By Ivan Pereira
John Liu’s office spruced up ï»¿the new community center named after Sean Bell last Thursday and his grateful parents say the new look will go a long way toward helping southeast Queens youth.
More than 30 interns from the city comptroller’s office were on hand at the Sean Bell Community Service Center, at 107-52 Sutphin Blvd., to paint its exterior and backyard area. The center, which opened in May, is named after the 23-year-old Far Rockaway man who was shot along with two friends by police in a hail of 50 bullets nearly four years ago on his wedding day after undercover officers mistakenly believed he and his entourage were armed.
Although the officers were acquitted in a bench trial in 2008, Bell’s death spurred the southeast Queens community to promote non-violence and prompted several changes in the way police conduct their operations.
Bell’s parents, Valerie and William, who have been active at the center, said the painting done by Liu’s summer interns was personal for them because they wanted the outside to be blue.
“That was his favorite color,” William Bell said as he toured the center with Liu. “He liked everything blue.”
The center was created in response to community concerns that elementary school students and teens did not have a safe place for them to spend their time afterschool.
Currently it is offering a day camp program over the summer for elementary schoolchildren where they learn music. William Bell said the free program does more than teach the kids how to carry a tune.
“What we are doing here is teaching these kids a little discipline,” he said.
The day camp students showed off their skills with several performances for Liu. The comptroller clapped along as they sang “Lean on Me” and performed a musical drum number.
Although the day camp is ending soon, the Bells said the center would offer job placement help, computer training and GED courses soon.
The rear of the office will also serve the community with an outdoor multipurpose space that would be open during the warm weather months
Liu, who has been working with the Bell family during their various rallies since the shooting and was with them at the opening in May, said he was impressed with how far the center has come in a short period of time.
“When we got here, everything was bare, it was all white,” he said. “Two months after that, this community center has shown incredible success.”
Liu said his office’s commitment to community service should prompt other companies to work and give back to the community.
“We cannot stay in our office building,” he said.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.