EAST VILLAGE — The bodega worker who went into a coma after being mowed down by an allegedly drunk driver who jumped the curb and plowed into him opened his eyes for the first time since the crash on Monday.
Rukanul Islam, 24, the worker’s youngest son, was sitting by his father’s bed at Bellevue Hospital when he saw Akkas Ali, 62, open his eyes for about half a minute. Islam called out to his father but Ali was not responsive.
“We are a little bit happy to see his eyes, but we wish he would be up,” Islam said.
Ali had been in a coma since the morning of June 19, when a 2013 white Nissan Altima hit him and three others in the front of East Village Farm & Grocery at East Fourth Street and Second Avenue, knocking down three people. The driver, Shaun Martin, 32, was drunk at the time of the crash, police said.
Many local residents knew Ali as a man who made beautiful flower bouquets outside the bodega. A Bangladeshi immigrant, he had been working there for 22 years. Throughout most of the last two decades, he worked 12-hour shifts seven days a week, his son said.
“Everyone knows him — even the pets know him,” Islam said. “They walk right up to him and he feeds them carrots. That’s the kind of man he is.”
Ali left Bangladesh and came to the East Village in 1991. He lived apart from his family for almost a decade, making sporadic visits back home every few years. He worked hard to bring his wife and sons to New York and, in 2000, they finally joined him.
“We are very happy to be American and have a new future,” said Islam, who became an American citizen a few years ago.
Following the crash, an East Village resident, Chad Marlow set up a fund to pay for medical bills. Ali does not have health insurance. As of Tuesday evening, Marlow had raised just under $16,400.
“Despite the fact that New York City is a city of 8 million people, the East Village is a community and one of the members of our community got grievously injured and we’re rallying around him,” Marlow told DNAinfo New York last week.
Marlow hopes to raise $100,000 for Ali and his family by the end of July.