Beloved Gay Leader Savagely Attacked in Sunnyside Dies

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Police are asking anyone with information about the brutal October 20 assault on Lou Rispoli to call 1-800-577-TIPS.

[Editor's Note: On Saturday, November 17, a March Against Violence/ March for Justice/ March For Peace/ March For Lou will be held. The event will gather at 51st Street and 43rd Avenue in Woodside at 4 p.m., and participants will march to 41-00 43rd Avenue, where Lou Rispoli was attacked on October 20. Bring candles to hold aloft during the march.]

Lou Rispoli, described by friends as the heart and soul of the gay community in Sunnyside, Queens, where he lived for more than 30 years, was attacked by two men with whom he was seen walking at 2 a.m. on October 20 outside 41-00 43rd Avenue. He was hit in the head with a blunt object with such force that neighbors who heard the assault but did not see it thought he had been shot.

Rispoli was removed from life support, and on October 26, the office of City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer announced the victim had died. That statement also announced a $22,000 reward –– offered by the mayor's office and the NYPD –– for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for Rispoli's death. Anyone with information about the attack is urged to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS, submit tips at, or text those tips to 274637 (CRIMES), then enter TIP577.

The day before, Van Bramer, fighting back tears, said at a press conference in his office, “He will not survive, and this will be a homicide.” At that moment, Rispoli lay in a hospice at Elmhurst Hospital.

Van Bramer, who is gay and represents Sunnyside, said the assault on Rispoli, whom he knew as a friend and someone who worked on his 2009 campaign, “is a tragedy for our neighborhood and our city.”

The victim was 62 years old.

The one eyewitness who has come forward has not been able to provide much of a description of the two assailants other than that they were likely in their 20s. A third man, who stood lookout by a car that the group, including Rispoli, may have emerged from prior to the assault, was tall. The car has variously been described as an SUV or a white two-door.

It is not yet known whether this was an anti-gay bias attack.

Police released a photo of the victim in the hopes that anyone who may have information about the attack will call the NYPD TIPS hotline. But police are not yet giving out any details about the crime, saying only that “the investigation is ongoing.”

Rumors were flying around the community about the nature of the crime, according to a local reporter, but nothing has been substantiated beyond the testimony of the lone witness, who apparently did not have a good view of the attackers. There were no surveillance cameras outside the building where the attack took place, but Van Bramer said police are checking cameras in the area in an effort to track Rispoli’s movements and those of his assailants.

Mark Horn, Rispoli’s good friend for decades, read a statement on behalf of the victim’s husband, family, and community of friends, many of whom gathered for Van Bramer’s press conference.

Describing Rispoli as “loving and generous,” Horn said, “He touched so many so deeply. That he was struck down so violently leaves us all speechless with grief.”

City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and Mark Horn at an October 25 press conference regarding the attack on Lou Rispoli. | GAY CITY NEWS

Horn told Gay City News that even before there was God’s Love We Deliver, Rispoli was cooking meals and delivering them to people with AIDS in the neighborhood. Rispoli’s involvement in LGBT rights went back to the Gay Academic Union in the 1970s. He was also secretary to the legendary out gay composer Virgil Thomson for many years. His family has requested privacy and that his spouse’s name not be used in the press.

Horn said that at holidays, Rispoli opened his home to gay and non-gay friends who did not have family and served sumptuous meals.

Rispoli and his husband married on their 31st anniversary in August 2011, having met on the subway in 1980. The couple raised two daughters together.

Eric Lehman and his partner Gerry Oxford came to the press conference for their friend of ten years.

“He was a force of nature,” Lehman said, “with a very big personality.”

Rispoli seemed to have been a beloved figure among Sunnyside residents, gay and straight alike. His ill-fated midnight walk was not thought of as unusual since he often had trouble sleeping and roamed the neighborhood and its late-night shops. But there is no good information on why he took this particular walk and whether or not he knew his assailants or had had previous trouble with them.

Van Bramer said, “He was not robbed to our knowledge.”

Recalling the day he met Rispoli at a house party for his 2009 Council run, Van Bramer said, “He said he was thrilled that an openly gay person was running. He was a great volunteer and became a friend to us.”

The councilman added, “Lou was a proud gay man. He fought for full equality for our community. But I don’t know if he was attacked because he was a gay man. This is a good and safe neighborhood where gay men and lesbians can walk the streets and be who they are.”

Horn said, “He was a pillar of the gay community and he was a pillar of this community [of Sunnyside]. Lou was not afraid. He went where he wanted when he wanted.”

