A string of attacks on a Hell’s Kitchen gay bar is raising alarm in the LGBTQ community, along with questions about the NYPD’s investigation, following a mass shooting that killed five people at a gay club in Colorado.
David DeParolesa, the owner of VERS on 9th Avenue, said an unknown individual has thrown a brick at the windows of his establishment three times in the last week. In the most recent incident, just before 10 p.m. on Saturday night, surveillance footage showed a man approaching the store and heaving a heavy object at the window.
DeParolesa said he had gone to the NYPD each time. But detectives were “dismissive” of his suggestion that the attack could be bias related, going so far as discouraging him from reporting it to the Hate Crimes Task Force, he told Gothamist on Sunday.
“I said, ‘We could be targeted because we’re a gay bar,’” the owner recalled. “One of the officers said, ‘Well you can’t know that.’”
Police also didn’t ask for a copy of the surveillance footage, DeParolesa said, and instead suggested he should call the precinct after the weekend.
“They weren’t seemingly interested in investigating it at the moment. They were really nonchalant.”
The NYPD confirmed they were investigating reports of criminal mischief at the location, but did not respond to questions about the potential hate crime designation. The previous two incidents, which were not captured on video, happened on Tuesday evening and last Sunday.
City Councilmember Erik Bottcher, who represents the neighborhood and is gay, said the police department should explain the apparent breakdown in their reporting process.
“They should’ve been connected to the NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force after the first brick,” he told Gothamist. “That clearly didn’t happen here and we need to find out why that is and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
After flagging down police officers on Saturday night, DeParolesa said he continued working, then went to bed. He awoke on Sunday to learn that a 22-year-old with a long rifle had opened fire on an LGBTQ night club in Colorado Springs, killing 5 people and injuring 25 others.
In the wake of the attack, local officials, including Gov. Kathy Hochul, promised an increased police presence with a focus on protecting the LGBTQ community. She said state police and the NYPD were working to identify “hateful threats that may impact New Yorkers.”
But DeParolesa said the incident, if anything, proved the community couldn’t rely on outside help.
“It’s typical that we, as gay people who have spaces we’ve created, have to protect ourselves,” he said. “I’m not defeatist. In fact, I’m more emboldened than ever.”