A heroic North Fork man who took immediate action to help a panicked Greenport carjacking victim earlier this year was awarded the New York State Senate’s highest civilian award, the Medal of Freedom, last Thursday.

Bill Gorga, a retired marine engineer in East Marion, offered help to a grandmother and her grandson on Valentine’s Day morning before the child (later a baby and his grandmother) in Greenport Kidnapped by carjackers in a thrilling ordeal.

Two other men, Riverhead veteran firefighters William “JR” Renten and Frank Greenwood, were also honored last week for helping save the lives of two elderly women from a burning building on Pulaski Street in January.

Led by state Sen. Anthony Palumbo, a number of local political and law enforcement officials showed up at the Riverhead Free Library to honor the trio last Thursday, though Mr. Renten was unable to attend the ceremony.

“You need to meet certain criteria to be eligible for this award,” Mr. Palumbo said of the Medal of Freedom. “This is the highest civilian honor we can bestow in the New York State Senate for their actions.”

Mr. Palumbo first presented the medal to Mr. Gorga, saying: “This resolution that I will submit to you has passed the Senate and is part of the legislative record. So your great-great-great-grandchildren can be on file Search your name and it will be there.”

In addition to Mr. Palumbo, state legislators Fred Thiele and Jody Giglio, Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine and Southold Township Police Chief Martin Flatley, as well as representatives of Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney and Legislator Al Krupski were present to honor the honorees regards. . Roman said he represented New York Rep. Nick Lalotta, who was unable to attend.

“It’s no surprise that we’re talking about police officers and volunteers, we’re talking about actions that actually save people’s lives,” Mr Tiller said at the ceremony. “What makes the East Side great? What makes Long Island great? What makes Suffolk County such a great place? … It’s the people who are willing to serve and get involved in law enforcement and protecting public safety.”

Mr Tiller then turned and addressed Mr Gorga directly.

“When you read what happened—it’s a story with a grandmother, a baby, and a car chase. I’m waiting for the movie!” he announced, drawing laughter from the crowd. “I wonder who will play Bill Gorgar in the movie?”

Mr Tiller then turned serious, saying: “What an incredible act of heroism – action taken without a second thought. An ordinary citizen going about his business every day. I’m so proud You are my voter.”

Four members of the Southold Township Police Department were also honored for their role in apprehending the carjackers Mr Gorgar was originally pursuing.

Detective Kenneth Richter, Sgt. Robert Haas, Officers Ryan Springer and Patrick Robbins were honored for their actions.

“It’s very special to me because it’s my hometown police department,” said Mr. Palumbo, a former Suffolk County prosecutor and the son of a police detective.

Recipients of the Medal of Freedom must be approved by the state Senate majority leader and voted on by resolution.

“This award honors individuals who deserve special recognition for an outstanding, heroic or humanitarian act on behalf of their fellow New Yorkers,” Palumbo said in a release. “For first responders, including law enforcement , rewards may only be awarded if they go above or beyond the scope of responsibilities required for a particular job.”

However, the ceremony did spark some controversy. Riverhead Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar for “hot micAt a town council work meeting last Thursday, she told two council members she declined an invitation to attend the ceremony after hearing that two Riverhead firefighters may have exaggerated their role in the rescue, the community news site said. The development was first reported by RiverheadLocal, which also reported the news, publishing an original story about the duo’s heroics.

“I’m not going to do that,” Ms. Aguiar can be heard saying of the ceremony during a work meeting, which was videotaped. “You know the circumstances of that thing? They never — yeah, everybody went out and they made all these statements in the papers. So the Pulaski community was very upset about it.”

“The fire was an unfortunate event that has become a serious political event. The victims of the fire do not deserve to experience great loss and trauma again. My personal apologies to the entire Polish community,” the director said in a statement on Monday.

A staffer in Senator Palumbo’s office said the firefighter’s nomination was based on reading Riverhead Local’s original story.

“I’m not sure why the town supervisor said that,” Mr Greenwood told Riverhead Local after learning of Ms Aguiar’s comments. “I was disappointed to hear her question my own and JR’s integrity and conduct. However, I know what we did and that’s what matters to me.”

Fire department sources confirmed to the Suffolk Times that Riverhead fire officials were aware of conflicting accounts of how the two women escaped the burning building.

After the ceremony, Mr Gorga said the public attention over the past few months had been “surreal and wild”. He said he and his wife Stephanie are in touch with his grandmother and her family from time to time.

Surrounded by grateful politicians, proud police chiefs, smiling wives with medals of freedom around their necks, Mr. Gorga seems most surprised by the rapid growth of carjacking babies.

“[He] After a few months, he went from sitting in a car seat to walking now! “

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