Several things strike us about the City Council’s decision to rename a street in Jamaica. The first is that the vote by the Council to honor Sean Bell appears to have brought some measure of comfort to his fiancée, Nicole Paultre-Bell.
The two were planning to be married on the day he was killed in a hail of bullets fired by police officers as he left a seedy strip club in South Jamaica. The police said the shooting on the street was an accident. Members of the community have welcomed the street renaming.
Councilman Leroy Comrie, a Democrat who represents the neighborhood where the shooting took place, said the renaming is “a commemoration of a tragic event that got international attention and created a lot of reforms.”
The shooting has reportedly prompted the NYPD to take a second look at its undercover procedures and require breath tests for officers who fire their weapons in the line of duty. If the incident and street renaming will reduce the chances that another unarmed victim will be shot and killed by the police, the renaming is justified.
Opponents of “Sean Bell Way” say Bell was no hero, that he accomplished nothing and had done nothing for the community. True, but Paultre-Bell has demonstrated remarkable courage. She has endured this tragedy with dignity and strength. The renaming is more for her than anyone else.
Nevertheless, we are concerned about the process for renaming streets. The Bell proposal was wrapped up in a bill that contained 70 street renamings. The bill passed 41-5. There was no way to debate whether each renaming was appropriate. With 70 street renamings in a single bill, there is no way to have a legitimate discussion about any proposals.
It must also be noted that however strained relations are with the NYPD, the real danger plaguing southeast Queens is the proliferation of gangs, illegal guns and drugs. All too often we have reported stories of innocent people injured or killed by reckless thugs shooting guns on city streets.
The renaming is now a done deal. We hope it can become a catalyst to strengthen the relationship between the community and the officers who risk their lives to protect that community.