LGBT community on edge after another Jackson Heights attack

By Bill Parry

A dozen gay rights activists joined City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) and members of Make the Road New York Tuesday at the spot where a man was robbed and attacked last week by three suspects hurling gay slurs at him.

The 31-year-old victim was leaving a restaurant at 81st Street and Roosevelt Avenue when he was set upon at 2 p.m., police said. He was kicked in the face, head and back and was left unconscious. The NYPD is still investigating the attack.

“This man was just out for a meal,” Dromm said. “Nobody should be afraid to come out and enjoy what the neighborhood has to offer. No one should have to look over their shoulder because they are gay.”

It was the latest high profile attack against the Jackson Heights LGBT community after two brutal incidents in November. A 35-year-old transgender woman was savagely beaten in front of her home and one day later a 23-year-old gay man was beaten and sexually assaulted by three strangers.

There have been no arrests and both attacks are under investigation by the NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force.

“It is really sad that I have to stand here to fight against yet another hate crime 26 years after Julio Rivera was murdered,” Dromm said, referring to a young man who was beaten to death by a three-man “hunting party” in 1990. “So much has changed—same-sex marriage is now legal—and yet we still see hate crimes. Ours is a tolerant community but we are finding more and more attacks taking place.”

Bianey Garcia-D la O of Make the Road New York warned that many attacks go unreported to the NYPD because of the illegal immigrant status of victims. Yasmin Safdie of the New York City Anti Violence Project said her group provides confidential services and counseling to any victims of violence. She provided a hotline number for anyone in need at 212-714-1141.

The City Commission on Human Rights sent a representative who handed out literature on the fight against discrimination, including sexual orientation.

“Reports of discrimination and violence against LGBT New Yorkers are deeply troubling,” Commissioner Carmelyn Malalis said. “If you or anyone you know is the victim of discrimination, call the NYC Commission on Human Rights and report it.”

Meanwhile, a trio of elected officials are inviting residents of Jackson Heights, Corona, Elmhurst and East Elmhurst to take part in a town hall meeting on student safety March 3. The neighborhoods are still shaken after the arrest of a 29-year-old Corona man who was charged with trying to lure a 10-year-old girl Jan. 29. Jaminta Carela was charged with acting in a manner injurious to a child after he was caught on camera trying to get the girl to cross 81st Street in Jackson Heights.

When she refused, the suspect crossed the street, continued to follow her and reached out his hand to her, according to the NYPD. The girl ran screaming for help and a nearby school crossing guard confronted Carela at 37th Avenue, causing him to flee, police said.

“I am looking forward to coming together with parents, legislators, NYPD, and crossing guards to discuss how to keep students safe both to and from school and in their daily lives,” State Assemblyman Michael DenDekker (D-East Elmhurst) said. “As a parent, I understand how important it is for us to have this conversation and keep parents informed and up-to-date on safety measures. The best way for us to ensure the protection of our children is to work together, and forums such as this one allow us to do just that.”

Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) and state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) are co-sponsors of the town hall. While the focus will be on student safety, the meeting will also touch on the spate of slashings that have swept the city in recent months.

Earlier this month, a 19-year-old East Elmhurst woman was slashed while jogging near the intersection of 25th Avenue and 79th Street and in December, a man was slashed during an attack in front of the La Escuelita Nueva Bar Lounge on Roosevelt Avenue and 81st Street.

“Because of the spree of slashings we will also be focusing on how residents can better protect themselves,” Peralta said.

The Thursday, March 3, town hall meeting is at the Renaissance Charter School at 35-59 81st St. in Jackson Heights. The program gets underway at 6 p.m.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.