The Manhattan District attorney classified two alleged cases of anti-gay violence in Greenwich Village from a week ago as hate crimes, and local politicians are demanding a quick response from police. Borough reporter Rebecca Spitz filed the following report.
Greenwich Village is a neighborhood that prides itself on its reputation as a welcoming home for gay men and women. Yet Julius, a well-known gay bar that has been in the neighborhood for decades, is now the scene of an alleged bias attack.
On Monday, October 11, police say Frederick Giunta walked into Julius, shouted racial and anti-gay epithets and slugged the bartender.
The victim was filling in for bartender Alex Michaels.
"It is deplorable. we are very distressed by the recent focus on the attacks on the community," said Michaels.
Ten minutes before the attack at Julius, investigators say the same suspect did a similar attack at Ty's Bar on Christopher Street. The victim's wallet was stolen and he was punched in the face.
"This is a level of violence we haven't seen against the LGBT community in maybe decades, a level of violence motivated by hate that rivals what happened this summer to the Mexican community on Staten Island and is quite simply unacceptable in New York City," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is openly gay.
Giunta was arrested on Friday and charged with felony assault as a hate crime and attempted robbery.
The Hate Crimes Unit for the Manhattan district attorney's office is prosecuting the case.
These attacks came just weeks after two men were charged with brutally beating a man while screaming anti-gay slurs in the bathroom of the Village's Stonewall Inn, which is accepted by many as the birthplace of the gay rights movement.
"People are feeling trapped in their homes. They are afraid to go out because they feel the streets are too dangerous for them. That has to stop," said Manhattan Senator Thomas Duane, who is openly gay.
Some people in Greenwich Village told NY1 that the recent attacks make them feel sad as well as scared.
"It makes me feel like I have no place to go. Like this is our home. I just feel empty," said one New Yorker.
"We have to come together and say this is unacceptable," said another.
Sharon Stapel, the executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, agrees.
"I think it's outrageous that people are being assaulted because of who they are or who they love in this city," said Stapel. "I think we're a city that values diversity, I think we're a city made up of diverse people, and to go into a neighborhood and attack someone simply because they're gay is unacceptable."
The Anti-Violence Project has a 24-hour hotline where the public can report cases of alleged anti-gay bias, at 1-212-714-1141.