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New Staten Island Ferry boat to be named for historic African American settlement

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The boat will be called Sandy Ground, the mayor announced Thursday

New York City’s second-graders aren’t the only people naming city boats these days. At a town hall meeting on Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that one of the three new Staten Island Ferry boats will be called Sandy Ground, named for one of the country’s first free, black-founded settlements. The community took root on the island’s south shore well before the Civil War and later became an important stop on the Underground Railroad.

"The idea was to honor the rich heritage of Staten Island, of this city but also this country," De Blasio explained, according to DNAInfo. "To help everyone know that Sandy Ground is the oldest continuously inhabited free, African-American settlement in the United States of America."

The name is the brainchild of Councilwoman Debi Rose, who started a petition to get the mayor to consider her proposal back in February. Now, 574 signatures later, it’s all happening. The proposal also has the thumbs-up from the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which granted landmark status to some of the remaining Sandy Ground structures in 2011.

“It is wonderful to celebrate Staten Island’s maritime past and honor the lives and work of the free African American oystermen and their families who built a community at Sandy Ground in the mid-1800s,” LPC chair Meenakshi Srinivasan said in a statement.

The 4,300-passenger Sandy Ground is second of the new Staten Island ferries to get a name. The first boat will be named for Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis, a native Staten Islander “who died while shielding a Polish fighter he didn’t know from a suicide bomber in Afghanistan.” Both are expected to set sail 2019.

The third boat doesn’t have a name yet—the competition is fierce—and is slated to take to the water sometime in early 2020.