The victim, Andrew Hardy, 53, walked into the Sutphin Boulevard McDonald's on Tuesday morning with a knife sticking out of his back while he talked on a cellphone, police and witnesses said.
His rap sheet dates back to 1981 for offenses including petit larcenies, burglaries, criminal possession of marijuana and criminal possession of a weapon.
It was not clear how many of those arrests resulted in convictions, but he served 52 stints in city jail, mostly for days at a time, except for a stretch in 2008 when he was incarcerated from May to November.
He has several open cases, but most of them were adjourned in contemplation of dismissal, which means they can be completely dismissed at some point if certain conditions are met.
''Right now, he's being uncooperative, so we're moving forward with that investigation," NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said Wednesday.
Police are checking what a surveillance video recorded outside the eatery, Boyce said, adding that he was confident the attacker would be arrested.
Hardy was involved in a fight on Sutphin Boulevard with at least three other people minutes before he was stabbed, police said.
Reached by phone on Wednesday and asked about the stabbing, Hardy said, "I don't want to talk about this." When asked about his lengthy arrest history, he hung up.
Local business owners said Hardy, whose lawyer could not be reached for comment, is often seen near the McDonald's.
They also said the area around the Sutphin Boulevard McDonald's, between Jamaica and Archer avenues, one of the busiest spots in the neighborhood, is a popular hangout for drug dealers.
Donna Clopton, president of the 103rd Precinct Community Council, said she has received numerous complaints from the community about illegal activities in the area, including the sale of drugs, cigarettes and subway swipes.
Police sources said the local precinct has beefed up security in the area.
Doug Damiano, owner of the McDonald's franchise, said in a statement that the "incident happened outside of and a block away from my restaurant."
"I care about the safety and well-being of my customers and employees and therefore have security measures in place," he added.