Summers in New York City tend to come with a news trend. One summer it was a spike in "stray voltage" cases in which metal grates and fire hydrants were electrocuted, sometimes to fatal effect for unfortunate dogs and in a few cases humans. Another summer we were all in peril when cranes kept falling from their posts atop new skyscrapers. It was scary and fatal string of incidents but also easily and amusingly added by many to the list of the many, many prices paid for living in this thrilling and dangerous town.
Unfortunately it seems the story this year is turning out to be one without a positive spin: the rise in anti-gay attacks like the one that claimed Mark Carson's life mere blocks from The Stonewall Inn. And now comes word that two men were attacked in Brooklyn's Prospect Park last Wednesday by a group of five men shouting anti-gay slurs. Those five men were arrested. The suspect from another, unrelated attack however remains at large.
According to police, an unidentified victim was speaking to another man on the J train in Williamsburg last Saturday night when a stranger came up to them, spewed the stereotypical anti-gay slurs and punched him in the face. We all of course hope this is the end of a stunning spike in anti-gay crimes, but summer's only just begun and as the heat rises, so does violence. That's where The New York Initiative comes in.
An octet of New Yorkers who use code names, suit up in bullet proof vests, employ varied levels of martial arts and patrol the streets looking to stop crime and, in one case, search for a serial killer, the Initiative Collective tells DNAinfo they're going to increase their presence in the wake of Carson's death and the other attacks. "Violence on its own is wrong, and it's even worse when a specific group is being targeted," said Chris Pollack, a martial arts instructor who goes by the name of Dark Guardian and acts as the group's leader. "We care about everyone, from every walk of life, and we want to keep everybody safe. Our focus now is the Village." Greenwich Village, that is, where Carson died just blocks from the legendary Stonewall Inn.
In addition to patrols, Pollak and his team will be offering self-defense training in Tompkins Square Park this Saturday, at 4pm. City Council Speaker and mayoral candidate Christine Quinn also announced that the city is sponsoring a series of free self-defense classes, as well. One will be held at the LGBT Center on Sunday at 4pm and the other will be next Wednesday, June 12, at the Hudson Guild Elliot Center. The classes from both groups focus on being aware of your surroundings, rather than landing blows, but if put to good use maybe this summer can have a happy ending after all.