A Jamaica site where a fatal shooting occurred more than three years ago will soon be renamed “Sean Bell Way,” after the City Council voted overwhelmingly – but not unanimously – to name the street after Bell.
On Monday, December 21, the City Council voted 41 to 7 with two members abstaining to rename a three-block stretch starting at 94th Avenue on Liverpool Street after Bell, who was shot and killed by police after they fired 50 shots outside the Kalua nightclub in Jamaica in November of 2006 – the night before his wedding. Bell was unarmed at the time, but police officers said they believed one of his friends had a gun on him, and when the car Bell was in came careening towards the undercover officers they opened fire. A Queens judge acquitted the police officers of murder charges in April 2008.
City Councilmember Leroy Comrie, who was one of the sponsors of the legislation, talked about the attention to and reforms in police/community relations that came about as a result of the incident. Comrie, who represents southeast Queens, said that Bell’s family was pleased with the decision, but it was not something they originally pushed for.
“It was something that the community wanted to see for them,” Comrie told The Courier. “They would prefer to have Sean Bell alive.”
Although the Council approved the legislation, which was grouped in with about 60 other street renamings throughout the city, not everyone was happy with the decision.
Queens City Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., who is the chair of the Council’s Public Safety Committee, said that Bell and the people in the car made a lifetime of mistakes, including many that night, and although working to make improvements after a tragic accident is one thing, renaming a street after someone is another thing.
“Anyone who believes that this does not send an anti-police message is wearing blinders,” Vallone told The Courier.
In addition to renaming the street for Bell, the City Council also voted to rename a Floral Park Street after Ghanwatti Boodram, who was killed after a gas explosion leveled her house in April 2008. Ghanwatti’s husband, Dindial Boodram, and his three sons all dressed in suits and wore buttons commemorating Ghanwatti, at the Council hearing on Monday.
“It was bittersweet for me, because at this holiday season it was like a Christmas gift for me,” said Dindial, who said it also reminded him that his wife was no longer here. “But it was great that in her honor they did something like that.”