Don Lee was standing near a window in the Homecrest Community Services center in Sheepshead Bay earlier this month when rocks suddenly came crashing through the glass.
“We were having a meeting with the staff and literally I was standing right there when the rocks came through — pow, pow,” Lee said. “Then when we went downstairs, we noticed the windows downstairs were also shattered.”
Lee, who chairs Homecrest’s board, said this was the first of two vandalism attacks on the community center – which also serves as a church – over the past month. The second incident took place last Friday when vandals again shattered the center’s windows with rocks and what appeared to be a bike lock.
In a separate incident, which Lee believes may be related, a man walked into the center on Tuesday, demanded a meal and started shouting racial slurs.
Lee said he thinks Homecrest was targeted because it primarily serves Asian seniors and immigrants. He sees the vandalism as part of a broader trend of attacks on Asian Americans across the city over the past year, a trend that’s confirmed by NYPD statistics. There were 131 reported hate crimes targeting Asian Americans in the city in 2021, compared with 28 the previous year — an increase of roughly 368 percent, according to police data.
“This is our 25th anniversary, so we are known in the neighborhood as an Asian-run church,” Lee said. “At this point as far as what we’re thinking about, it’s a hate crime. It’s a hate attack. I mean, what else? Why else would they do that?”
The NYPD’s public information office said both attacks are currently under investigation but did not confirm whether or not the incidents were being investigated as hate crimes.
In a statement, recently sworn-in Councilwoman Inna Vernikov said it’s important to be vigilant and supportive of the Asian American community amid the recent rise in anti-Asian hate crimes.
“This incident has been reported to the NYPD, and they have launched an investigation,” Vernikov said. “I have been in touch with the precinct and will remain engaged with them regarding the case. As a community, we stand united with all of the many diverse individuals that make up our district.”
Lee referenced the recent death of Michelle Go — who was fatally pushed in front of a train by an unhoused man with a history of mental illness in the Times Square subway station over the weekend — as yet another example of the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes. Police, however, have said there’s no indication Go’s death was related to her race.
After experiencing two attacks in the same month, Lee said, he doesn’t think the NYPD is doing enough to prevent future attacks on the community center. That’s part of why he called on the department and the city to make sure there’s a full investigation into both attacks on Homecrest.
“We have continuously alerted the NYPD of these attacks, but they continue to occur, and it is clear we need real action to put a stop to them,” Lee said. “The city must investigate these attacks and take real action to protect the seniors being put at risk because of them.”
For instance, Lee said, the 61st Precinct didn’t assign additional patrols around the center following the first incident. They’ve started sending more this week, Lee added, but only after he made several requests to the precinct.
“It’s like, is it only going to take someone dying for this to get attention,” Lee said. “And again is physical harm the only thing that matters? What about psychological and mental stress, anxiety, that’s brought on by all these things?”
“I mean, how many times do you have to scream for help before someone’s gonna do something?”