The number of attacks against gays is on the rise in New York City, with 68 reported anti-gay incidents this year, 41 of which are assaults and six of which are felonies. In one case, a 32-year-old gay man was murdered in Greenwich Village.
Last year, the New York Police Department investigated 54 hate crimes against gays. But so far this year, there have already been 68 anti-gay incidents, which means the city is on track to see double the number of attacks on gays by the end of 2013, the New York Daily News reports.
While some of these incidents involve anti-gay slurs, others are more serious, involving physical attacks and in one case, murder.
In May, 32-year-old Mark Carson, a gay man who was walking on W. Eighth Street near Sixth Avenue with his boyfriend, was shot in the face and killed at point-blank range. Before firing his .38-caliber revolver, the homophobic shooting suspect, 33-year-old Elliot Morales taunted the man, calling him a “queer” and a “faggot”. The suspect also asked Carson and his boyfriend if they wanted to die, according to law enforcement officials.
“I would argue it’s worse both in number and severity,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is running to be the city’s first openly gay mayor. “I mean, a man was shot in Greenwich Village because he was gay. I thought those days were long behind us.”
Eugene Lovendusky, a 28-year-old man who was walking near Times Square with his boyfriend and a friend on May 25, is also a victim of an anti-gay hate crime. A group of men called him a “faggot” and one of them proceeded to punch him in the face.
“I was empowered by the attack,” Lovendusky, the co-founder of the advocacy group Queer Rising, told the Daily News. “…Because of it, we got heightened NYPD attention. We had more public awareness. And it became part of the citywide conversation.”
That same month, an unidentified gay couple was beaten by a group of men near Penn Station, and another gay man was attacked in the West Village. In June, NYPD officers were caught on camera pepper-spraying a gay man while hurling homophobic slurs at his friends.
The most recent attack occurred on Aug. 14, when a group of men attacked a gay couple that was walking hand in hand in Chelsea. The victims were hospitalized for their injuries.
“It makes me sick to my stomach,” 27-year-old Michael Felenchak, one of the victims, told the Daily News. “It scares me.”
The New York City Anti-Violence Project reported a 13 percent increase in anti-gay hate crime reports from 2010 to 2011. The Federal Bureau of Investigation also noted a slight increase of nationwide anti-gay reports from 1996 to 2011, which shows that there are widespread anti-gay sentiments despite several states’ legalization of same-sex marriage.
“These attacks are hateful, ugly and un-New York,” Public Advocate and mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio told The Gothamist. “…New Yorkers have a right to live free from violence and fear. We must do more to affirm that right, by bringing more security cameras into the NYPD network so we can find perpetrators more quickly, and by joining police and communities in closer cooperation.”
Blasio’s suggestion is unlikely to sit well with those who are concerned that the NYPD has already turned Manhattan into a surveillance state, as well as those distraught by the NYPD’s own assault on a gay man this summer.
Quinn emphasized that hate crimes need to be put to an end – a statement no lawmakers have disputed – but she did not appear to offer any solutions of her own.
“[Gay] people still aren’t safe in this city or in this country,” she told the Daily News. “We are angry that this kind of violence is still happening, and we are motivated to come together to stop it.”