Volume 79, Number 32 | January 13 - 19, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Talking point

Villager file photo by Jefferson Siegel

Ray Alvarez serving up some Obama coffee earlier this year.

As Ray receives ultimatum, nabe rallies around him

By Chris Flash

Last Thursday night, Ray Alvarez, the proprietor of Ray’s Candy Store, at 113 Avenue A, was confronted in his store by the managing agent of the building that houses Ray’s store. Accompanied by her bodyguard, agent Barbara Chupa threatened to lock Ray out of his store in 24 hours with “a padlock and chain” unless Ray paid two months of back rent that she claims he owes the landlord, by Fri., Jan. 8.

Ray’s landlord is the Leshko family, from whom Ray also rents an apartment in which he lives upstairs from his store. Though the Leshkos have had a good relationship with Ray since Ray opened his store in 1974, Rays says it is Chupa who wants him out. Since 2000, Chupa has been managing the Leshko properties on the Lower East Side. These include Ray’s store, at 113 Avenue A; 131-33 E. Seventh St.; and 66 St. Mark’s Place.

Ray told The SHADOW that at Chupa’s insistence, since 2000, he has been renting his store with no lease at $4,000 on a month-to-month basis. According to Ray, under Chupa’s management, 25 other stores in the neighborhood are operating without the protection of a lease.

Last Thursday night, Chupa told Ray that she has a new tenant who will pay $5,000 per month for his store. If so, Chupa could get a $10,000 commission, the equivalent of two months rent, from the new tenant. As Ray is already paying a peak rent for his small store, and as the neighborhood is already full of empty storefronts, it is doubtful whether a new tenant would be able or willing to pay as much or more for Ray’s store.

In any event, a landlord and/or a managing agent must follow a legal process in order to evict a tenant, whether residential or commercial. Unless and until a court order of eviction signed by a judge is obtained and a notice of eviction is posted at the premises and a marshal is scheduled to execute the order, no eviction can take place against a tenant. Landlords or agents engaging in “self-help” evictions are often dealt with severely by the courts.

Ray told The SHADOW that after word about Chupa’s threat against him spread, Chupa was called by a journalism student from Stonybrook University. Ray said that she became defensive, telling the student, “Everyone’s pointing at me — I’m not guilty,” However, when asked about kicking Ray out, Chupa would not give a straight answer.

Ray, who will turn 77 on Jan. 25, also owes two months back rent on his apartment. And he needs an operation to remove a hernia bulging from his groin. He told The SHADOW that he cannot afford the $5,000 operation to repair the hernia, since he has no health insurance. Ray says he has worked every day since 1974 from early evenings until 10 a.m. without a vacation, and that he eats only one meal a day because he has no money. On top of
his rent are his other operating expenses, including up to $4,000 per month for electric service in the summer. He told The SHADOW, “I work all night with these people hanging on my balls.”

Ray wants to work something out with Mr. Leshko, but fears that Chupa’s influence will prevail. Ray told The SHADOW, “Chupa wants to show me who’s the boss.”

While some activists are going to try to help Ray to raise funds to get the landlord’s agent off his back, others will be committed to standing by at Ray’s in order to block any eviction attempt by the agent or her goons.

As The SHADOW interviewed Ray from 2 to 3 on Saturday morning, this reporter observed several customers giving Ray more than the cost of the food and snacks they bought, including one man who gave Ray $20 and told him to keep the change. The SHADOW asked Ray how long he wants to keep doing what he’s doing. He said, “To death!”

We urge everyone who cares about Ray and keeping Ray’s Candy Store alive in our neighborhood to come to Ray’s to buy something, donate something and network with their neighbors who are banding together to help Ray.

Flash is editor of The SHADOW, the East Village underground newspaper.


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