Pics by Robin Graubard, KT Tobin, Peter LeVasseur, Ray’s Candy Store.
If there wasn’t a show, every hardcore/punk/skinhead kid would hang out at the park on Avenue A at Tompkins Square Park or drink egg creams at Ray’s Candy Store. Surprisingly, there are no eggs or cream in this fountain drink favourite. It’s actually made with chocolate syrup, milk, and club soda. The key to the perfect egg cream is the ratio of syrup to milk. Ray’s Candy Store is a deli located at 113 Avenue A. Ray Alvarez has operated Ray’s Candy Store since 1974, he truly loves serving his customers and making them happy with delicious food as he has done for over 40 years. This tiny little place sells everything except candy. You will find hot dogs, ice cream, sugar-coated beignets, chicken fingers, fries, milk shakes, fried bananas and fried oreos. (Yes, fried oreos!) Hand written signs are everywhere, photos, newspapers cover the walls, colorful and cluttered.
Ray was born on January 1 (his birth name was Asghar Ghahraman), 1933 in Iran and moved to New York in 1964, where he worked for another decade as a dishwasher in New York until he purchased the candy store for 30.000 in 1974. In his first hours in Manhattan, after acquiring a coat, he stumbled upon a YMCA that offered room and board for homeless people. When he worked as a waiter at New Jersey’s Short Hills Country Club, he made good with the manager, who took Alvarez with him to many other well-paying jobs. On the notorious night of August 6, 1988, while the police battled protesters in what came to be known as the Tompkins Square Park Riot, Ray’s Candy Store remained open, per Ray, “because all the combatants were my customers.” The police and East Village residents clashed after Parks began enforcing the park’s closing hours, in effect barring homeless from camping in the park.
– Tompkins Square Park is the place where I ate my first fried oreo, and it was amazing.
– Tompkins Square Park is the place where Agnostic Front, the Beastie Boys, Death Before Dishonor, Antidote, Murphy’s Law, the Psychos, the Abused, Cause For Alarm, the Undead, Heart Attack and a few other bands were always hanging out between shows in the early 80s. The dangerous East Village of the early 80s bore little resemblance to today’s tourist zone, it was the center of the lower New York drug scene. Tompkins Square Park served as home turf to vicious Puerto Rican street gangs. There were so many drugs, there were rapes in the park and the cops didn’t want to deal with it. There were some really tough guys there, and there were fights all the time.
– Tompkins Square Park is the place where Alex Kinon (Agnostic Front, Skinhead Youth, Cause For Alarm) was shot, and Vinnie Stigma responded by rushing toward the gunfire, armed with only an improvised shield in the form of a garbage-can lid.
– Tompkins Square Park is the place where Breakdown, Supertouch, Reagen Youth, Absolution played their legendary sets on the old bandshell six days after the riot.
– Tompkins Square Park is the place where Irate (Tommy Carroll – Straight Ahead), Sergio Vega- Collapse/Quicksand, Jerry Williams – 171A, Eric “EK” Komst – Warzone) played this post-riot show in 1988 and they killed it. Irate only played two shows and never had the chance to properly develop their songs.
– Tompkins Square Park is the place where Hare Krishnas started a food program and did a music festival called “Rock Against Maya” in 1982. Cause For Alarm, Murphy’s Law, Frontline, Antidote, The Mob, Kraut, Reagan Youth, Mode of Ignorance were on the bill.
– The park underwent a large renovation in the 1990s and the bandshell was removed, so I didn’t get a chance to take a photo about the infamous stage.
– Tompkins Square Park is the place where Black N’ Blue Productions in association with The New York Hardcore Chronicles did the Dr. Know benefit show in 2016 and organized the Raybeez tribute gig in 2017.
– Tompkins Square Park is across the street, a little ways down from the Pyramid club. At one of the Pyramid gigs Raybeez wanted to take some photos with all the kids at the show in Tompkins Square Park so there were maybe 40 or 50 kids crossing Avenue A to the park, blocking traffic and the cops showed up and told them to go back into the club.
(This article was originally released in Chiller Than Most fanzine, issue 5.)