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Community Comes
Together After Attack on Long Island Center

Community Comes
Together After Attack on Long Island Center

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Long Island residents shell out the support after a local LGBT youth center was vandalized over the weekend. Police are investigating it as a possible hate crime.

A youth center on Long Island was vandalized over the weekend, and local police are investigating it as a possible hate crime. Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth Center employees arrived to work on Monday to find that the Bayshore, N.Y., building's glass front door was smashed, and the center's van's tires were slashed, its windows shattered, and its rearview mirrors mangled.

"This is the first time in 16 years that this has happened directly to us," said executive director David Kilmnick. "We're not living in a bubble."

The crime occurred between the evening of January 31 and the morning of February 2, but no one was at the center when the attack took place. Nothing was stolen, including valuable assets like a large television, computers from the center's lab, and the vandalized van.

Kilmnick says that community response since the vandalism took place has been "overwhelming. It's brought several staff members to tears. Within the first couple of hours, people have donated close to $7,000 to help pay for the damages and help us get a surveillance camera system. It's something I never wanted to put in, but the realities are that in this day and time we have to do it to protect people."

Local company Lindy's Taxi has also pledged to repair the damage to the van and, in the meantime, shuttle youths who commute several miles to the center on a weekly basis.

Public figures including New York governor David Paterson and several of his staff members have reached out to the center to send their condolences. They are joined by state legislators, many of whom have also sent personal donations. Kilmnick says that the attack has even led to a breakthrough with Suffolk County executive Steve Levy, who "for the first time ever" issued a statement on the county's gay and lesbian population.

Levy said that attacks against "the gay community will not be tolerated in Suffolk County. Our police department will seek to apprehend any wrongdoer and help ensure that there is swift justice to deter any such activity in the future."

Kilmnick did say, however, that the organization had to lobby police for five hours on Monday in order for them to classify the case as a hate crime.

"It would have been different if they had wrote 'fag' on the building, but we were successful in our advocacy effort," he said.

The center was in a state of disarray on Monday morning, though the evening's weekly events -- like a leadership development program, a safe-schools team, and the center's advisory board meeting -- were scheduled as usual.

"We weren't able to pick up the kids in the van, so we sat around and we finally got to talk as a staff to debrief a little," said Kilmnick. "I asked the staff, 'Should we cancel the youth meeting tonight?' The decision was made real quick -- we decided no, because that means that these people have won."

As children and parents poured in on Monday night -- many with checks in hand to give back to the organization that has helped their children -- many of the parents expressed their gratitude in other ways. One parent, who proudly addressed her transgender son as her daughter, said that her child has benefited from attending the center.

"My daughter was always in a shell, would never talk, would never come out, but now she's speaking all over the place," the mother said to Kilmnick on Monday night. "She's now a leader in the school, and if it wasn't for this place, I don't even know if she would be here." (Michelle Garcia, Advocate.com)

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