Feb. 26, 2021 By Allie Griffin
Two Southeast Queens natives have taken over high-powered positions in city agencies this week.
Rodney Harrison was named the chief of department of the New York Police Department on Thursday and Meisha Porter was named the schools chancellor of the Department of Education Friday.
Both Harrison and Porter were born and raised in Jamaica.
Harrison, whose last position was the chief of detectives, is taking over as chief of department after Terence Monahan announced his retirement from the NYPD.
Monahan will transition into a new position as a special advisor to the city’s COVID-19 recovery czar Lorraine Grillo.
Harrison, who began his career at the 114th Precinct in Astoria in 1992 and became the NYPD’s first Black chief of detectives in 2019, is taking over the reins from Monahan as the NYPD’s highest-ranking uniformed officer.
Harrison grew up in Jamaica and described how relations with police there have not always been positive.
“I grew up in Jamaica, Queens — grew up in a co-op called Rochdale Village — and growing up in that community we had negative interactions with law enforcement,” he said at a press conference Thursday. “There was some struggle sometimes, some frustrations, but I also took a leap of faith in coming into this organization.”
He said he became a police officer to change the department’s relations with communities like Jamaica.
“There was one time that I was stopped by a police officer that was extremely unprofessional, and I said to myself, ‘all cops can’t be like this and how can I make a change?'” Harrison said. “And that’s why I took that application and came on his job to make a change.”
Harrison joins Police Commissioner Dermot Shea, the head of NYPD, who is also from Queens. Shea, a Sunnyside native, became police commissioner in December 2019.
Meanwhile, Porter, another Jamaica native, is taking the top position at the DOE beginning March 15 as current Schools Chancellor Richard Carrazana transitions out of the role.
Porter, a New York City public school graduate herself, said she learned the importance of educators from her own mother growing up in Jamaica.
“I grew up in South Jamaica, Queens,” she said at a press conference Friday. “My mom is a teacher and what I learned first from my favorite teacher, my mommy, is the importance that one teacher makes in the life of every young person.”
Porter will be the city’s first Black woman to be schools chancellor, and the first person appointed to the role from within DOE leadership in recent history, according to City Hall.
She currently serves as Bronx executive superintendent and started her career with the DOE as a teacher at the Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice — a school she helped found and later became the principal of.
As the Bronx executive superintendent since 2018, Porter has overseen the largest gains in graduation rates of any borough in that time, from 67.4 in 2018 to 73.0 – a 5.7 percentage point increase, as compared to a 2.8 point increase citywide, according to City Hall.
“It’s my duty and responsibility — that I’ve carried with me my whole life — to lead forward and lean in and see every student and create opportunities for them in every moment that I possibly can,” Porter said.
Carrazana said he was stepping down as chancellor after three years at the helm in order to take time to grieve the loss of 11 family members and close friends whom he lost to COVID-19.
His tenure as schools chancellor was not without controversy.
Queens Council Member Robert Holden has been a constant critic of Carrazana and called his resignation “the best thing to happen to our city’s students and teachers in a long time.”
“Chancellor Carranza, the city’s most overpaid non-essential worker, constantly put his own political agenda ahead of our students’ education,” Holden said in a statement. “His relentless attacks on academic standards and Gifted and Talented opportunities hurt our public school system.”
He said the city must ensure that the hardest working students are given the opportunities they earn.
Queens State Sen. John Lui was less harsh on the outgoing chancellor.
“Richard Carranza had a difficult tenure as NYC schools chancellor, with some missteps from the outset, unhelpful micromanagement from the mayor, and an unimaginable crisis with the global pandemic,” Lui said in a statement. “Though we had our share of disagreements, I appreciate his efforts in running our schools and wish him the best.”