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Greenpoint Chef Raises Over $40K Following Assault in McCarren Park

The April 4 incident reportedly resulted in the death of her pet cat

The storefront of a brown restaurant with a neon sign that reads “Baoburg” in capital letters Google Maps

Customers, chefs, and community members — including neighbors as well as Asian Americans across the city — are rallying behind the owner of Southeast Asian restaurant Baoburg in Greenpoint after an assault against her family resulted in the death of her three-year-old cat Ponzu.

Chanan Aksornnan, also known in the neighborhood as chef Bao Bao, recounted the events in an article with Greenpointers, a local news website, earlier this week. She says a run-in with a 12-year-old boy in McCarren Park over the Easter weekend turned violent after multiple adults pushed her to he ground and attacked both her and her boyfriend.

In the wake of the assault, Aksornnan launched a GoFundMe campaign to help seek “justice for Ponzu” and cover legal costs related to the incident. The campaign, which hopes to raise $50,000, has already received more than $44,000 in donations at the time of publishing, with contributions coming from Asian-American restaurateurs in New York City, including Mokbar owner Esther Choi. Neighboring businesses like craft beer bar Tørst and Japanese restaurant Ako in Williamsburg also voiced their support.

Customers at Baoburg have made contributions in the form of tips at Baoburg and deliveries of flowers and cards to Aksornnan’s restaurant, according to Instagram stories shared by the restaurant.

“Thank you so much for your enormous outpouring of sympathy, love, and support from all around the globe,” Aksornnan shared in an Instagram post announcing the fundraiser. “We are very, very humbled and grateful.” Additional donations beyond the fundraiser’s goal will be donated to animal-related charities, according to the campaign.

The incident that sparked the campaign occurred on Sunday, April 4 in McCarren Park in Greenpoint. Aksornnan and her boyfriend were reportedly walking with their pets — the couple regularly documents their strolls with their two cats, a dog, and a bird — when a 12-year-old boy tripped over Ponzu’s leash, injuring him, according to several news sources. Other publications, including Asian-American news website NextShark, dispute that the run-in was accidental and claim the boy grabbed Ponzu’s leash and used it to propel him into the air. Eater has reached out to Aksornnan for more information.

The interaction turned violent after multiple adults walking in the park with the boy approached Aksornnan. “The family not only did not offer any apology nor remorse,” she tells Greenpointers. “They immediately began a verbal abuse, which escalated into a physical assault.” Videos of the ensuing interaction appear to show Aksornnan being pushed to the ground, punched, and kicked by multiple adults.

Aksornnan’s boyfriend, who reportedly attempted to intervene, sustained a broken nose after one of the adults punched him, according to police. He required emergency surgery the next day, according to Greenpointers.

Ponzu died in McCarren Park after “suffering shock and injuries” from the incident, Aksornnan shared in a post on Instagram. The Instagram-beloved cat, which had tens of thousands of followers, reportedly had a pre-existing heart condition. “His heart was fragile, and we learned how to keep him in a good health and spirits through tender, love, and daily medical care,” Aksornnan wrote in the post.

It’s not clear at this time whether the assault was racially motivated, but the incident comes amid a larger, nationwide surge in anti-Asian attacks and hate crimes, including here in New York City, where a series of recent attacks on women and elders has been compounded by ongoing xenophobia due to the pandemic. In a survey of the country’s largest cities, New York saw the highest rise in reported anti-Asian hate crimes year-over-year, from three cases in 2019 to a staggering 28 in 2020.

Police have so far since identified one of the suspects as Evelyn Serrano, 42, who was taken into custody and charged with assault. The 94th Precinct, which operates in Greenpoint, is requesting that anyone who witnessed the incident call their offices at (718) 383-3879.

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