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Lawmakers warn residents of E. Elmhurst groper

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City Council members Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) and Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) handed out fliers last Thursday at the 90th Street-Elmhurst Avenue No. 7 train stop warning residents about a man who groped three neighborhood women. Police warnings about the pervert were issued the same day a Corona man was arraigned on charges of sexually assaulting women on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

“It’s like, ‘Enough is enough,’” Ferreras said.

The Police Department sent out an alert Aug. 10 asking the public to help identify a man wanted in connection with two July sexual assaults in East Elmhurst. On July 21 at about 3:10 p.m., a man approached an 18-year-old woman from behind on 88th Street, grabbed her breast, pushed her to the ground, then fled, police said. The next day at about 8:25 a.m. on 32nd Avenue, a man approached a 21-year-old woman from behind, touched her breast, then ran away, police said.

Authorities described the man as a 25- to 30-year-old Hispanic, about 5-foot-5 with black hair and a thin build. He was wearing sunglasses and spoke Spanish, police said.

With assistance from Emily May, executive director of the anti-street harassment organization Hollaback!, Ferreras and Dromm distributed fliers last Thursday at the subway with the description and a police sketch of the suspect. Ferreras said they chose the stop because it was near where the 88th Street harassment occurred.

“Touching a woman in an inappropriate way is not acceptable,” Dromm said.

The announcement went out the same day Jose Alfredo Perez Hernandez, 18, of 34th Avenue near 103rd Street in Corona, ´╗┐was arraigned on charges of sexually abusing women on the Upper East Side between July 13 and Aug. 3, the Manhattan district attorney’s office said.

Hernandez allegedly followed two women from the subway to their apartment buildings, the criminal complaint said.

In the first instance, on July 13, he allegedly grabbed a woman’s buttocks beneath her skirt at her apartment building on East 85th Street, then pushed her to the ground, the complaint said. In the second, the woman, who lived on East 78th Street, saw Hernandez allegedly following her up the stairs July 17 and yelled at him, at which point he ran away, the complaint said.

Hernandez also allegedly rubbed his erect penis against a woman at the 68th Street-Hunter College stop Aug. 3, the complaint said. Hernandez was charged with two counts of sexual abuse, two counts of forcible touching and two counts of burglary, the complaint said.

Hernandez’s arrest and reports of the East Elmhurst groper came on the heels of a similar string of incidents in Astoria, first brought to light on the website whyleaveastoria.com. Miguel Hermenegildo, 33, was arrested in connection with the attacks, police said.

Authorities have also been on the lookout for two other sexual assault suspects in the area. A 35-year-old light-skinned Hispanic man standing about 5-foot-4 allegedly touched a 19-year-old woman in Astoria June 7 and fled on foot, police said. Another victim reported being followed from the subway, grabbed and thrown to the ground and then forcibly touched by a man July 14, police said. That suspect is described as a 20-year-old Hispanic male about 5-foot-3 and weighting 145 pounds with a small scar in the area on the right side of his lip, police said.

May said these incidents do not suggest a sudden rash of sexual assaults, but more women may be reporting the attacks due to attention to the previous incidents.

“When people come forward and share their stories, other people feel more comfortable sharing their stories,” May said.

Astoria residents are planning a rally against sexual violence at Athens Square Park Aug. 18 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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