As darkness fell on a cold January Sunday afternoon, a cluster of 70 people gathered on the corner of 53rd and Seventh Avenue, candles in hand, local television trucks parked at the surrounding curbs. Many in the January 26th gathering were from the arts, theater, and journalism fields, passions of the man they came together in a vigil for –– out gay arts journalist Randy Gener, originally from the Philippines, who was brutally beaten a block from the site on the early morning of January 17, while returning home to the neighborhood.
[Breaking news: Police have released a sketch and description of a suspect in the assault, include the make and license plate number of his car.]
Gener’s sister, Jessica Blair-Driessler, flew in from San Francisco to attend to him. She said a 911 caller reported finding her brother on the street after the attack. Gener suffered serious head trauma and was found in a pool of his own blood.
Blair-Driessler indicated her brother had been going through a very bad period already.
Victim remains in intensive care, while bias motive being investigated
“He’d been struggling for work,” she explained. “On top of that, his mother died last year. The guy just can’t get a break. That’s what I was thinking.”
She added, “I thought 2014 was going to his year, and now this happened.”
Blair-Driessler hopes the police will be able to find out more about the crime, either from witnesses or by reviewing cameras in the vicinity. In the meantime, she said, “I am amazed so many people came to this. The outpouring of love and friendship has been reassuring.”
Surgery to reduce pressure on Gener’s brain resulting from the trauma has been performed, with other surgeries likely. He remains in ICU at St. Luke’s Hospital in stable but serious condition, able to say a few words. Blair-Driessler said that at this point, the hospital does not know when Gener will be moved from ICU or when he will be released. “He will need a lot of care when he is out,” she said.
Speculation exists that the attack might have been a bias crime, as no robbery took place. Gener was found with his cellphone and other property. Blair-Driessler said that a member of the LGBT liaison team of the New York City Police Department Community Affairs Bureau met with her at the vigil.
Recently inaugurated Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer was at the vigil, expressing her concerns about the crime. “I am here to lend my support,” Brewer said, adding, “If it is a bias crime, it is up to police work to find out, and so I am here to make sure this is looked into at the highest levels.”
Observing the vigil, the borough president said, “This is the worst of New York, in terms of the crime that happened, and yet it is the best of New York, in how we come together. Randy’s family is extraordinary. The people that are his support system are all here.”
The vigil members walked from the corner of 53rd and Seventh Avenue, the site of Gener’s apartment, to Columbus Circle, where a few more words were said about the victim. R.J. Mendoza, the hate violence community organizer for the New York City Anti-Violence Project spoke to attendees about protecting themselves and reporting crimes.
The family has set up a charity link to raise funds for Randy Gener’s care at youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/for-randy-gener/130589.
Information about the crime can also be reported anonymously to the police department at 1-800-577-TIPS. The Anti-Violence Project’s bilingual hotline is 212-714-1141 and its website is avp.org.