The Sean Elijah Bell Community Center has officially shut its doors.
The community center opened in 2011 and offered day care, after school programs and other services to the Jamaica community. It closed officially on November 22, just three days before the anniversary of Sean Bell’s death, stemming from financial troubles.
“It’s a disappointment that the staff or the money wasn’t behind it,” said Mike Scala, a center volunteer. “I’m not sure why the support isn’t there at the level it needs to be.”
Bell was killed in a hail of police bullets in 2006 the night before his wedding to fiancé, Nicole Paultre. He and two friends were celebrating at Jamaica’s Club Kalua, but after leaving and getting into their car, an altercation sparked gunfire. Fifty shots ultimately ended Bell’s life.
Five officers present that night were acquitted of all criminal charges following the incident.
However, three resigned and another was eventually fired.
In Bell’s memory, his family and the community worked to open the Sutphin Boulevard center. Scala said there were many threats of closures, but various fundraisers kept them afloat until recently.
“There’s not a lot of understanding of what the situation actually is,” he said. “It’s always disappointing, frustrating. But I’m still optimistic that we can get it back.”
The center offered services such as resume preparation and job skill training, homework help, GED prep courses and more. They also allowed outside groups to use the space when needed.
The staff planned to start another after school program in January, but now Scala said he doesn’t know if that will be seen through. But hope remains that the “invaluable” site will reopen.
“I just hope more people understand that this is a valuable resource that everyone needs to come together and support it,” Scala said. “There aren’t many places like this in Jamaica.”