Savyon Zabar, an Israeli-born club operator and fixture of New York gay nightlife, was found strangled in his uptown apartment Wednesday morning, in what New York police have ruled a homicide.
Zabar, 54, was discovered unconscious by two roommates in their fourth-floor apartment on West 81st Street near Amsterdam Avenue about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.
The victim, who tips the scale at around 400 pounds, was found face up in his bed, police sources said.
Zabar was declared dead at the scene, and police didn’t notice any visible trauma to the victim’s body.
But authorities later determined he sustained deep tissue hemorrhaging consistent with strangulation, police source said.
His death is now considered a homicide, police said.
Zabar owned the Latin gay nightclub Escuelita on West 39th Street, neighbors said. The club shuttered in February after 19 years in operation.
The obese victim frequently received massages, police sources said, without yet indicating whether the masseuse was a suspect.
A neighbor would often see young Latino men shuttling in and out of the victim’s West 81st Street pad.
“He always had an entourage [of] young, handsome Latinos,” said Vinny de Angelis, 61, adding that Zabar had lived in the building for about 30 years.
In 2012, Zabar went to bat for New Esquelita when the state threatened to revoke its liquor license, according to the Daily News.
He said the state was trying to oust the many young minority men who frequented the club from the Times Square area.
“Minorities are no longer welcome on West 39th Street as they do not fit into the gentrification plans of the city,” Zabar said at the time.
Friends set up a GoFundMe page after his death, hoping to raise money for commemorative banners, T-shirts and souvenirs, according to Antonio “Pokey” Baez, who created the page.
“We [are] all going to remember him as a good person because he cared for a lot of us, even though he didn’t say it, he did,” Baez wrote.