From being discovered by a legislative aide to former Town of Hempstead Supervisor Anthony Santino to possibly being signed into law by President Donald Trump, the proposed legislation to rename Negro Bar Channel, an Inwood waterway, in honor of deceased volunteer firefighter Joseph Sanford Jr. is this close to becoming law.
The House of Representatives unanimously passed the measure on Sept. 26. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans) sponsored the House bill. The U.S. Senate unanimously approved its bill on Aug. 1. That was sponsored by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). It now goes to the President’s desk.
“I want to thank Senator Schumer and all of the members of the House of Representatives who worked to win speedy approval of this measure,” Santino said in a Facebook post. “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, New York, in his honor.”
Sanford, an Inwood Fire Department firefighter, died of his injuries four days after falling through the collapsed first floor of a Woodmere home on Central Avenue on Dec. 19, 2014. He was the first person who responded to the fire call.
In 2016, it was learned that an Inwood waterway called Negro Bar Channel was at one time called an even more offensive name for African-Americans. The vile epithet was removed by a 1963 act of Congress. The town began a campaign to rename the channel for Sanford in perpetuity. A year earlier in 2015, the town dedicated his neighborhood street, Davis Avenue, in his honor.
“On behalf of our family we would like to thank former Hempstead Supervisor Anthony Santino, the entire Town of Hempstead board, the House and the Senate for honoring and forever remembering my husband who gave his life for our community,” said his widow, Jacqueline Sanford. “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.”
The legislation was needed because the U.S. Board of Geographic Names in Reston, Va., requires a five-year waiting period before renaming waterways after people who have died. The board, which is comprised of members from six federal departments and the Central Intelligence Agency, the Government Publishing Office, the Library of Congress, and the U.S. Postal Service, rules on hundreds of naming decisions each year. It maintains databases, which contain millions of domestic and foreign-name records. To change a name, the board reviews applications. After approval, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officially changes the name and publishes new nautical charts.
“The so-called Negro Bar Channel in my district needs to be renamed, and Joseph Sanford is a very appropriate person to honor in that regards,” Meeks said.