Of all the people who work in the Westchester County Courthouse, my favorite has to be Ray Lonergan, the owner and operator of Ray’s Candy Stand on the first floor.
I like Ray because he is a no-nonsense businessman. He’s legally blind but he doesn’t want your pity; he wants your money. I’ve given Ray LOTS of my money. I’m seriously addicted to a brand of cinnamon rolls he carries (Joey’s Cinnamon Danish, to be exact) and his strong coffee keeps me awake through the most tedious dispositions.
My colleague Jonathan Bandler wrote an article about Ray for the newspaper’s “Local Haunts” section in 2005. I’ll let him tell you about my favorite courthouse candy man:
Ray Lonergan began selling coffee, sandwiches, snacks and newspapers at the Westchester County Courthouse in 1995 under a state program that gives the concession to blind vendors. His stand’s current home – across from the jury assembly room and around the corner from the lobby – is a brightly lit space that opened a year ago when the courthouse annex was built. He was originally crammed into a tiny space that fit only four or five customers at a time and left long lines backed up into the lobby each morning. During courthouse construction he spent three years on the second floor.
Ray’s is the only place within two blocks to get a quick candy bar or grab a newspaper and is a popular spot to catch up on what’s happening in the courthouse. Lonergan, 46, finally has the wall space to show off his Brooklyn Dodgers memorabilia, old-fashioned porcelain subway signs and autographed photographs from some of the famous people who have passed through on jury duty (Joe Torre and David Letterman) or been witnesses in their own cases (Donald Trump).
“This is a much better spot for me. There’s more room, people don’t have to crowd in,” he said.
Because some people don’t realize he’s blind, there is sometimes an awkward silence with customers who wait with their purchases in hand for Lonergan to tell them how much they owe. But Lonergan’s limited vision lets him know when someone is ready to buy something and he can check the bills they hand him by holding them close to his eyes.
“When I hold up the bill, some people think I can smell it to see the amount,” he said. “I tell them I’m not smelling it, I’m holding it up to my ear so the president can tell me what it is.”