A 22-year-old New York man accused of stabbing to death a 69-year-old man because he thought he was gay, has been charged with second degree murder.

Steven Torres, 22, was charged with the hate crime for the stabbing of Ever Orozco, 69, near Roosevelt Avenue and 90th Street in Elmhurst, Queens, police have said.

The victim was stabbed as he was putting coins into a parking meter, witnesses said, according to NBC 4 New York.

Witnesses ran after Torres and held him until police arrived on the scene and took him into custody.

Eddie De Jesus, a locksmith on 90th Street said: “There was a lot of screaming, and all I could see was the guy was stabbing him — stabbing him and stabbing him.”

NBC 4 was originally told by a police officer that he was attacked over his mobile telephone.

LGBT rights activists have become increasingly concerned at a recent increase in hate crimes in the most populous city in the US.

Late in August it was discovered that a 21-year-old trans woman who was violently beaten until brain damaged, and later taken off life support after being pronounced brain dead, was attacked just feet away from a New York Police Department precinct.

New York City police last month said they were looking for six suspects involved in a homophobic attack in Chelsea. Six people targeted two gay men as they left a cinema holding hands on West 24th Street, and beat them whilst hurling verbal anti-gay abuse.