The incident happened around 2 a.m. Sunday at the Marine Terrace Apartments in Astoria, after police say an ex-convict climbed through an unlocked window in the building.
The women, two sisters and one of their daughters, all suffered serious skull fractures. Their screams were drowned out by a nearby party.
Police say Lawrence Parsons, a 29-year-old homeless man who was released from prison just a month ago, is charged with attempted murder and robbery.
Authorities believe he knew one of the victims, one of whom, a 58-year-old woman, remains in critical condition. The other two, ages 53 and 31 are stable. All three are at New York Presbyterian Hospital.
"Very nice girls," neighbor Debra Ayyad said. "The girl always says hello to everyone. She's very nice. Her mother just passed away."
The attack has left area residents unnerved.
"I'm locking my doors, I'm locking my windows and I'm getting extra guards," neighbor Purity Baldwin, "I'm trying to stay safe, I'm going to be really aware of my surroundings now."
Neighbors say there have been many burglaries of late in the large section of the apartment complex, but nothing like this.
"It's scary," neighbor Paul Delprete said. "It's really scary, because like I said, normally this is a quiet neighborhood. But it hasn't been lately."