A Violent Death That Ended a Love Story – The New York Times


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GuiYing Ma was attacked while sweeping a sidewalk in Queens, during a time of rising crime against Asian Americans.
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Good morning. It’s Tuesday. We’ll look at a heartbreaking story about the violence that people of Asian descent continue to face in New York. Also, we’ll make sense of how alternate-side parking rules are changing, and we’ll get a glimpse of a dress that Judy Garland wore in “The Wizard of Oz.”
My colleague Corina Knoll writes that violence involving victims of Asian descent has continued as the city and the nation have returned to prepandemic routines that provide a sense of normalcy. Consider:
In January, Michelle Go, 40, was pushed to her death in front of a subway train in Times Square.
In February, Christina Yuna Lee, 35, was followed into her Chinatown apartment and fatally stabbed dozens of times. Two weeks later, a man struck seven women in Manhattan in the face, the police said.
By mid-March, the number of anti-Asian hate crimes recorded by the New York Police Department was double the total from the same period last year.
Most attacks lack the specific evidence needed to be prosecuted as hate crimes. That has not assured a larger community on alert. Racism can still be felt.
And the most vulnerable have not been spared.
Zhanxin Gao, 61, found his wife, GuiYing Ma, in a coma in a hospital in Queens on the day after Thanksgiving last year. Her head was bandaged. There was dried blood along her hairline.
She had been attacked while sweeping the sidewalks around a vacant building owned by her landlord. The police arrested Elisaul Perez, 33.
[A Daring Dream and a Lifelong Love, Dashed in a Moment of Violence]
A witness told the police that Ma had been sweeping when Perez engaged her in an argument. Perez picked up a rock and hit her on the head, knocking her unconscious and sending her sprawling, according to court documents. Video surveillance showed Ma being struck again with the same object after she was on the ground.
Perez was charged with assault and criminal possession of a weapon but not with a hate crime, which often requires explicit evidence like a racial slur. The Queens district attorney’s office is reviewing the charges in light of Ma’s death. Perez’s lawyer declined to comment.
Her death ended a love story that began when they were young in northeastern China. They arrived in Queens in 2017 — Knoll described them as two small, graying figures with three suitcases who could not resist a last chance at adventure.
Back home, Gao had identified as Chinese, not Asian, and had not thought much about race. What has surprised him since her death is how Asian Americans felt connected to him and how a community rallied in support of someone with no means to pay back. A GoFundMe page raised more than $200,000, much of it from Asian contributors.
Weather
Expect a chance of showers in the early morning, with a breezy, partly sunny day in the mid-50s. At night, it’s mostly cloudy with temps in the 40s.
For counties across central and northern New York, the National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning that would be in effect from Monday night through noon on Tuesday.
[April Storm Brings Heavy Snow and Rain to Northeast]
alternate-side parking
In effect until Thursday (Holy Thursday, Orthodox).
Half-strength alternate-side parking, the norm since early in the pandemic, will give way to full-strength starting July 5.
On residential streets where signs say no parking at certain times two days a week — Tuesdays and Fridays, for example — the signs will once again mean what they say. At present, the alternate-side parking rule applies only the second day on the sign.
A Sanitation Department spokesman said Mayor Bill de Blasio made the change during the pandemic lockdown. “We got a frequent complaint that you’re telling me I’m not going outside but you want me to move my car twice a week,” the spokesman, Joshua Goodman, said.
There was an undesirable side effect, though: Some motorists did not bother to move their cars. They apparently figured it was cheaper to pay a $65 parking ticket than to find a garage. In some neighborhoods, he said, street sweepers found cars in the way 75 to 80 percent of the time. Brooklyn, which has the most streets with alternate-side parking, had the most problems, Goodman said.
Sanitation Department officials announced the change as they made plans to deploy narrower street-sweeping machines to clear bike lanes, which are now swept by hand. “If there’s trash or broken glass, someone has to go in with a broom,” Goodman said. “Developing a piece of equipment to do this more regularly will see a big impact for people who bike to work and people who use the bike lanes to do their work. For delivery people, that is their workplace. They deserve to have it well taken care of.”
When someone in the family tests positive for Covid-19, what to do? A reporter answers the questions she and her family faced.
Ahmet Nejat Ozsu refused to leave his apartment, delaying a plan for condominiums. A pandemic remedy for renters could help him prolong the standoff.
Helen Hall spent time in the last few months watching “The Wizard of Oz” — a lot of time. “My kids kept coming in and saying, ‘What, are you still watching that film?’”
All for her job.
Next month Bonhams, the auction house where Hall is the director of popular culture, will sell what she focused on during her “Wizard of Oz” binge: a blue checked dress that Judy Garland wore as Dorothy. Bonhams’s presale estimate is $800,000 to $1.2 million. The dress will be on display for six days starting Saturday at Bonhams New York, 580 Madison Avenue, and at Bonhams Los Angeles from May 21 to May 24.
In a movie that had multiples of everything — 10 screenwriters, four directors and, by many accounts, 124 munchkins — several checked dresses were made for Garland. Hall said she had concluded Garland wore five of them after Dorothy wasn’t in Kansas anymore and the film switched from black and white to Technicolor. One of the others sold for $480,000 in 2012 (in an auction that also sold a year-old slice of Prince William’s wedding cake for $1,375); Bonhams resold it in 2015 for just over $1.5 million.
From watching the movie over and over, Hall figured out when Garland was wearing the one that will go on the block next month. “As you go cross-eyed staring at it there’s a distinctive line at the top of the bodice,” she said, and below the hem, the pattern on the fabric is crooked. Hall said she started looking for it “frame by frame, and matched it to the scene where she’s captured by the witch.”
Just as there were several dresses in “The Wizard of Oz,” there were several mysteries about this one. One was where it had been, because for years it was missing.
It belongs to Catholic University in Washington. The school lost track of the dress, which had been given to Father Gilbert Hartke, the founder of the drama department. He died in 1986. It came from the actress Mercedes McCambridge, who was an artist-in-residence in the early 1970s.
How she came to own the dress is another mystery. But Jacqueline Leary-Warsaw, the dean of the university’s school of music, drama and art, said the story of the dress was well known around the school. Except that no one knew where the dress was.
It turned up last year when a staff member did some cleaning up in preparation for renovations. “He found this bag on top of a cabinet in the front office and opened the bag,” she said, “and in the bag was a box with this dress.” The university plans to use proceeds from the auction for an endowed faculty position in a new film program.
Some care workers saw a bump in pay during the pandemic and are now organizing for better working conditions.
Gothamist wrote about a new online tool that helps track New York City’s progress in reaching its climate goals.
METROPOLITAN diary
Dear Diary:
I was alone on a subway platform late one night. A trumpet player there was playing a tune.
After a time, a man carrying a guitar case appeared. He listened to the trumpet player for a little while, and then, without speaking, took out his guitar and joined in.
Before too long, the duo had attracted a percussionist and a man with a long coat and no shirt who danced beautifully to the music. Not one of them said a word.
A train came and went on the tracks above us, and an older woman ambled down the stairs.
“I’ll just take the next one,” she said to no one in particular. And then, to the band: “Do you know ‘These Foolish Things’?”
— Ben Botwick
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
Melissa Guerrero, Jeffrey Furticella and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at nytoday@nytimes.com.
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