A 87-year-old Broadway singing coach who was placed on life support after she was shoved to the pavement during an unprovoked attack in Manhattan last week has died, her family says.
Barbara Maier Gustern’s grandson, AJ, posted a photo of himself clutching his grandmother’s hand as she lied in a hospital bed Tuesday morning.
‘Today, at 11:15AM, we have lost one of the brightest little flames to ever grace this world,’ he wrote from Gustern’s Facebook page. ‘I ask that you all give me a little time and space, but I want to make time for anyone and everyone who wants to know more about her final moments.
‘Bobbob, I love you, you are and always will be my heart.’
Gustern, who once coached Blondie singer Debbie Harry, was pushed from behind in front of her building at West 28th Street and Eighth Avenue in the trendy Chelsea neighborhood at around 8.30pm on Thursday.
She was on her way to watch a student perform at Joe’s Pub, which she did often, according to the New York Times.
Surveillance footage released Sunday shows the suspect leaving the scene towards Ninth Avenue. She is described as a red-haired woman, likely in her 30s, wearing a black jacket, black leggings, a white skirt and dark colored shoes. She has not been caught.
The terrifying incident comes as crime in the the five boroughs has spiked by 45 percent compared to this time last year, with robbery up by 43.5 percent and assault up by 17.2 percent.
Broadway singing coach Barbara Maier Gustern died in a hospital Tuesday morning after she was put on life support following a random shoving attack last week
The suspect is described by police as a red-haired woman wearing a black jacket, black leggings, a white skirt and dark colored shoes
Gustern, above with her grandson AJ, was an acclaimed teacher who was on her way to Joe’s Pub to watch one of her students perform, which she did often, according to one report
AJ posted a photo of himself clutching his late grandma’s hand shortly after her death Tuesday
Gustern was conscious when paramedics arrived and managed to tell police that she had been attacked by another woman, but her condition rapidly worsened, the Daily News reported.
She sustained severe injuries to her head, police said. Gustern’s grandson, AJ, updated her followers on Facebook late Saturday night.
‘She has suffered traumatic damage to the left side of her brain, and has been unconscious the entire time. She is intubated and we are unclear how much she is able to breathe on her own,’ he said.
Gustern succumbed to her injuries Tuesday morning. Tributes poured in after news of her death began circulating.
A Facebook user by the name Penny Arcade said she met the singing coach while she was feeling sick at a party hosted by singer Debbie Harry.
‘I laid on my back staring at the ceiling and the staircase to the VIP room when a pair of twinkling green eyes met mine and it was Barbara and that was how we met and bonded instantly,’ she wrote. ‘I felt like she and I were the same age (which felt like 14) despite her being 16 years older than I . We both had the same teenage energy and it was our bond,’ she said.
She called Gustern’s death an ‘abrupt’ and ‘wrong’ ending to her life.
Tributes for Gustern poured in on social media in the hours after her death Tuesday morning
A woman by the name Melinda Pope DeRocker, who says she studied under Gustern, reposted Gustern’s grandson’s post.
‘I am devastated to say that this picture is of the final moments in the life of my dear friend and voice teacher Barbara Maier Gustern. Her grandson AJ was there to hold her hand,’ she said.
Gustern moved to New York from Indiana to jumpstart her performing career, the Times reports. She then turned to vocal coaching, first at a university and then at a local business.
Nathan Koci, the musical director for the Broadway revival of Oklahoma!, called Gustern his ‘go-to’ for helping singers.
Before Gustern’s death on Tuesday, Mallory Portnoy, who had a role in the revival and took vocal lessons from her, said, ‘I don’t know how people come back from something like this at this age, but if anybody could it’s this woman, because she is so strong and so full of life and she can overcome, it seems like, truly anything.’
The unprovoked attack came as NYPD’s latest data showed a staggering 60 percent spike in crime in February compared to the same time last year.
“This is a disgusting and disgraceful offense committed against a vulnerable, elderly woman doing nothing but walking down the streets of New York City,’ NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig said Tuesday.
Crime in the the five boroughs is up by 45 percent compared to this time last year, with robbery up by 43.5 percent and assault up by 17.2 percent
Before her death, AJ said that Gustern would most likely suffer speech problems and lose mobility on the right side of her body.
Recounting the aftermath of the attack on Facebook, fellow singer and actor Barbara Bleier said she and two other friends had been rehearsing at Gustern’s home in Chelsea for a show they were to perform on Sunday.
