(CNN)Nirmal Singh had only been visiting in New York City for two weeks when he was allegedly punched in the nose while walking, according to police.
The 70-year-old Sikh man is visiting from Punjab, India, and is staying at the Sikh Cultural Society, a well-known religious and cultural center in the South Richmond Hill section of Queens.
Singh was attacked while returning to the gurdwara, the Sikh temple, when he was punched in the face, he told CNN through his translator Monday.
The incident, which police said was an unprovoked attack, is being investigated by the New York Police Department's Hate Crimes Task Force.
"It was horrific and heartbreaking to see an elderly man in such bad shape," Gurinder Singh, a Richmond Hill resident who saw the victim sitting outside the cultural center minutes after the attack, told CNN. "People come to America to get a better life, but then something like this happens."
New York has recently reported a spike in hate crimes, largely driven by the surge in violence against Asian Americans. In 2021, the New York Police Department recorded 524 hate crime incidents, nearly double the 2020 count, according to an NYPD report, and the highest number reported in five years, according to police archives.
Police have not identified a suspect or a possible motive at this time.
Nirmal was transported by ambulance to an area hospital on Sunday, where doctors told him he had a broken nose, he said.
Community leaders suggest this was act of racism
"This is happening too often in New York, where random people walk up to other people who don't look like them and punch them," said Harpreet Singh Toor, chairman of public policy and external affairs for the Sikh Cultural Society. "It's something our community goes through, but right now there's a sharp uptick."
The FBI's annual hate crime statistics report found attacks motivated by bias against Asians increased 73% from 2019 to 2020, the most recent year for which data is provided.
"We've seen our people get brutalized time and again for what they look like," Aminta Kilawan-Narine, a community activist in South Queens, told CNN.
"Asian Americans, including South Asians, have been the subject of violence on our City's streets and we will not tolerate this. What happened to Nirmal Singh should never have happened."