Astoria’s Steinway Street, like the rest of the neighborhood, embodies tolerance: Greek restaurants coexist with Starbucks coffee shops; women wearing headscarves brush shoulders with females who don’t.
But last Monday, intolerance ruled there. Four neighborhood teens viciously attacked and repeatedly beat a transgender woman and a priest who had come to her defense.
Condemning the crime, local politicians and the victims themselves expressed hope that the teens, who face assault and possibly hate crime charges, will get what they deserve. But, much to their chagrin, the attackers were released without bail.
“When the crime is as serious as this was, I would hope the judge would have set a significant bail. I’m disappointed on that,” said Assemblymember Michael Gianaris, who represents the area.
“I wouldn’t want them to languish in prison; yet, there should be some recognition that what they did was wrong,” said Father Louis Braxton, who runs Carmen’s Place, the shelter for gay and transgender youth in front of which the attack took place. “It’s not okay to harass people you don’t understand,” he said.
The teens may not learn this lesson though, given that they were released without bail, Braxton explained.
The attacked transgender woman, Alessandra-Michelle Carver, 21, who lives at Carmen’s Place, said she looks forward to the defendants’ court appearance on August 13. “I want to go to court and I want to hear what they have to say - if they are remorseful about what they did or if they kind of missed the point,” Carver said.
Howard Turman, who represents one of the defendants, 16-year-old Trevaughn Payne from Astoria, had no comment on the on-going case.
Donald Schecter, the lawyer of the other defendants - Tyreek Childs and Shara Mozie, both 17 and from Long Island City, refused to comment because the case is pending.
Carver and Braxton attribute the aggression to popular misconceptions about transgender people. “Gender identity is separate from your sexuality,” he said, explaining that most transgender people are heterosexual.
These individuals also struggle with whether they’re male or female, Braxton added.
Over a year ago, other residents of Carmen’s Place were attacked twice and the offenders were not detained, said Braxton.