Personnel from the College of Staten Island’s Department of Public Safety, led by Chief Michael Lederhandler, took home the coveted Unit Citation Medal at this year’s CUNY Department of Public Safety Medal Day Awards Ceremony held last week at The City College of New York. Lederhandler and Public Safety Specialist Nicholas Frangoulis were on-hand at the event representing 13 more members of CSI Public Safety who received the citation for their work in response to the after-effects of Hurricane Ida that traveled through Staten Island on September 1, causing major damage and a public safety risk at the College.

CUNY Public Safety Executive Director Andre Brown bestowed the honor on Lederhandler and Frangoulis at the ceremony, hosted by CUNY Vice Chancellor Hector Batista. The Unit Citation Medal honors “a special unit or task force whose performance in carrying out a project, extended assignment, or during an unusual operation was so outstanding as to warrant special recognition.” CUNY Public Safety Director of Operations, Michael Ferrandino, described the events of September 1, and how CSI’s team was able to assist many members of the CSI community who were stranded on campus due to severe weather and flooding caused by Hurricane Ida, conditions that ultimately killed 45 people and caused over $24 billion in property damage in New York alone.

Lederhandler, who accepted the award at CCNY’s Great Hall, was proud of the recognition. “In the days leading up to the ceremony, we found out that there were many worthy events throughout CUNY that showed how exceptional our Public Safety offices are, and so to win this award was a big surprise and as a group we were incredibly happy,” said Lederhandler. “Although we couldn’t all be at the ceremony, we had an internal roll call ceremony where we presented our team with their certificates and the medals they can proudly display above their badges. It makes you very proud to know that awards like these are won in the field as a result of doing a great job in the heat of the moment.”

Ida caused significant damage on Staten Island and its impact was felt heavily on campus. Lederhandler remembers the events that day, gathering the CSI community in the lobby of Building 2A and assisting with getting them to safety and home. Public Safety went so far as to travel in vehicles and by foot to get people home or set up in Dolphin Cove, all while monitoring and reporting on increasingly dangerous conditions, including major campus flooding in four buildings.

“I was home when the storm started and saw first-hand coming back on to campus how quickly things were deteriorating,” he described.  “We had several people stranded on campus and used 2A as a triage area, navigating through waist-high water escorting people to safety and to waiting vehicles to transport them home. Seeing our officers walking arm-in-arm with our community, using quick decision-making and reaction was a big difference in how things turned out that night. These are events that you don’t necessarily train for, so you depend on your staff to spring into action and that’s exactly what they did.” 

The complete unit that received the Unit Citation Medal is as follows:

Chief Michael Lederhandler

Specialist Nicholas Frangoulis

Sergeant Laura Devine

Sergeant Donald Girard

Campus Peace Officer Salvatore Alba

Campus Peace Officer Michael Guzzone

Campus Peace Officer Fazan Muddassar

Campus Peace Officer Jason Norr

Campus Peace Officer Melissa Quiles

Campus Peace Officer Peter Rodriguez

Campus Peace Officer William Vella

Campus Peace Officer Robert Vinci

Campus Security Assistant Michael Bogdanowicz

Campus Security Assistant Jacob-Cory Hornedo

Campus Security Assistant Pasquale Illuzzi

Campus Security Assistant Kareem Paige

Along with the Unit Citation Medal, CSI’s unit of Public Safety was also acknowledged among all CUNY Public Safety Personnel with the COVID-19 Service Unit Citation Award, given to all CUNY Public Safety personnel who were physically on campus maintaining safe operations and overseeing the return to campus during the period of March 12, 2020 to August 2, 2021.

By David Pizzuto