Joseph Esposito, who served as city Office of Emergency Management commissioner and NYPD chief of department, has died at age 73, Mayor Eric Adams announced Monday night.
Esposito, or “Espo” as he was popularly known, was battling cancer when he died. Espo was serving as the deputy commissioner of enforcement in the city’s Buildings Department at the time of his death — a position he started in September 2022.
Adams, a former NYPD captain, said he counted Esposito as a friend for nearly three decades and lauded his years of public service.
“Joe Esposito was not only a friend for almost 30 years, but a hero who dedicated his life and career to keeping New Yorkers safe, and he has earned the gratitude of our entire city,” Adams said, in a statement. “Espo’s dedication to New York City is unmatched. He worked hard for his city — right up to the end. He left us in a better place, and our city stands together to join his family in grieving his loss while honoring his service and commitment to our city.”
Esposito was the NYPD’s longest serving chief of department, its top uniformed officer — holding the post from 2000 through 2012 through the end of the Giuliani administration, and most of the Bloomberg era, according to City Hall. Prior to that role, he worked in several commands across the five boroughs, after joining the department as a trainee in 1968.
“He served his city on our darkest days and brightest moments, climbing the ranks from an NYPD officer more than half a decade ago to chief of department and then New York City Emergency Management commissioner,” the mayor said. “He remains the longest-serving chief of department in the NYPD’s history, holding the title of highest-ranking uniformed NYPD officer through the horrific attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and our recovery after Hurricane Sandy. In recent years, he continued his service as deputy commissioner of the Department of Buildings — still serving New Yorkers, even while battling cancer.”
Esposito returned to public service in 2014 as part of the de Blasio administration, serving as the city’s Emergency Management commissioner. However, after a surprise November snowstorm snarled traffic due to unplowed streets, de Blasio forced Esposito out of the post in December 2018 — a move that outraged many city lawmakers who knew of Espo’s long career.
Yet Esposito’s career in the Police Department was not without controversy.
In 2006, Esposito was accused of using an anti-Jewish slur during a riot in the predominantly Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Borough Park Brooklyn, according to a published report from the time. But the accusation, which came from then Council Member — now state Sen. — Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn), was ruled as unsubstantiated by the Civilian Complaint Review Board.
Then in March 2012, Esposito was caught on video shoving protesters in the Occupy Wall Street movement with his nightstick, according to a report from the New York Daily News.
Even still, pols took to social media to mourn Espo’s loss. City Council Minority Leader Joe Borelli posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, “You rarely encounter a person who lives up to the legends told about them.”
“What a loss, what a man. So sad to hear this. Rest in Peace Espo,” he added.
Adams said he has ordered all flags on city buildings, as well as flagstaffs throughout the city, to half staff to honor Esposito’s contributions to the Big Apple.