Transit Cops Seek Street Co-Naming in Tribeca for Comrade Killed in Iraq

Transit Police Officer Brian Kenny stands beside the sealed locker of his fellow officer, James McNaughton, who was killed in Iraq while serving in the Army Reserves. Kenny and his partner, Officer Paul Caracci, asked Community Board 1 to approve the street co-naming of Lispenard Street in McNaughton's honor. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Posted
Oct. 07, 2018

It has been 13 years since a sniper’s bullet ended the young life of Staff Sgt. Jimmy McNaughton as he stood watch in a guard tower outside of Baghdad. But in the subterranean headquarters of the NYPD’s Transit District 2, the command where he had also served, Police Officer Jimmy McNaughton lives on.

On a wall of the TD2 quarters, housed in the A,C,E Canal Street station, he is memorialized with a bronze plaque, and a painted portrait with Army rifle in hand and NYPD cap on his head. McNaughton’s locker holds some of his personal effects and is permanently sealed in his honor. A picture of him hangs on the door.

Now the former transit officer, the first NYPD cop to be killed in Iraq, is due to be publicly honored in Tribeca. Pending expected approval by the City Council, Lispenard Street will be co-named James McNaughton Way.

The new street sign bearing his name will be placed at the corner of Lispenard and West Broadway, near the subway entrance that leads to the Transit District 2 station.

“He stepped up for all of us. He’s a really solid human being,” said Police Officer Brian Kenny, a 25-year NYPD veteran who with his partner, Officer Paul Caracci, is helping to advance the co-naming honor with the city. “We miss him greatly there.”

“It’s emotional for both of us,” Kenny added. “We were friends with him.”

Kenny and Caracci came before Community Board 1’s Transportation Committee this month to seek advisory approval of the co-naming for McNaughton, who was 27 when he died. It was an easy sell. The committee not only gave its consent, but capped it with applause.

Kenny recalled the events leading up to the death of McNaughton, who was one of three military police, all cops back home, who were training Iraqi police officers at Camp Victory. With snipers in the area, Kenny said, McNaughton volunteered for the dangerous guard duty, reasoning that he was single while the other two men had families.

In the Army, McNaughton had first served a tour stateside before joining the NYPD in July 2001 and patrolling the subways of an on-edge, post-9/11 city at night. With the Iraq War raging, the Reservist was redeployed.

“He was a war hero, he was a police officer in TD2, and he made a tremendous sacrifice,” said Capt. Antonio Fidacaro, Transit District 2’s new commanding officer. “The first day I was here I called his father just to tell him that 13 years later, we don’t forget.”

McNaughton’s parents, William and Michelle, both retired transit officers, said in phone interviews that they hope the sign will spark curiosity in those who see their son’s name, and Google him to learn about who he was.

“Hopefully when someone looks up at that street sign, they’ll go, ‘McNaughton, who is that guy?’” William said. “Maybe they’ll look him up and see what kind of man he was and what he’s done for the city and for the country.”

That,” he added, “is the only thing I’ll ever want.”

Comments

A Street Tree and Plaque Is a More Appropriate Memorial

TO THE EDITOR:
It is with great interest – and some concern – that I read in the Tribeca Trib about the idea to memorialize Staff Sgt. Jimmy McNaughton - who was tragically killed in Iraq 13 years ago - with a street co-naming on Lispenard Street.

We are happy to learn that Sgt. McNaughton is already memorialized with a bronze plaque in the subway station at Canal and Lispenard Streets. It is natural that his colleagues might wish to create an additional memorial.  

However, Lispenard is a historic street, with a significant history that our organization has fought hard over many years to protect and promote. Lispenard was a 17th century French Huguenot family who owned a large farm in the area. Co-naming the street might be at cross-purposes with focusing visitors on the rich and too often neglected history of our landmarked district.

Street renaming in general can be controversial, such as proved to be the case in a 2006 effort to co-name Lispenard Street as “David Ruggles Way.”  Ruggles was an African-American journalist and conductor of the Underground Railroad. In that case, the community supported the idea of memorializing Ruggles with a bronze plaque at the house where he worked (36 Lispenard) instead of co-naming the street. 

Might those who brought this project forward consider a time-honored, alternative way to memorialize Sgt. McNaughton?  Take a look at the sidewalks immediately around the subway entrance at West Broadway and Varick Streets and along the “Greenstreet” above the transit station. They are full of empty tree pits. There are also several dead trees there. None of the tree pits are protected by any tree guards, as they should be.  A time honored and effective way to honor those we love would be to obtain a new tree in one of these spots, install a new tree guard, and attach a bronze plaque with information about the person memorialized. Tree guards with a bronze plaque are not too costly, and new street trees are free. The transit officers who work in the area could then tend to the new tree (or trees) as a way to honor Sgt. McNaughton. 

We are in the process of doing that very thing in Tribeca to memorialize Mr. Oliver Allen, a much beloved neighborhood resident and historian of Tribeca who lived here for many years. Mr. Allen fought hard for 30 years to protect our historic districts. He was particularly eager to educate the public about our historic street names, such as Lispenard Street. To honor him, Tribeca Trust is buying tree guards, a new tree, and a plaque for Mr. Allen at West Broadway and Reade Streets, the spot where Mr. Allen used to take his daily walks in his old age (contributions still welcome at www.tribecatrust.org).

Memorializing those we privately miss does not have to come at the expense of our collective history. New street trees - living memorials -  are a great way to do it. We would be happy to advise anyone on how to obtain a tree, a tree guard, and a plaque.  Moreover, we are happy to show anyone where new or replacement trees are needed throughout the neighborhood. 

LYNN ELLSWORTH, for Tribeca Trust