A bill to rename a waterway from one that includes an offensive term to a name that honors a fallen Inwood fire chief is awaiting the president’s signature.
The U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill Sept. 28 to rename the Negro Bar Channel that runs between Inwood and Kennedy Airport for Joseph Sanford Jr.
Sanford, 43, was a 17-year veteran of the volunteer department and father of three children. He died Dec. 23, 2014, five days after he fell through the floor of a Woodmere home while responding to an early morning fire.
“By renaming this waterway the future children of our community will always know the story of how chief Joe Sanford gave his life by saving the life and property of others,” his widow Jackie Sanford said in a statement.
The House passed the bill before their fall recess to match a companion Senate bill, which was also unanimously approved in August. The House bill introduced by Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens) and co-sponsored by 19 other representatives includes Rep. Pete King (R-Seaford), Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) and Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove).
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) first introduced the bill last year after it was discovered on a map by former Hempstead Supervisor Anthony Santino’s staff.
The White House gave no timeline when President Donald Trump may sign the bill into law to officially change the name on maps and documents to the Joseph Sanford Jr. Channel.
“The recognition and support he deserves is now just one signature away from becoming a reality and I urge the president to sign this bill and rename this channel so we can properly celebrate our profound gratitude for Joseph Sanford and his selfless sacrifice as a Long Island firefighter,” Schumer said in a statement.
The bill was passed to fast track a five-year waiting period to rename the channel after Sanford’s death.
Santino’s initial request to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names was rejected in 2016 because Sanford’s death was too recent. The federal advisory board, including members of the CIA, Government Publishing Office, Library of Congress and the Postal Service, rules on name changes, which are then passed through the U.S. Geological Survey to update the names on maps and nautical charts.
The offensive name has existed for 55 years and remains the official name of the channel on geographic maps. The waterway runs south of Kennedy Airport, which includes the channel toward the Inwood Marina and crosses the Town of Hempstead’s border with New York City to Jamaica Bay.
Congress had renamed the channel in 1963 after it was previously known by a name using a racial slur since 1891.
“Joe Sanford was a real hero. It’s just so fitting that we will be preserving his memory by naming this waterway, which is right near his home in Inwood, in his honor,” Santino said.