Updated 5:17 pm, July 20, 2018
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Reader feedback

Joseph Clay Roehl says:
Let no one else use Jesus to incite the harm of anyone. Let none in the media harp on about morals and religion in the same breath while dissembling about the real Jesus. He was gay. He was like Lou Rispoli, a lover and carer for humanity, who gave his life and energy to helping others. GOD BLESS YOU LOU )). God bless all those who stand up and are counted as friends of gay and lesbian families. The rest are the victims of their indoctrinations by idolators of greed and power and literalcy who wish to maintain privilege and special rights for only themselves over others, the same as those who supported slavery just because the OT was so pro-slavery.
Oct. 25, 2012, 8:04 pm
Joseph Clay Roehl says:
REST IN PEACE LOU *)) He was like Jesus, and so unlike those who hide behind a hitlerian version of jesus the warmonger and heavy judger of men. Jesus was gay According to the US Biblical scholar, Morton Smith, of Columbia University, a fragment of manuscript he found at the Mar Saba monastery near Jerusalem in 1958, showed that the full text of St. Mark chapter 10 (between verses 34 and 35 in the standard version of the Bible) includes the passage: "And the youth, looking upon him (Jesus), loved him and beseeched that he might remain with him. And going out of the tomb, they went into the house of the youth, for he was rich. And after six days, Jesus instructed him and, at evening, the youth came to him wearing a linen cloth over his naked body. And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the Kingdom of God". All higher species have gay pairbonded couplings, only humans of the heterosexist indoctrination bully them. Let's remember Lou by remembering the real Jesus from now on.
Oct. 25, 2012, 8:08 pm
shaen johnson says:
I always lived in fear of my beloved David, an openly gay guy, being attacked in the New York City that he loved, but in December 2009 cancer took his beautiful life, I am so sorry this happened to Lou and I hope these stupid crummy jerks pay dearly for what their worthless lives have accomplished.
Oct. 25, 2012, 8:13 pm
CATHY says:
Oct. 25, 2012, 8:15 pm
wildwildwest says:
If it wasn't a hate crime, then what could be the motive? Robbery?
Oct. 25, 2012, 9:04 pm
Tigre Hall says:
I had not heard of Lou Rispoli before today. Thank God - and I do mean that literally - that this man touched the lives of so many. It is wonderful to know that he was so important to, and respected by, his community. May his husband, loved ones, and everyone who knew him, find comfort in eachother. His light emanates around the world, even to me and my partner, here in Bogota, Colombia. Thank you Lou!
Oct. 26, 2012, 3:36 am
FeistyAmazon says:
Horrifies me. That time of night, and he wasn't robbed, smacks of a hate crime. I'm so sorry such a positive individual for the gay community being himself was struck down....we must fight back, and hopefully find the assailants and prosecute them...but loving support to his spouse and family and friends and community. -FeistyAmazon
Oct. 26, 2012, 7:32 am
Bill Brina says:
When I saw the picture of Lou Rispoli, I said to myself, "Wait a minute; I KNEW that guy! But how? I racked my brain, and then I remembered: any number of Phil Lesh shows in the NY Metro area over the last 13 years. At the Beacon; at the Nokia/Best Buy. Wherever. Erudite discussions at the setbreaks about B minor flatted sevenths and the relationship between quantum theory, the compositional strategies of Charles Ives, and the Grateful Dead's approach to improvisational music. Never exactly knew his last name, nor who he was, or what he did, other than it was obvious he was SOMEBODY, as Nick Gravenites would say, and that he understood twentieth century music about as well as anybody I ever met. Now that I've read his bio, I understand why. Didn't know he was a "walker after midnight", though I do recall him walking with me after a show from the Beacon (or was it the Roseland Ballroom? Memory is such an unreliable friend!) to the hotel in midtown where I was staying that night. Talking music for however many blocks. Seemed like five minutes! In memoriam, here are (Grateful Dead lyricist's) Robert Hunter's lyrics for "A Walker After Midnight". Seems apropos. "A walker after midnight On the road to Auld Lang Syne I have walked a crooked mile And I have walked the line Walked on desert pathways In the shadow of the flood Slipped and fell from mountain tops Swam in my own blood Chorus: A walker after midnight More than this I cannot say A walker after midnight And I met you on my way A walker after midnight In another kind of light I do not trust to reason And I cannot trust my sight I do not trust to messengers With bright and shining eyes I do not trust the foolish And I dare not trust the wise [chorus] A walker in the shadows Between the walls of night I used to thirst for glory But I lost my appetite Always one more trophy I could never quite achieve I'll settle for my sanity And something to believe Something to believe in To the bottom of my soul Something to hang on to Something to console Something to live up to In spite of all disgrace When all my other failings Are paraded in my face Maybe it's my destiny To love what others hate Maybe there is time to change And maybe it's too late At times I feel a light divine And try to catch a spark End up strikin' matches To better see the dark [chorus] A walker after midnight And my destiny is grim Staring at the starlight Till my eyes are growing dim I still see well enough to know The path I must pursue If we meet again before the end I'll share my fate with you" Lou, rest in peace. You will be missed.