While Bleier and one of her friends waited in the lobby for a cab, Gustern rushed to a late night show. Moments later, a young man aided a wounded Gustern to the lobby of her building, where Bleier called paramedics.
Gustern was able to tell police that a woman in her 30s had attacked her but once in the ambulance, she lost consciousness, Bleier said.
Gustern was taken to a near trauma center, where doctors performed surgery on her brain to avoid bleeding. Bleier added that a long recovery lies ahead for the Broadway coach.
Gustern’s grandson, AJ, updated her followers on Facebook about the singing coach’s condition late Saturday night, before her death on Tuesday
New York City is reeling from a February crime wave that saw a nearly 60 percent spike in incidents over last year.
The city’s latest crime figures show 9,138 incidents last month, as opposed to 5,759 during the same period in 2021 — with double-digit surges in nearly every major category.
There were 32 murders in February — three more than the same month last year.
Multiple other categories saw shocking jumps, including car theft, which soared by nearly 105 percent; grand larceny, which jumped nearly 80 percent over the previous year; robberies, which surged 56 percent; a 44 percent bump in burglaries and a 22 percent spike in assaults. Rapes also saw a terrifying 35 percent rise in February.
Residents have also reacted with horror to a string of high-profile incidents, including the vicious battering of a woman with a hammer by a homeless man in Queens and the smearing of feces on another woman in the Bronx – after which the alleged perpetrator, a violent criminal with a history of 44 arrests, was released without bail.
During the month of February, the NYPD reported a 58.7 percent increase in total crime. The latest figures showed 9,138 incidents as opposed to 5,759 in 2021 – with double-digit surges in nearly every major category
Footage shows a revolting attack on a Bronx subway platform, where a man smeared feces over the face of a 43-year-old woman
Christina Yuna Lee, 35, left was found dead last month after being stabbed in her own apartment. Michelle Go, 40, right, was at the Times Square subway platform when she was shoved onto the tracks
These incidents were in addition to the murder of Asian woman Christina Yuna Lee, 25, who was tailed to her apartment by another homeless man, Assamad Nash, 35, and stabbed to death.
On Wednesday, Christian Jeffers, 48, who identifies as a woman, was arrested on charges of assault, aggravated harassment and menacing as hate crimes, and one count of criminal possession of a weapon stemming from a brutal attack on a 29-year-old man that took place at the 14th Street subway station in Manhattan on Tuesday.
Jeffers, wearing a black wig and purple lipstick, was caught on video smashing the stranger in the head with a hammer after the two bumped into each other and then exchanged words.
The crime wave comes during Mayor Eric Adams’ first few months in office. The former NYPD cop has vowed to crack down on the influx of incidents on the city’s streets and subway system – which has seen a rash of violent incidents in recent weeks. Former Mayor Bill De Blasio’s policies contributed to the current crime wave, experts said.
The New York subway has been ground zero for the latent crime wave after an alarming 73.3 percent increase in underground incidents – including 182 in February alone.
Mayor Eric Adams wants to see changes in bail reform laws and other criminal justice measures, saying they will bring down crime rates in the city and reduce gun violence
Hate crimes have also doubled since last year — with anti-Asian attacks more than tripling and anti-Jewish complaints up by a whopping 54 percent over the same time last year, from 134 to 207 incidents.
One recent poll revealed that nearly 75 percent of all New York City voters consider crime to be a ‘very serious’ problem — the highest number since polling began in 1999.
In response to the crime wave, Adams has plead with lawmakers in Albany recently to consider a controversial bail reform law that would allow judges to consider whether a person is dangerous before releasing them from jail.
Adams wants to see changes in bail reform laws and other criminal justice measures, saying they will bring down crime rates in the city and reduce gun violence.
In February Adams, who campaigned last year on getting people to get back to work amid the pandemic and cleaning up the crime-ridden subway system, outlined his plans for city bail laws, which can allow for suspects to roam the street often within hours of an arrest.
‘Let’s remove the cash bail system, because one should not be able to get out of jail just because you can pay bail. Let’s take that away. Judges should look at the case in front of them and say, ‘This person has two gun arrests, and he’s continually saying to the people of the city that I don’t care about the safety of you.” the mayor said.
‘That judge should have the right to make the discretion that this person just be held.’
NYPD has asked anyone with information in regard to to the attack against Gustern to call the Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477).