CROWN HEIGHTS — Residents and elected officials gathered Thursday at a Crown Heights church for a vigil in honor of Carey Gabay — a lawyer who works for Gov. Andrew Cuomo and is in critical condition after being shot in the head on Labor Day.
"It's a sad commentary on our community, what's happening," said New York State Sen. Jesse Hamilton during the vigil held at Full Gospel Assembly, on 131 Sullivan Place.
"Why would someone want to inflict such damage on another human being?"
Gabay, 43, was shot at about 3:40 a.m. on Bedford Avenue near Montgomery Street, during J'Ouvert festival celebrations before the West Indian Day Parade. He may have been hit by a stray bullet from a gang shootout in the vicinity, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said on Tuesday.
The 43-year-old attorney remains hospitalized in a coma, according to a statement released by the Gabay family Tuesday.
"We pray tonight for Mr. Gabay and his family, and we pray to God for healing. We pray that we as a borough will work together to find ways to alleviate this senseless violence that is hurting so many people," said Rev. Glenmore Bembry of Trinity Baptist Church in the neighborhood.
While calling for support for Gabay, many elected officials at the vigil Thursday night asked for support for a community racked by violence throughout the year, not just on Labor Day weekend.
"The same level of violence that we saw happen that weekend is the same level of violence that happens, unfortunately, in the summer months all throughout," said Councilmember Laurie Cumbo who represents the area. "It's really about resources, about programming. How do we get the resources in our community to effectively make an impact?"
During the vigil, New York State Assemblywoman Diana C. Richardson called for more funding for youth programs that help stem violence in the Crown Heights community.
"In our district there is no Boys & Girls Club, there is no YMCA," Richardson said. "There is no place for youth to come together, for us to celebrate accomplishments together, for us to get to know one another. Because that sense of community is missing, we continuously have youth who are idle."
"It broke me down," said Crown Heights resident Theod Elien, 22, about the shooting of Gabay. "It could have been me or my brother, or my friend. That's why I'm here today. Usually you wait until it hits home, but why wait?"
"No matter what we are going through in life, we have a choice," Elien continued. "Picking that gun up, that's a choice. We have to break the cycle. I know it sounds cheesy, but I believe we have to be the change we want to see."