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'This Is Our Neighborhood,' Say Chelsea Residents Shaken By Alleged Gay Hate Crime

By DNAinfo Staff on October 5, 2010 7:36pm  | Updated on October 6, 2010 7:14am

By Tara Kyle

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

CHELSEA — Since a suspect in an alleged gay hate crime yelled "Go home f----ts! This is our neighborhood!" before attacking several men on Ninth Avenue Friday night, people in Chelsea have been taking back their streets.

Bartenders, barbers, moms and dads raising children were just some of the people who spoke out against the recent rise in homophobia that has allegedly included the Ninth Avenue incident, along with an attack at the Stonewall Inn in the neighboring Village.

All of them agree that Chelsea is not a neighborhood that should be feared.

"Chelsea belongs to everyone," said Eli Yusu, 26, a barber at Chelsea Gardens Barber Shop. "It belongs to the gay community. It belongs to the straight community. There's actually some people here that are raising a family."

Gay-friendly Chelsea was hit with a hate crime last weekend.
Gay-friendly Chelsea was hit with a hate crime last weekend.
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DNAinfo/Tara Kyle

Bartenders from the northern part of the neighborhood down to the Stonewall Inn have been communicating with each other and keeping a watch out for trouble ever since the weekend's attacks, said Michael Torres, a bartender at Rawhide on Eighth Avenue.

"Whoever wants to come to Chelsea comes," said Torres, 36. "And whoever can afford the rent."

Some residents and workers say they've worried about a recent uptick in crime.

Rainbows and Triangles store owner Fernan Royo complained about trouble at his store, including spitting on the windows and a recent robbery.

At the Metropolitan Community Church, an LGBT-friendly faith center at the edge of Hell's Kitchen, Reverend Pat Bumgardner said she had endured harassment on the street.

"It's a stupid thing to say, 'our neighborhood.' Who is our?" Bumgardner said. "It's all our neighborhood, it's all our city."