Oct. 26, 2012, 11:22 pm
David P. says:
I am so sad to read about the violent death of this very gentle yet vibrant man who was also full of passion and a very sensual and fantastic lover. I enjoyed my encounters with him at the former Jackson Heights baths.
Oct. 26, 2012, 11:45 pm
Michael Seltzer says:
Ralph and I are just devastated with the news of Lou's death. He was always a source joy in both of our lives. We will miss him a great deal.
Oct. 27, 2012, 12:59 pm
Perley J. Thibodeau says:
Oct. 27, 2012, 1:49 pm
JPM says:
The fact that this happens at all, to anyone, is bad enough. But when such a violent act has indications of hate crime attached....that's even worse. I did not know Lou at all, but he sounds like a warm and lovely man who touched many lives. What a terrible loss. David P.....perhaps your "lover" and "I enjoyed my encounters with him" comments could have been timed better or just not expressed at all, considering his husband has suffered the devastating loss of his beloved partner of over 30 years.
Oct. 27, 2012, 3:05 pm
Frannie says:
I was shocked and saddened whe I saw this on the news this morning. Lou was a frien and classmate of mine at SUNY Stony Brook -before he was out. I ran into him many years ago, with his then partern, now widdiwer. He was a great guy and my thoughts are with his husband and family. I type through the tears.
Oct. 27, 2012, 4:17 pm
Vic says:
My heart breaks for the love of his life, to his family, to his friends. I never met Lou, but after reading his bio, I wish I had had the privelege of knowing him. May the people who caused his death be punished appropriately for this horrible waste of a good man.
Oct. 27, 2012, 9:32 pm
Perley J. Thibodeau says:
My condolences to everyone who loved him. The testing wasn't a joke. I couldn't get a quite lengthy post of sympathy through to the print screen.
Oct. 29, 2012, 7:42 pm
Susan says:
I had seen Lou around, but I actually first spoke to him a few weeks ago in connection with some work we were doing. We spent a short time together as he explained to me what I had to do; then I saw him twice more in the two following weeks. That was all; but I liked him immensely from the first moment we spoke. He was warm and gracious and funny and put me instantly at my ease. I felt immediately that I had made a new friend. And now I feel that I have lost someone I will never get to know, a friend I might have had. To all of you who did know and love him, my sorrow for your loss. And may the perpetrators of this hate crime and all hate crimes be brought to justice.
Oct. 30, 2012, 8:35 pm
ELKC says:
How horrible! May Lou rest in peace. There was no reason for this! Although it is not definite by any may have bee a hate crime. This makes it even worse. Lou did so much for the gay community & beyond & had so many friends both straight & gay. He was so well loved & respected. I grieve for him & his family & friends who loved him so much. He was a "giver", a beautiful human being. May Lou rest in peace. Taken from us way too early. Although earth has lost an exceptional human being, heaven has gained a very special angel. Now focus needs to be on capturing the animals who perpetrated this homicide. Lou....may you rest in peace!
Nov. 1, 2012, 11:52 am
Alex says:
I find it hard to believe this would be a biased crime in this day and age in this area, at least committed by anyone from the Sunnyside area. Living not far from the area where Lou Rispoli was attackedand a resident of Sunnyside, I can say Sunny Side is one of the most diverse and well integrated neighborhoods of all of Queens, and arguable the country. There was a gay bar that existed years back and the only attacks or fights that occurred were among the gay patrons. We have people of all walks of life and religious groups and sexual orientation in the neighborhood and no one thinks about these as "issues." People are already jumping to the conclusion of a "bias crime" because Lou was gay. But that excludes the possibility of other motives. We should be open minded here and hope the police continue this case and find these perpetrators of this horrible crime. See the memorial wreath and picture of Lou at his building is very saddening. My heart goes out to his family and friends.
Nov. 23, 2012, 2:33 am
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July 5, 2013, 5:57 pm
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Nov. 21, 2016, 3:55 am
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Gossipy tidbits were flying around the group about the way of the wrongdoing, as per a neighborhood correspondent, however nothing has been substantiated past the declaration of the solitary witness, who evidently did not have a decent perspective of the aggressors. There were no observation cameras outside the building where the assault occurred, yet Van Bramer said police are checking cameras in the region with an end goal to track Rispoli's developments and those of his aggressors.
April 17, 2017, 3:37 am

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