NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A street in Greenwich Village has been renamed for a late New York City police officer and gay rights pioneer.
On Friday, the rainbow banner flew alongside the NYPD and American flags as the street sign honoring Sgt. Charles Cochrane was unveiled at Washington Place and Sixth Avenue.
“Charlie had come out as a gay cop during a time when gay cops were afraid of losing their jobs and of being physically harmed,” NYPD Chief of Department James O’Neill said, honoring the legacy of the man who held the first meeting for gay officers at the St. Joseph’s Church basement.
The group received a bomb threat that night but carried on, forming the Gay Officers Action League.
The group’s current president, Detective Brian Downey, said Cochrane’s light still leads the way.
“May it continue to shine on in this community, and may it continue to shine every time a tourist, a resident, a police officer, a friend or ally passes this street sign,” Downey said. “Today is a celebration — a celebration of a great man, a celebration of a man who exhibited great courage.”
The tribute was one O’Neill said Cochrane could never have imagined when he publicly came out in 1981 during testimony to the City Council in support of gay rights legislation.
“Through the efforts of Charlie, this is now a very different New York City than it was 35 years ago and it’s a very different NYPD,” O’Neill said.
Cochrane’s sister Mary Anne Sundresh says it’s proof of how far we’ve come as a society.
“It’s human rights. It seems like a truth today, but it didn’t 35 years ago,” Sundresh said.
Cochrane died of cancer in 2008. He was 64.
The renaming comes days after 49 people were killed inside a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The NYPD is ramping up security in the wake of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. The New York City Anti-Violence Project said two gay bars were threatened this week with references to the massacre, and threatening notes were found on several cars.
O’Neill said there have been no credible threats.