Volume 79, Number 36 | February 10 - 16, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933


Villager photos by Bonnie Rosenstock

Chink Floyd, featuring Master Lee, left, took the audience into some deep tai chi-like psychedelic meditations on the East Village’s gentrification. “Ray was old when I got here. That was in 1980,” Lee reflected. Heavy.

More stimulus funds for Ray as benefit nets $1,300

By Lincoln Anderson

 In the latest injection of community stimulus funds into Ray’s Candy Store, a “Day of Ray” benefit at Sidewalk Cafe last Saturday raised $1,300 for the Avenue A egg cream emporium.

The event was organized by three young neighborhood women, Lilly O’Donnell and Haley Moss Dillon, both 22, and Leah Milstein, 23.

O’Donnell, a New School student who works as a waitress at Sidewalk Cafe, at Sixth St. and Avenue A, was busy waitressing at the benefit; fifteen percent of all drink and food sales, plus all of O’Donnell’s tips, went to Ray Alvarez, 77, the candy store’s owner. 

Milstein, whose father, Pini Milstein, owns Sidewalk, where she is the bar manager, didn’t have too much trouble getting the space.

“I knew he couldn’t say no to me,” she said of her dad.

She was an energetic emcee, and also put together the bill for the show, which she said was like doing a “live mix tape,” figuring out which acts would perform when. The acts were selected from friends, plus people who submitted their demos.

Dillon worked the door, collecting the $5 cover fees, all of which went to Alvarez.

O’Donnell and Dillon also recently raised $1,000 for Alvarez through a PayPal account on their Save Ray’s Facebook page, which has more than 1,860 members.

Asked why she got involved in the effort, Milstein said, “I always heard of an East Village where people came together to help the community.”

Singer Marilyn Kirby, who also helped organize the “Day of Ray,” summed up the community spirit behind helping Alvarez, who has struggled to pay his $3,500 rent in recent months and been threatened with eviction.

“This is the East Village, and we all pull together,” she said, “whether you’re a hippie or a punk or, I don’t know what, a hermaphrodite on a unicycle.”

Musician John Heneghan recalled how when he was a struggling young artist in the neighborhood, he could always go to Ray’s and get something to eat for cheap. Singer Chris Ryan recalled how when he was broke and hungry nine years ago, a woman named Lilly who used to sweep the sidewalk led him to Ray’s, where he got some free hot dogs.

Comedian Johnny Lanzilloto ended his routine with a sort of seance, connecting Ray’s into the East Village’s bohemian and artistic legacy: “All you beats, all you punks — rise up!” he conjured, “Save Ray’s!” then flung beads out into the audience.

Kirby belted out her anthem “My Man Ray.”

“I want a massive sing-along, with gusto!” she ordered the crowd:

My man Ray, on Avenue A
Go there for my coffee almost every day
Three in the morning, just to see Ray...

He won’t raise his prices and he gives food away
Especially if he thinks you ain’t got money to pay

But the bills keep on coming, rent’s through the roof...

My man Ray, on Avenue A
He’s a social worker, he’s your mom, he’s your dad
He’s the best egg cream you ever had
He just wants to stay, serve you every day...
24/7 people

As the singers and comedians performed, a group of young people sat on the floor near the stage folding menus for another new stimulus initiative for Ray: A free delivery service on Saturday nights from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. (718-473-9636). People can have all of Ray’s “classic neighborhood eats” delivered right to their door, from Belgian fries and “Obama grilled cheese with tomato” to Belgian waffles, egg creams and smoothies.

A mission statement on the menu reads: “As young people who always felt supported by Ray’s, whether it was a few bucks leeway on a Belgian fries or a cold drink in the summer haze, we felt obligated to fight this injustice [efforts to evict Alvarez], thus we came up with The Delivery Project. The Delivery Project aims to stimulate revenue by attracting new customers, and increasing availability [of Ray’s food] for Lower Manhattan. The project is possible because it is done on a completely volunteer based agenda. We love Ray’s and we love Ray... .”

O’Donnell and Dillon also are committed to helping Ray install an Ansul System over his deep fryer, which his managing agent, Barbara Chupa, is demanding he get or stop selling Belgian fries, which are his bread and butter. Ray thinks the fire-protection system is too costly and that his fries should be “grandfathered,” since he’s been making them for 36 years. O’Donnell and Dillon said they have a contractor who is buying the parts separately, and will then assemble a fire-protection system, which should be less expensive.

Another benefit for Ray is planned at the Bowery Poetry Club. More details were not available by press time.

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