Queens Chronicle: Pols say no room in Queens for hate crime

Thomas K. Duane

October 15, 2009

By Liz Rhoades

October 15, 2009

Outraged public officials — many of them openly gay — denounced Monday the vicious attack last week on a gay College Point man.

   City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), who is gay, led a contingent of speakers at a press conference outside New York Hospital Queens in Flushing where Jack Price, 49, is slowly recovering from the brutal beating carried out by two men early Friday. Price, who was able to identify his attackers before being put in an induced coma, is now listed in fair condition.

   According to police, the openly gay man went to a 24-hour deli on College Point Boulevard and 18th Avenue around 3 a.m. to buy cigarettes. He told police two Hispanic men made reference to his homosexuality, calling him “faggot” and other names.

   Police said Daniel Aleman, 26, and an accomplice, Daniel Rodriguez, both of College Point, beat Price after he left the store. Price was able to crawl home 10 blocks away and call police.

   Aleman, 26, was arrested Sunday and charged with assault, aggravated assault as a hate crime and aggravated harassment. He was held on $40,000 bond and faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

   Rodriguez, 21, of 115th Street, remained on the loose when Quinn spoke, advising he should surrender or expect the full force of the NYPD to find him. Police tracked the suspect to Norfolk, Va., where he has relatives, and picked him up on Tuesday.

   Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said hate crimes will never be tolerated here. “When they do, regrettably, occur, they will be condemned in the strongest possible terms and those responsible will be brought to justice to answer for their actions,” Brown added.

   A video of the attack was released Tuesday showing two men beating up Price. The surveillance camera was one of many erected in College Point to crack down on graffiti vandals.

   Although NYHQ officials would not provide details on Price’s condition, the NYPD says he suffered collapsed lungs, all his ribs broken and he underwent surgery on his spleen and had a metal plate placed in his jaw.

   His sister-in-law, Joanne Guarneri, told the media that Price, who stands 5 feet 6 inches and weighs 130 pounds, would never hurt anyone. The family has been holding a vigil at his bedside since the incident.

   Quinn said the Price family has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the community and wanted to thank everyone. She called the two attackers “ignorant and hateful individuals who are in the minority. They do not represent Queens,” Quinn said.

   Most of the speakers stressed that the crime was an anomaly for the borough known for its diversity.

   Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) called the crime “absolutely atrocious.” Aside from the police searching for the second perpetrator, Liu believes the community will help look for him.

   “It’s hate against all of us,” he said. “The emotional scars for the victim will never go away.”

   State Sen. Tom Duane, who represents part of Manhattan, is gay and has worked on gay rights legislation for the 11 years he’s been in office. Duane said he was saddened and angered by the attack.

   “Hate crimes instill fear and we are using everything in our power to fight back,” he added.

   Democratic Queens candidates for City Council seats also spoke: two of them —Danny Dromm and Jimmy Van Bramer —are openly gay. The others were Yen Chou, running for Liu’s seat, and Kevin Kim, running for the 19th District seat being vacated by Tony Avella, which includes College Point.

   Kim indicated he was embarrassed by the hate crime. “In District 19 we accept people for who they are,” he said. “This crime cannot be tolerated.

   Chou said that everyone deserves their civil rights and that those rights always have to be protected.

    Dromm, who is running for the District 25 seat in Jackson Heights, said he was sad and angry to be at the press conference. “Enough is enough. Young people need to be educated that this is wrong and we must end bullying, where it starts,” Dromm said.
   He pointed out that this is the fourth time in 19 years that a gay man in Queens “lies near death, or actually died, because he was beaten for being gay.”

   Van Bramer, running for the District 26 seat in the Woodside-Sunnyside area, said such crimes are meant to frighten everyone, but that it does just the opposite. “We will continue to fight for justice and peace,” Van Bramer said. “We still have a way to go to continue to create this beautiful oasis that is Queens.”

   Kim Fountain, deputy director of the New York Anti-Violence Project, also participated in the press conference and said the violent trend against gays that started in 2008 must end now.