CB1 Rejects Street Co-Naming Request for Local Cop Killed in Iraq

Bill McNaughton, with his wife, Michelle, appeals to Community Board 1 to approve a request to honor their son James with a street co-naming near where he worked as a transit officer. With them to lend their support are 1st Precinct and Transit District 2 police officers. The McNaughtons are both retired transit officers. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib 

Oct. 29, 2018

In a narrow and emotionally charged vote last week, Community Board 1 dashed the hopes for a street co-naming sought by the parents and comrades of a fallen police officer, the first NYPD cop killed in Iraq and a former transit officer who had been based in Tribeca.

A sniper’s bullet in August 2005 cut short the life of Staff Sgt. Jimmy McNaughton, a 27-year-old Army reservist called up from his service as a police officer assigned to Transit District 2, operating out of the A,C,E Canal Street station. To honor him, family and fellow officers had proposed a co-naming for West Broadway, between Lispenard and Canal Streets. “James McNaughton Way,” the sign would read, overlooking the Canal Street Station stairs at Lispenard and West Broadway.

At the full community board meeting on Oct. 23, a group of Transit District 2 and 1st Precinct officers, along with McNaughton’s parents, Bill and Michelle, came to show their support for the co-naming. “It’s the area that we all go down into the subway, all the police officers do from the time I’ve been on the job 25 years ago to the ones who will go for the rest of our lives,” said Officer Brian Kenny, who had worked with McNaughton. “You can look up and see that we’ve honored one of our fallen brothers.”  

“To me, hopefully, somebody looks up on the pole at Lispenard and West Broadway and sees McNaughton. Who’s that kid?” Bill McNaughton told the board. “They Google it. They find out who the kid is. That’s all I want. That’s all we’re looking for. I didn’t think that’s too hard to do.”

But the vote opposing it, 21 to 12 with three abstentions, proved otherwise, rendering Bill McNaughton speechless and his wife in tears. “They haven’t lost anybody close to them,” she said crying, after the tally was announced.

“It is an unfortunate situation that a handful of people are against it,” said Det. James Rudolph, the Transit District 2’s community affairs officer. “And it’s heart wrenching.”

Earlier in the month, Kenny and his partner, Officer Paul Caracci, received unanimous approval and applause from CB1’s Transportation Committee for their request. But following a Trib article about the proposed honor, which needs ratification by the full board and the City Council, CB1 received objections. Reggie Thomas, the Transportation Committee’s co-chair, said some who opposed it claimed that the pole is already too crowded with signs. Others were against all street co-namings and favored alternate ways to honor the officer. A petition with the names of 227 police officers was submitted in support.

Before taking their vote at the full board meeting, the members debated the proposal and some who opposed it offered what they believed would be a more appropriate way to honor McNaughton. “Would the family consider a plaque?” asked CB1 Vice Chair Paul Hovitz, noting that co-names on street signs fail to give information about the person being honored. “A plaque tells the story and honors the person so that whoever sees it honors the special thing that was done and the special contribution. That might work a lot better for us.”

“The city doesn’t put plaques up,” responded CB1 Chair Anthony Notaro, who voted in favor of the co-naming.

Some opponents referred to the board’s rejection in 2009 of the proposed co-naming of Lispenard Street for David Ruggles, the African American publisher and abolitionist who lived on Lispenard and gave support to hundreds of runaway slaves, including Frederick Douglas.

“We wouldn’t name it after an abolitionist and I feel very terrible to say I’m against it,” said board member Susan Cole, adding, “It sets a terrible precedent for us and it has nothing to do with the family. We want to do something, but not a co-naming of the street.

Alice Blank, who lives on Lispenard Street, said she would like to see McNaughton honored with a new tree and a plaque on her street. “I think a co-naming is troubling,” Blank said. “Where do you say no? I would be very uncomfortable to say no to Ruggles and yes to somebody else. It’s not consistent.”

(In 2006, the first time that Ruggles was proposed for a Lispenard Street co-naming, the Tribeca Committee unanimously supported it, but the full board tabled the issue following objections raised by Blank, who at that time also said she favored a plaque in lieu of a street sign.)

“I totally support the co-naming,” countered board member Judith Weinstock. “I totally support our transit officers, our NYPD. It sounds like bad decisions were made a few years ago on co-naming and I don’t think that prior bad decisions should cause us to make another bad decision.”

“We should not get technical now but we should pass it and look at how we look at these things in the future,” Bob Townley said. “It’s important as a community to support the community that this person belonged to.”

McNaughton was killed, Kenny told the Transportation Committee, after volunteering for dangerous guard duty, giving himself the job because he was single while the other two military police who might have taken the post had families.

Worried about a slew of co-naming requests after 9/11, CB1 called for a moratorium in 2003 in response to the mother and father of two sons who died in the North Tower. They had sought to honor the brothers at the corner of Beach Street and West Broadway, outside the building where one of their sons had lived with his wife and two children. Following coverage of the moratorium rejection in the Trib, then City Councilman Allan Gerson lent his support to the family, and the father, Victor Colaio, returned to CB1’s Tribeca Committee for reconsideration. This time, the community board approved it. The sign “Mark and Stephen Colaio Way” is diagonally across the street from the corner where James McNaughton Way has been proposed.

Other street co-namings in Community Board 1 include a sign at the corner of North Moore and Varick Streets, outside the Ladder 8 firehouse, for Lt. Vincent Halloran, killed on 9/11. A co-naming at Canal and Cortlandt Alley was approved in 2009 for Dr. Thomas Tam, who established a Chinatown health clinic. Evacuation Day Plaza became the co-name for Bowling Green Plaza in 2015.

Without CB1’s approval, the McNaughton co-naming proposal will not go before the City Council. Paul Leonard, Councilwoman Margaret Chin’s chief of staff, said she hopes to change the board’s mind. “We’ll be urging the community board to reconsider the resolution if possible,” he said.


Implication untrue that CB1 does not honor officer's sacrifice

To the Editor:


I have to take exception to the article on Street Co-Naming. The implication is that CB#1 doesn't respect and honor the sacrifice of this officer. This is not only untrue and is a disservice to the family and to our members. 


I think the majority of the board decided to adhere to our policy on a moratorium of street co-naming, that this officer had a plaque on the subway station and one at the Police Memorial. The discussion of a plaque on the building was a suggestion to the family and officers as a more appropriate form of recognition in lieu of the fact that CB#1 has decided not to do co-namings. I resent the implication that those who voted against it did so out of disrespect for the Officer and his sacrifice. I am rather surprised that you took this tenor in the article. In today's super charged environment this slant does all of us a disservice. — Paul Hovitz