HARTFORD, CONN. >> Connecticut State Sen. Ted Kennedy Jr. is asking for state and federal help in changing the racially offensive name of an underwater rock formation and navigational buoy in Long Island Sound.
The area off the coast of Branford has been known for at least 100 years as "Negro Heads" and at one time was referred to with an even more racially derogatory label, according to a letter Kennedy, D-Branford, wrote to Margaret Thomas, the state geologist with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
Kennedy is seeking the help of Thomas, who is Connecticut's representative on the State Geographic Names Board.
That board can recommend a name change to the United States Board on Geographic Names, which is the same government body that recently renamed Mount McKinley to Denali.
"Needless to say, the name of this buoy — as well as the name of the rocks that it marks — is antiquated and offensive to me and other Branford citizens," Kennedy wrote.
Dennis Schain, a spokesman for the state DEEP, said Thomas and the department will do what they can to help.
"Sen. Kennedy has raised a good and valid point," he said. "We will pursue the process for a name change and work to have this area given a more suitable name."
Kennedy has not suggested a replacement name, but wants to get the process of changing it started, said Dan Doyle, a spokesman for the senator.
"The waters and undersea property of Long Island Sound are owned by Connecticut's citizens, and as Senate Chair of the General Assembly's Environment Committee, I want to ensure these public trust assets are managed with the highest degree of integrity," Kennedy wrote.
The buoy is a prominent fixture off Branford and many people have approached him about getting the name changed, Doyle said.