Elected officials throughout the city condemned an attack in Long Island City over the weekend on an interracial couple, which sent the neighborhood into shock.
Just before 2 a.m. Saturday Billie James-Vogel, who is black, and her husband Jacob, who is white, left Shi restaurant near the corner of Center Boulevard and 47th Avenue with a gay friend, when three men got out of a car and allegedly began yelling racial slurs at her, the couple told NBC news. After her husband protested, the men allegedly pushed him down and began pummeling him before throwing Billie James-Vogel to the ground when she tried to intervene, she said.
“I’m afraid to walk down the street. I’m afraid they are going to come back for us,” she said in an emotional television interview with the news channel.
Police later arrested 28-year-old Nikoloas Katsos and charged him with assault, officials said.
Authorities and the Hate Crimes Unit were still investigating the cause of the crime, but as of press time Wednesday the incident had not been ruled a bias-related attack.
Regardless, lawmakers from around the city lashed out at the couple’s alleged attackers.
“There is no place for hatred in our city and I condemn this attack and all others in the strongest possible terms,” City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said in a statement.
Councilwoman Gale Brewer (D-Manhattan) said in a statement, “We cannot and will not tolerate racist and anti-gay bigotry, hate and violence, and those responsible must be brought to justice. If you have knowledge of these crimes, go to the police.”
Van Bramer also responded to comments made by the James-Vogels that a doorman at Shi, which is owned by Shih Lee, would not let the couple back in when they requested help.
“I would also caution against any premature judgments made against Shih Lee who I know to be a smart and community-minded business owner who I believe is incredibly supportive of the LGBT community and equality for all,” he said.
Lee issued a statement on the restaurant’s website calling the accusations untrue.
“As a business serving Long Island City and beyond, we have a very diverse clientele and are very involved in the community. We strongly condemn discrimination in all forms and under no circumstances would we turn away anyone who needed help for whatever reason,” Lee said.
Residents of the upscale condo building where the attack took place were outraged at the possibility race played a role in the beating, questioning how anyone could harbor such hatred in a county as diverse as Queens.
Others expressed fear.
“I’m in an interracial marriage,” said Leah Mehta, who lives in the tower above Shi. “That’s frightening.”
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2013 Community News Group
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