The 90-year-old owner of Ray’s Candy Store was brutally beaten by a stranger outside his famed East Village shop — and still didn’t miss a day behind the counter.
But Ray Alvarez — who was left with a black eye and a nasty cut on his face from the cowardly assault on Tuesday –said it never would’ve happened if there were more cops patrolling the neighborhood, which other locals agreed has become increasingly unsafe.
“There is a lot of crime because there is not enough police,” Alvarez told The Post Thursday. “We used to have police on foot patrol, walking up and down. No more.”
The East Village stalwart was randomly attacked around 3 a.m. Tuesday by a stranger who asked him if he wanted to buy a package he was carrying, cops said.
When Alvarez asked what was inside the box, the perp handed it off to another man — and threatened to kill the owner, police said.
“They had soda. They wanted to sell it to me. I said no. One punched my head and my chest. One handed [the soda] to the other guy, ‘Hold this, I’m going to kill this guy,'” Alvarez recalled Thursday.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said.
The creep then “pulled something out from under his jacket, like a belt with a stone on one end, and he hit me with it,” Alvarez said.
“I went down, bleeding,” he continued. “I thought I’m never going to make it. He hit me in a very bad spot. I just want to lay down.”
Alvarez said he didn’t seek medical attention, but simply tried to go to sleep despite being “shaken up and I was badly hurt.”
Despite the pummeling, he said he reported for work in the morning, continuing to sling egg creams and sweets.
“I had an ice cream delivery,” he explained. “I’m here 49 years. I had one day off.”
Still, the local legend said “things need to be done” about crime in the neighborhood, saying his business has been targeted by thieves.
“They steal a gallon of milk or the cups,” he griped. “If somebody comes with a bag and takes all this, I have no right to touch that bag. They have more rights than I have.”
Police on Thursday released a surveillance image of a man wanted in the attack on Alvarez, showing him dressed all in black and pushing a purple shopping cart filled with random items.
Neighborhood residents and merchants said its a symptom of the downfall of quality of life in the neighborhood in recent years.
“No safety,” said Joe Ali, who owns the nearby East Village New Deli. “It is not good. Defunding the police and all this kind of s–t leads to this. It’s ridiculous.”
Ali added that the situation is “getting worse and worse.”
“I expected from the administration to do a better job, but they’re not doing it,” he told The Post. “You can steal, you can stab, you can do anything, and the following day, you’re going to come out.”
Longtime local Lori Solomon called the attack on Alvarez “absolutely horrifying.”
“I don’t even know what to say. I don’t know where this person’s humanity is,” she said. “There is no justification to do this to anybody, but a 90-year-old man?”
Ray’s Candy Store is a 24-hour shop that has been open since 1974 at 113 Avenue A.
The tiny sweet shop is an East Village landmark — with a loyal customer base.
Last year, patrons raised $50,000 to help pay overdue bills and keep the store peddling sweets when it was on the verge of shutting down.
Alvarez, a former Iranian sailor whose birth name is Asghar Ghahraman, was paying $125 in rent when he first opened — but said the monthly price tag is up to nearly $6,200.
He told The Post in November he also had bills piling up, including an $18,000 tab from Con Edison — before his customers came to the rescue.
“Ray is an institution, beloved by everybody in the neighborhood,” said local resident Brad Keller. “It’s more dangerous to walk the street at night.”