Bodega worker Trump went to visit in Harlem was with family in Dominican Republic, instead

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NEW YORK — The Harlem bodega worker who Donald Trump was planning to visit on Tuesday missed the meeting because he was on a trip to the Dominican Republic, according to the man’s lawyer.

“Jose wanted to come but couldn’t get a flight on time,” Jose Alba’s attorney Rich Cardinale said Wednesday.

Alba, who in 2022 was arrested and then cleared in a fatal stabbing that was later deemed to be self-defense, is not a supporter of the former president, said the lawyer.

“He’s not a political person. He’s nonpartisan, he’s just someone who believes in law and order,” said Cardinale.

Bodega and Small Business Association founder Francisco Marte said he was in touch with Alba, 64, last week about Trump’s visit but couldn’t reach him Tuesday because Alba is sometimes deep in the countryside with poor phone service.

“I told (Alba) it would be good because it’s what we are doing, fighting and asking for public safety,” Marte said about Trump’s appearance at the Sanaa Convenient Store on Broadway near W. 139th Street.

The bodega, which used to be called Blue Moon Convenient Store, was the site of the deadly caught-on-video altercation on July 1, 2022, in which Austin Simon, 35, confronted Alba over what he said was a lack of respect for his girlfriend’s child.

The girlfriend said Alba snatched a bag of potato chips from her 10-year-old daughter’s hand after the mom was unable to pay, according to a criminal complaint.

Simon came behind the counter and pushed Alba, grabbing his neck, before the older man plunged a knife into Austin at least five times, piercing his heart, jugular vein and a lung. During the fracas, Alba was stabbed in the arm by Austin’s girlfriend.

The worker was charged with second-degree murder and spent time at Rikers Island before Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg dropped the case.

“He’s afraid to work in any bodegas in the neighborhood,” said Cardinale, who added that his client still lives in New York but goes to his native Dominican Republic regularly to visit family.

“Mentally, he’s trying to escape,” said Marte. “He’s doing better but sometimes he’s having flashbacks or when he sees the scars that he has on his arm, it brings back memories.”

The former president’s Tuesday visit, which came after the second day of jury selection for his hush money trial, was greeted by both supporters and opponents, some shouting “Dump Trump.”

“These people have to be treated fairly, the bodega association, the bodegas, because every week they are being robbed,” Trump said outside the store Tuesday. “It’s crazy.”

Marte said the group welcomes support from both sides of the aisle.

“We would love to have Joe Biden in bodegas next week in Washington Heights and the Bronx,” he said. “We were on the first lines during Covid and we need more respect.”