By Ivan Pereira
Plans to rename the street where Sean Bell was gunned down in a hail of 50 police bullets were one step closer to becoming a reality Thursday after a City Council committee gave the green light for the commemoration.
Despite vocal opposition from the detectives union over the bill, the Council’s Parks and Recreations committee voted 4-0 in favor of the legislation that would rename 94th Avenue from Liverpool Street to 101st Avenue “Sean Bell Street.” City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), who sponsored the bill, countered criticism of the bill, claiming the street renaming was intended to keep alive the memory of the 23-year-old father of two, who was killed on the morning of his wedding.
“It’s part of the healing process that the community wanted,” the councilman said.
Bell’s family was not present for the committee vote, according to Comrie. Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) abstained from the vote.
Michael Palladino, the president of the Detectives Endowment Association, blasted the Council for taking up the measure in the first place and sent a letter to Council members, pushing them to vote no.
“The proposal is disgraceful and if it passes through committee, then they are simply disrespecting the facts and embracing fantasy,” he said in a statement.
During the early morning hours of Nov. 25, 2006, Bell and two of his friends, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield, left the Kalua Cabaret, where the bridegroom was celebrating his bachelor party, and were approached by five undercover officers. The police were conducting an investigation at the now defunct strip club and mistakenly believed Bell and his friends were armed.
When the officers approached Bell’s car in their unmarked minivan, the bridegroom rammed the van with his vehicle, prompting the officers to open fire. Bell was killed, while his two friends were seriously injured and arrested.
Three of the officers were indicted on manslaughter charges but were eventually exonerated in Queens Supreme Court in 2008 after a long bench trial.
In April, Community Board 12 approved the measure for the street renaming with a 30-2 vote. Comrie said that a full Council vote was scheduled for Monday.
“This is not an indictment of the police or the DA. It is a commemoration of an incident…and we don’t want it to happen again,” the councilman said.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.