the job to sons and daughters or nieces and nephews,” Lynch said. “That’s the only way you can really understand what the job is about, both the positive and difficult aspects.”
In January of 1984, Lynch got his own shot when he was called to join the Police Academy. After graduation, he joined a Neighborhood Stabilization Unit that covered the 83rd, 90th and 94th precincts in North Brooklyn. He eventually was stationed at the 94th Precinct, where he served first on patrol and then as a Community Affairs officer.
“It was a different Williamsburg back then,” he recalls. “It was not a trendy neighborhood at all, and parts of it were literally in ruins.”
By 1989, Lynch was serving as a delegate in the PBA.
“I grew up in a union household,” he said. “I walked the picket lines with my father during the 1980 transit strike, so I knew that value of a strong and active union. When I became a police officer, I saw first-hand the importance of the frontline union representatives.
“When a cop is facing a difficult situation and everybody else walks out of the room, the union delegate is the person who walks in,” Lynch added. “Nothing means more to that cop than when the delegate puts a hand on their shoulder and says, ‘relax kid, we got this.’”
Lynch met many good delegates at precincts across the city, but said the PBA as a whole as doing a poor job of representing its members. Rather than operate as a real union with public power and prominence, it had become a clubhouse were people were allowed to just “hang around.” So in 1999, Lynch and other reform-minded officers put together a group of delegates that ran and were elected to some of the union’s top leadership positions.
“And when we got into the office, we discovered that the situation was even worse than anyone had realized,” Lynch said. “The stories we had heard about corruption and mismanagement all turned out to be more than true. It took us years just to get the organization back on a stable footing.”
Today, it is one of the most powerful and influential unions in the city. Lynch says he is inspired by a passage in of the St. Peter’s letters about using your God-given gifts in the service of others.
“After all these year, I’m still trying to figure out what gifts God gave me other than a big mouth,” he joked. “But whatever my gifts are, I hope to continue using them in service of others. That is the essence of what it means to be a New York City police officer, and it’s the essence of what our union does every day.”