GREENWICH VILLAGE — The first place in the city where J.P. Masterson felt truly comfortable being himself was Greenwich Village.
That made it all the more crushing for Masterson to be attacked early last Sunday morning while holding hands with his longtime partner on a platform in the Village's West 4th Street subway station, in an assault police are investigating as an anti-gay hate crime.
"I don't regret holding hands with my partner, but obviously you have to be safe in that area," Masterson, who suffered a broken nose and eye socket, told DNAinfo New York Friday. "But I didn't know that."
Masterson had been out celebrating his 10th anniversary with his partner when a man approached the pair on the subway platform and asked if they were gay.
"I hate gays," the man said, according to police.
The man then punched Masterson three times in the face, knocking him to the ground, police said. Masterson will need surgery next week to fix his broken nose, and he said doctors are still determining whether they will need to put a metal plate in his cheek.
Masterson said he and his partner, who live in New Jersey, initially engaged with the man because they thought he needed directions. He was speaking Polish and Masterson's partner, who is Polish, thought he could help, Masterson said.
"You keep replaying it and you wish you did something different, but I had no time to think," Masterson said on Friday morning.
Masterson added that police told him the fact he and his partner were holding hands was probably what set off the attacker, who was still at large as of Friday.
Police also told Masterson that the Village had seen "a real uptick in these [anti-gay] bias attacks" in the area, including at the West 4th Street subway station. Mark Carson, 32, was shot and killed at Sixth Avenue and West Eighth Street last May by a man who used anti-gay slurs, police said.
Masterson, who grew up in Bayside, said he was frustrated that there were no surveillance cameras on the platform to capture the most recent attack.
"That's something Transit needs to address," Masterson said. "If you know it's a dangerous station, put cameras on the platforms."
The MTA said that for security reasons the agency does not give out information on which stations have surveillance cameras, but there are more than 4,500 cameras throughout the transit system.
City Councilman Corey Johnson and state Sen. Brad Hoylman, both openly gay lawmakers, handed out fliers with the assault suspect's sketch outside the West 4th Street station during Friday morning's rush hour.
Handing out flyers "is as much about catching the guy as about giving the victim some solace," Hoylman said. "I would want someone out here making sure people knew this happened to me."
Masterson said he "definitely" wants to return to the Village, but he isn't sure when he'll be ready.
"It's going to be a minute until I have the courage," he said.