By Lulu Yilun Chen
Hundreds of people gathered on College Point Boulevard in Queens on a Saturday afternoon to denounce the beating of a gay man whom police say was a victim of a bias crime.
Standing across the street from the protest was about a dozen people who said they were friends of the two men arrested. They protested behind barracks set up by the police and held up signs saying that the public should not rush to conclusions to accuse the suspects of bias.
At about 4:30 a.m. on October 8th two men attacked Jack Price, 49, of College Point, outside a local deli at College Point Boulevard and 18 Avenue in Queens after he stopped to buy a pack of cigarettes on his way home. The two men repeatedly beat and kicked Mr. Price, all of which was caught on videotape from a security camera, according to police.
After the assault, the suspects fled the location, leaving Mr. Price with a shattered jaw, broken ribs and a collapsed lung. Mr. Price managed to return to his home and call 911. He was rushed to Booth Memorial Hospital where he is currently being treated. He was able to identify the two suspects and make an account of the crime, according to police.
Police said that Daniel Aleman, 26, was arrested three days after the assault and charged with felony assaults as a hate crime. Daniel Rodriguez, 21, was apprehended in Virginia five days after the attack.
Supporters of the victim marched down College Point Boulevard from 20th Avenue to 14th Avenue, joined by many city officials, including Helen Marshall, the Queens borough president, Scott Stinger, Manhattan borough president, and Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker, who is openly gay.
Daniel Dromm, the Democratic candidate for City Council district 25, led the crowd chanting, “Now is the moment. Now is the time. We say no to hate crime,” “LGBT, we celebrate diversity,” and “Jack Price was under attack. What do we do? Fight back!”
It was a diverse crowd that ranged from moms carrying seven-month-old babies to men with dressed-in-pink Chihuahuas and grey-haired women holding rainbow flags with the printed words “equality.”
About 300 people stopped at the nearby Popenhusen playground to give speeches, according to organizers. Family members of Mr. Price and city officials, including William Thompson, the City comptroller and mayoral candidate, delivered speeches to the crowd.
“The answer when it comes to hate crime,” said Thompson, “The answer is no.
“We are sending out a message of what we will allow in this city and what we will not,” added Thompson. “We will not be silent in any act, in any community. We will come together, we will let those people know it is wrong and you will not get away with it.”
Joanne Guaneri, 42, the sister-in-law of Mr. Price, embraced her daughter, Amanda Guaneri, 15, listening quietly to the speeches as they stood close to the stair-converted-stage in front of the crowd.
Joanne Guaneri then walked to the microphone and spoke in husky voice, “They beat my brother-in-law until near death. For $10. And for a pack of cigarettes.
“Put aside the hate crime on this, they beat a man to near death and that is why I am out here,” said Ms. Guaneri.
The youngest speaker was Jack Price’s niece, 15-year-old Amanda Guaneri, a student at Bayside High School.
“I am proud of him (Mr. Price) to be my uncle. Whatever he is, he is my uncle. I love him and I will stick behind him,” said Amanda Guaneri, “I want to say to the people following Daniel Rodriguez: Why? Why? He did wrong. You shouldn’t be behind him.”
Those words were directed at a group of 14 people, who supported Mr. Rodriguez and rallied right across the street on College Point Boulevard, arguing that the public should not jump to conclusions and define the beatings of Mr. Price as a hate crime.
Marcel Gelmi, 26, who has known Rodriguez for 11 years, said he was not biased toward gay people.
“Why is this a hate crime? Because Jack Price says so? Those cameras pick up no sound,” said Mr. Gelmi, 26. “Danny had a lot of gay friends.”
Hate crimes are not common in Queens, according to Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker.
“The two hateful people who we believe committed this crime are not representative of Queens County or College Point,” said Ms. Quinn. “The two men who did this are a minority.”
The last time an assault related to the gay community happened in Queens was in 2001, when Edgar Garzon was attacked outside of a gay club in Jackson Heights, Queens, and died because of the injuries.
However, incidents motivated by bias based on sexual orientation were up 5.5 percent within the past two years since 2006, accounting for 16.6 percent of hate crimes conducted in the United States, according to F.B.I. reports.
President Obama signed a bill on Wednesday that finally declared it a federal hate crime to assault people based on sexual orientation, gender and gender identity.
In the past 10 years, the House and the Senate separately approved the hate crimes expansion numerous times. But congressional Republicans repeatedly blocked final passage.
The new policy will expand the definition of a 1968 hate crime law that applies to people attacked because of their race, religion or national origin.
“I think it’s one small part of a large picture which needs to be painted in order to have a world where everyone can be a full person without being physically, psychologically, or legally punished because of their gender or sexuality,” said Marisa Ragonese, head of Generation Q, a program for young gay and lesbians.
Mr. Price underwent surgery for a puncture in his lung last Tuesday and is now in stable condition, according to Ms. Guaneri.
by Candice Chan
In the last eight weeks, two people have been killed in traffic accidents within a 13-block stretch of Midtown, on 8th and 9th avenues: a 22 year-old Asian man and a 37-year-old Hispanic woman.
Neighbors say they aren’t surprised.
The accidents come only four months after a commemorative funeral procession was held for the six pedestrians hit by motorists on 9th Avenue since 2001. Community advocates, including the Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Association and the Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen Coalition for Pedestrian Safety, organized June’s event to call for more traffic cops. The victim from November 4, who was struck by a bus as he was crossing 9th Avenue, is the fourth this year involved in an accident near the Port Authority Bus Terminal, police said.
New York’s traffic fatalities were at an all-time low in 2007, with 136 out of 271 total deaths attributed to pedestrians struck by vehicles. But even with falling numbers of motorist driven casualties, in 2001 the city had almost 120 more. Pedestrian deaths still comprise more than half of the total vehicle-related fatal accidents per year.
“The area on the weekends is pretty chaotic,” said a law enforcement official from Midtown South’s precinct, who preferred not to be identified because he hasn’t been authorized by his superiors to speak to reporters. “If you walk around at night, especially, you just see how many people are here.”
Mark Swick, 41, an employee of Siena pizza, was working the night a 37-year-old Hispanic woman was hit at the corner of 40th Street and 8th Avenue in early September. He said he believes a darkened street lamp on the corner may have contributed to the accident, but acknowledges that the area is dangerous even when the lights are working.
“Even the EMS guys said there have been a bunch of accidents like this around here,” Swick said.
Some Hell’s Kitchen residents hope that in coming months the city will find a way to engage some of its 30,000 police officers to ramp up traffic law enforcement.
Anthony Lopez, 44, is an assistant manager of World Famous Generations Menswear shop near the corner of 40th Street and 8th Avenue. He can recall the accident involving Fabiola Grande-Coyotl, a 23-year-old pregnant woman who was struck and killed by a truck at 38th Street and 9th Avenue last November.
“There were a lot of flowers and pictures then,” said Lopez. “Everyone was really upset.”