CB 12 OKs Sean Bell street renaming

Valerie and William Bell speak to Community Board 12 before it voted on renaming the street where their son was shot by police. Photo by Ivan Pereira
By Ivan Pereira

The family of Sean Bell said they scored a victory in his name last week, when Community Board 12 approved a motion to rename in his honor the Jamaica block where the 23−year−old bridegroom was killed by police.

The board voted 30−2 to rename 94th Avenue from Liverpool Street to 101st Avenue “Sean Bell Street” during its monthly meeting April 15. Dozens of Bell’s family, friends and supporters packed the Robert Ross Johnson Life Center to witness the vote for the measure and erupted in applause when the decision was rendered at the end of the meeting.

“It’s bittersweet,” Bell’s fiancÉe, Nicole Paultre−Bell, said after the vote. “At the end of the day, nothing is going to bring him back.”

Bell and two friends were shot at the corner outside the Kalua Cabaret in a hail of 50 police bullets on Nov. 25, 2006. The Rockaway resident was celebrating his bachelor party at the strip club when five undercover officers mistakenly thought he and his friends had a gun and opened fire, killing Bell and seriously wounding the others.

Three of the officers were acquitted last year in a bench trial in Queens Supreme Court.

Valerie Bell, the bridegroom’s mother, told the board before they voted that renaming the street where he was killed would not only honor her son’s memory but help people remember her family’s tragedy.

“It’s just something to give us a little sense of justice,” she said.

The Bells had support from several city leaders, including City Councilmen John Liu (D−Flushing) and Thomas White (D−South Ozone Park), who both made remarks to the board before the vote. Liu said the shooting was a dark time in the neighborhood, but it brought the community together for a common cause.

“The least we can do as a city is to mark the spot where it happened, so we don’t let this tragedy happen again,” he said.

But not everyone agreed with the motion to rename the street. Board Chairwoman Adoja Gzifa was one of two members who voted no on the motion despite an outcry from Bell supporters.

“I’m going to vote my conscience and that’s it,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be unanimous.”

The Bell family said they were not upset with the two no votes and accepted that position.

“Everybody has the right to say yes or no,” Valerie Bell said.

The measure must be approved by the borough president’s office, the Council Land Use Committee and finally the full Council before the street is officially renamed.

White said he would make sure his colleagues at City Hall would also support the family.

“I’m going to see it pass,” he said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e−mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 146.

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