The Lamine Sarr Way


When anyone walks by Beach 58th Street and Beach Channel Drive, they will be walking the Lamine Sarr Way. Some will wonder what the significance of the name is. But the many that knew him will know it’s the name of a young man who was a loyal friend, a kind neighbor, a respectful son, and a teen who went above and beyond for his community before the ocean claimed his life, last year, on September 15, 2018.

On Saturday, October 26, friends, family and members of the community gathered at an intersection near the Sarr family’s residence, for a street co-naming ceremony, organized by Councilman Donovan Richards, to honor the life of a young man that was taken too soon. On September 15, 2018, Sarr went swimming with friends on Beach 86th Street, however he never came home that day. After drowning, a rescue mission ensued. Sarr’s body was found three days later. The tragedy marked the end of a short, yet fulfilling life. At just 17 years old, the Channel View School for Research junior made a tremendous impact on everyone around him, especially through his volunteer efforts with the Ocean Bay Action Center, Rock Safe Streets, Catholic Charities and more. That impact was clear by the number of people that filled the corner on Saturday to remember Lamine Sarr.

Councilman Richards spoke briefly of why Sarr was someone deserving of the honor of having a city street named after him. “We often speak of young people who do the wrong thing in our community. You turn on the news and if there’s a shooting, it’s on the news, but this was a young man who gave it all for his community, who was part of Rock Safe Streets, who volunteered his time to make our community better and this is why a street naming like this is so symbolic of who he was and what he represented,” Richards said. “In all the street renamings I’ve done, this is the youngest person I’ve ever renamed a street for. That speaks to his character. It speaks to who he was. He was ahead of his time. Age is nothing but a number. But it’s not about how long you live. It’s about what you’ve done during your time on this earth to make a difference and that’s what Mr. Lamine Sarr did every day.”

Reflecting on the manner of Sarr’s death and coming off a summer in which seven people drowned in local waters, Richards also spoke of some of the efforts that are being done to reduce drownings in the future. “It’s important to continue to talk about that because we cannot let his death be in vain,” Richards said. Among some of the efforts include renovating the pools at local high schools so young people in the community can continue to learn to swim, and pushing for the creation of a public pool, possibly in Edgemere. He also reiterated the importance of not going in the water when lifeguards are on duty.

Sarr’s uncle, Almamy Razk Seray-Wurie Tun, led a prayer, spoke about the importance of service, something Sarr practiced daily, and reflected on Lamine’s family history. He explained that Sarr was born in Senegal, in an area called Foundiougne, which is surrounded by water. His family is from a tribe called Serer, which his uncle explained to mean “masters of the ocean.” Many of his ancestors grew up near the ocean, and many may have met the same demise due to the way of life in the area. “He was born there, even though he died in the water here. It is a loss to all, but this is something we are used to because in that part of the world, they live with the ocean, so it’s like he has gone back to his ancestors,” his uncle said, adding that Sarr came to America at about age five and always used his energy to do good in the community.

Sarr’s aunt, Mariam Jeng, showed appreciation to all of those who supported the family during such a difficult time. She thanked the Rockaway community, Lamine’s classmates and friends and Catholic Charities, which all contributed financially to help the family fly Sarr’s body back to Senegal, to hold a funeral for him there. “We really appreciate your efforts. Lamine belongs to all of us,” she said.

Lolita Miller, a neighbor of Sarr’s, spoke of Lamine as a boy who would stop to do whatever he was doing to help her carry her bags. “He always wanted the best for each and every one of his friends. I want you guys to do what Lamine would do. Share your gifts,” Miller told the crowd.

A longtime friend of Sarr’s, Khalil Pridgen, reiterated how Sarr always wanted the best for others. “He was loving, caring, he was extravagant, and most of all he just wanted to see other people succeed,” Pridgen said. “September 15 was a hard day for all of us. But this isn’t a day for moping around. This is a day of gratitude. It’s a day to say that we won. Rockaway won, because if it wasn’t for you guys and Donovan Richards, that street sign wouldn’t be up there. I am glad that sign is up there because that goes to show our love for him is infinite.”

Sarr was also a young man who spent a lot of time volunteering with Rock Safe Streets. “He visited our office even on the days he didn’t have to work and he stood up to teach tasks we put in front of him,” Rock Safe Street’s Nafeesa Toney said. “He volunteered with us on days when we were trying to kick him out of the office. He just continued to show up and be that voice for himself and his peers.”

 “Lamine was with us five days of the week and every time he came through that door, it was something special. I’m really happy to know his name is on this sign and every time I walk past here, a little piece of him is there,” Rock Safe Street’s Shanice Edmond added.

Kelvin Peters of Catholic Charities also spoke of the hard work Sarr put in during his time there. “It was an extreme honor knowing such a bright, loving individual and young man that we had for two years at our youth internship program,” Peters said, before reading a fitting definition for the name Lamine, which ended with, “Overall, the most loyal guy and the sunshine anyone didn’t know they needed on a cloudy day.”

Following all of the speeches, the family gathered around and joined with Councilman Richards to unveil the brand-new sign reading, “Lamine Sarr Way”—an honor forever commemorating the life of a young man gone too soon, but who had a lasting impact.