The old World’s Fair grounds at Flushing Meadows Corona Park stands as one of the greatest homages to unity and universal imagination, so much so that our publication has incorporated the iconic Unisphere into our logo. Conceived under the theme of Peace Through Understanding, the globe was in the shadow of a brutal hate attack last month.

On Friday, March 24, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced that a 16-year-old male, from 104th Street in Corona, was charged with assault as a hate crime for the vicious ambush and robbery of Sam Levy, 48, on Sunday, February 19, just before 8:30 p.m. in the park where he enjoyed a nightly stroll amongst nature. The minor defendant is accused of yelling anti-Semitic slurs while he and five others left Levy emotionally scarred, void of his self-respect, and marked with black and blues, after they lunged at him from behind and knocked him to the ground. The gang initially targeted Levy for cash and his phone but amplified their merciless attack, including vulgar anti-Semitic verbiage, once his Jewish identity, presumably based on his driver license, was revealed. Levy feared the worst and prepared to die as he struggled to raise himself onto his feet.

“We respect the diversity of our Borough and affronts to that, especially violent ones, will not be tolerated. The defendant is being charged with not only the robbery, but for the assault as a hate crime for this cowardly alleged anti-Semitic attack,” stated District Attorney Katz. Her office had the alleged aggressor arraigned on a 17-count complaint, charging him with assault in the second degree as a hate crime; assault in the second degree; assault in the third degree as a hate crime; assault in the third degree; two counts of robbery in the second degree; three counts of grand larceny in the fourth degree; two counts of criminal possession of stolen property in the fourth and fifth degree; criminal mischief in the fourth degree; petit larceny; identity theft in the third degree; and unlawful possession of personal identification information in the third degree.

Levy had crossed the Grand Central overpass and continued along the Roundabout when he became aware of the assailants and watched as they sealed both pathways, forcing him into an unavoidable trap. After being kicked on the left side of his face – shattering his glasses and causing his left eye to swell – Levy was then hauled back to the concrete as his brutal assailants unleashed their nastiest blows, causing him to sustain bruised ribs. Conceding to their demands, Levy flung his wallet and roughly $200. As his attackers shouted verbally abusive anti-Semitic tropes, they helped themselves to his home and car keys from within his pants pockets.

Shortly after Levy was rushed to Elmhurst Hospital, security camera footage at a Burger King depicted the defendant, two other males, and a female, approximately three hours after the attack, at a kiosk using what appeared to be credit or bank cards that have been determined to belong to Levy.

Assistant District Attorney Michael Brovner, Bureau Chief of the District Attorney’s Hate Crimes Bureau, is prosecuting the case under the overall supervision of Executive Assistant District Attorney for the Supreme Court Trials Division Pishoy B. Yacoub. Judge DiBiase ordered the 16-year-old to return to court on March 29.

I spoke with Levy on March 28, shortly after a Grand Jury indictment proceeding, when he agreed to a detailed interview in the forthcoming days. His cousin, Oren Levy of Viral News NYC, shared appreciation for those who have stepped up to magnify scrutiny on this case: the ADL; Pesach Osina, Jewish liaison to New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams; and of course, DA Katz, who confidently pushed forward the hate crime allegations despite police initially shying away from the blatant anti-Jewish rhetoric.

“Arresting one attacker is great, but there is more work to do. We understand that the cops’ hands are tied, but they are still under obligation to keep their communities safe. More people are out on the streets with known profiles; we want the rest of the assailants caught, prosecuted under similar hate crime statutes, and held without bail,” explained the journalist. “Nobody should be scared to walk through Flushing Meadows Park and fear getting beaten.”

The latter Levy spoke of his own work reporting on hate crimes, noting that Jews are the number one ethnicity being attacked simply for their religious affiliation. Through his various platforms, Levy has been helping Jews like attack victim Joey Borgen get justice.

Criminal complaints and indictments are accusations. A defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

 By Shabsie Saphirstein