A white man faced hate-crime charges after police said he and two friends set upon three black men with a baseball bat, leaving one with a fractured skull, in a neighborhood that became infamous for a fatal racial confrontation two decades ago.

The attack Wednesday happened in the Howard Beach (search) section of Queens — the same neighborhood where three black men were beaten in 1986 after their car broke down, stirring tensions in what became one of the city's ugliest racial episodes.

Nicholas Minucci (search), 21, was to be charged Thursday with first-degree assault as a hate crime, menacing, criminal possession of a weapon and other charges, police Commissioner Ray Kelly said.

"I think that New York City learned a great lesson back in '86 and we are not going to let anything like that happen again," Mayor Michael Bloomberg (search) said.

Two of the three black men told investigators they were looking for a luxury sedan to steal but changed their minds. They said a white man in a car spotted them and then returned with two friends.

The three white men got out and one threw a metal baseball bat toward the three black men, shouting racial epithets, authorities said. Minucci then attacked one of the black men, Glen Moore (search), with the bat, according to police.

Moore, 20, suffered a fractured skull, police said. He was in serious condition at Jamaica Hospital. His sneakers and an earring were stolen, police said.

The other two black men escaped and later summoned police officers. Moore's sneakers and the bat believed to have been used in the attack were found in the vehicle he was driving, police said.

Police were looking for the two other suspects.

The hate crime charge Minucci faces is punishable by a minimum of eight years in prison.

Bloomberg said he and the police commissioner would not allow such "an ugly incident" to divide the city.

On Dec. 20, 1986, three black men who were stranded in the neighborhood when their car stalled were attacked by a group of white teenagers.

One of the black men, Michael Griffith, 23, was struck by a car and killed as he fled. Another was beaten with a baseball bat and tree branches. The third got away.

The attack ignited racial tension in the community and was compared to a lynching by then-Mayor Ed Koch. Eight of the whites were convicted or pleaded guilty to manslaughter, assault, conspiracy and rioting.