A Brooklyn man is in a coma in critical condition after he was assaulted by a man who threatened to "punch the first white man I see," authorities said Saturday.

Neighbors of the victim, Jeffrey Babbitt, 62, were in shock after learning of the Wednesday attack in Manhattan.

The Manhattan district attorney's office has charged Lashawn Marten, 31, of Manhattan, with second- and third-degree assault. Police are investigating the attack as a possible hate crime, an NYPD spokesman said.

Babbitt's doctors told police that he's clinically brain dead at Bellevue Hospital Center, according to the criminal complaint.

Marten is accused of punching Babbitt in the face at Union Square Park, causing him to fall to the sidewalk, hitting his head. Marten is black; Babbitt is white, police said.

Neighbors said Babbitt has lived with his ailing 94-year-old mother, Lucille, in a Sheepshead Bay co-op for nearly two decades.

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"Everybody's broken up about this," said a neighbor, Audrey Feifer, 75. "If you had to go to the doctor or anywhere, he would take you."

"He's the sweetest," said another neighbor, Robert Pizzimenti, 60.

Neighbors described Babbitt as a man obsessed with trains and comic books, and that he told them he had been a train conductor in Florida before moving to Brooklyn.

Pizzimenti said Babbitt was a regular at the comic book store Forbidden Planet, two blocks from where he was attacked.

Irving Nadel, 70, who lives on the same floor as the Babbitts, said he and his wife were friendly with them for years and had gone to professional wrestling matches with Jeffrey Babbitt.

"It's a shame something like that happened," he said. "He was a wonderful guy." With AP