NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — For the second time in a just over a month a rainbow “Pride” flag was burned outside the same Harlem bar.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he will now assign a task force to investigate the hate crime.
On Monday, CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis spoke to the owner of the Alibi Lounge, who called the incidents “surreal.”
Watch Jenna DeAngelis’ report —
“After the success of Pride this year, someone decides that we’re going to burn the symbol of Pride,” Alexi Minko said.
A week after love filled New York City streets, with rainbow flags on display to celebrate Pride, a flag was left torched and tattered outside the popular Harlem gay bar — and it’s not the first time.
“Twice in five weeks. It is a hate crime,” Minko said.
On May 31, the eve of Pride Month, surveillance cameras captured a man lighting two rainbow flags on fire outside the same bar, but the suspect still hasn’t been caught. Minko said he froze when he found out a rainbow flag was set on fire again outside his bar, especially since he said the NYPD has had a steady presence in the neighborhood.
“It’s calculated because he managed to actually commit his crime when the NYPD wasn’t here,” Minko said.
Minko said after midnight someone saw one of two flags on fire and got the attention of a bartender, who put out the flames. A cigarette butt was found on the other flag and Minko said he believes it may have something to do with the fire. Police spent hours going in and out of the bar overnight, talking to the owner and taking pictures.
“You’re gonna get caught and this is gonna be such a stupid thing to lose five to 10 years of your life on a hate crime,” Harlem resident Eric Stewart said.
“I hope they continue to stay here and not get scared off because of one bad apple, because the rest of the community doesn’t feel this way,” resident Abadir Barre added.
At a time when NYPD statistics show hate crimes up 64 percent this year compared to last, his is a message to the community.
“We need to keep our heads high and make sure that we take all the appropriate measures to stay safe,” Minko said.
After the first incident, someone anonymously donated two flags, one which was during the early morning hours on Monday. The other was taken inside when the bar closed, but the owner said he doesn’t plan to stop displaying his patrons’ Pride.
Police have not linked the two crimes, but the Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating both incidents.