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New York community leaders respond to apparent anti-gay attack

By Rande Iaboni, CNN
updated 1:18 PM EDT, Thu August 15, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A state senator and the City Council speaker spread the word about an anti-gay attack
  • Police say the attack Wednesday against two men was a hate crime
  • "First they punched me so hard, I feel brass knuckles," one says

New York (CNN) -- Police are searching for the men involved in an apparent anti-gay assault that had New York community leaders coming together Thursday to raise awareness.

New York State Sen. Brad Hoylman and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn handed out flyers Thursday morning to spread the word about what police are calling a hate crime attack on two men Wednesday.

The two officials asked the community to stay vigilant and help catch the men, according to a statement released by Hoylman.

The victims were assaulted by two men in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan early Wednesday morning. The attackers used derogatory words about the victims' sexual orientations, New York Police Detective Marc Nell said.

The victims suffered facial injuries, Nell said, and were treated at Beth Israel Hospital.

"It makes me sick to my stomach," Michael Felenchak, one of the victims, told CNN affiliate WABC. "It scares me. It upsets me. It's really awful."

Felenchak, 27, had to have multiple stitches on his chin and suffered scrapes across his stomach from the attack.

"First they punched me so hard, I feel brass knuckles," the other victim, Peter Nortman, 53, told WABC. "Then I fell on the floor, and I jumped back up and I got hit again. And then I tried to pull them down."

Quinn held a news conference Wednesday evening after hearing about the attack. Both victims were on hand.

"I am appalled by reports that two men were senselessly beaten in Chelsea simply because they were perceived to be gay," Quinn said. She said the pair were holding hands at the time of the attack.

She called the attackers cowardly and said they do not represent New Yorkers. She urged the community not to be intimidated by such violence.

There have been nine hate crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people in Manhattan since May 5, according to Hoylman's statement.

Hoylman, Quinn and police urge anyone with information about the assaults to come forward. No suspects have been identified as investigation continues.

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