Council OKs Tribeca Street Co-naming Hotly Debated and Rejected by CB1

Transit Police Officer and Army Staff Sgt. James McNaughton. He was the first NYPD officer to be killed in Iraq.

Jul. 23, 2019

One block of West Broadway is getting a second name: James McNaughton Way.

On Tuesday the New York City Council voted to approve the co-naming of the street, between Lispenard and Canal Streets, for the first NYPD officer killed in Iraq. McNaughton was 27 and an Army reservist when he was called up in 2004 for a second deployment, leaving his service as a police officer assigned to Transit District 2, located in the A,C,E Canal Street station in Tribeca. McNaughton, a military policeman, had volunteered for dangerous guard duty because other men in his unit had children back home. A sniper’s bullet took his life on Aug. 2, 2005.

The street sign, “James McNaughton Way,” will overlook the stairs leading to the Canal Street station.

“When these [cops] walk into their command and see his name up there, that’s nice,” said Bill McNaughton, James’s father, following the vote. “It’s a happy ending now.”

That ending comes nine months after Community Board 1 opposed the street co-naming in a contentious 21-to-12 vote, with three abstentions. It had passed unanimously in the Transportation Committee. Opponents argued that McNaughton was already honored with a plaque in Transit District 2 headquarters among other memorials, and the co-naming could open the door to a slew of future requests. Some suggested a plaque or tree planting would be more appropriate.

Following the board’s vote, Councilwoman Margaret Chin’s chief of staff, Paul Leonard, said he hoped the board could be persuaded to change its mind. 

“We’ll be urging the community board to reconsider the resolution if possible,” he said then.

Although that reconsideration never happened, Chin forged ahead with the co-naming. “Our New York City Council must do its part to ensure that Jimmy’s legacy is never forgotten,” she said, speaking from the Council chamber floor. 

Chin said in a telephone interview that she had “reached out” to the board’s leadership about her intention for the Council to vote on the co-naming in July and expected the board, as she put it, “to review their process.” 

“I wanted them to work it out and move forward and I told them, look, this is the deadline. I don’t want to have to wait another year. (The Council considers street co-namings only in December and July.)

“We want the community board to have their say,” Chin added. “I respect that process but what happened at the meeting [last October] I think was very unfortunate. There was a lot of support for doing this. It passed the Transportation Committee and usually if it passes the Transportation Committee it’s pretty good.”

In testimony before the Councils Committee on Parks and Recreation earlier on Tuesday, CB1 member Alice Blank expressed her dismay at the impending approval. “We all appreciate the vitally important role of the police in our community, and of the fallen officer, Sgt. James McNaughton,” she told the committee, before it voted to approve the co-naming along with 86 others. “But when a community board votes against co-naming a street, it must have important reasons for doing so, and its members do not expect that their views will be disregarded without sharing any reasoning, and without confronting the community’s reasoning.

CB1 Chair Anthony Notaro, who supported the co-naming, defended Chin’s decision to move forward without the board’s support. 

Our resolution is advisory and the Councilmember, like a city agency, can decide on her own how she stands on it,” he said, noting that the co-naming had strong support from the NYPD and others. “There are many constituents I’m sure that she had to listen to at least weigh their input, and make her own decision.”

James McNaughton’s mother, Michelle, had left the community board meeting last year in tears. Now, standing outside the Council chambers, she was all smiles. Around her stood the Transit 2 police officers who had lobbied for the honor.

“I’m glad these guys don’t have to waste any more of their energy to help remember our son,” she said. “We’re just elated. It’s like a relief.”