Photos and reporting by Stacie Joy
Updated July 11. The shop has closed.
On a recent weekday afternoon in June, Ink on A is its usual bustling self.
People are coming into the newsstand to buy newspapers, cigarettes, a cup of coffee, or a can of soda — or maybe one of the more oddball market items for sale (a tin of Port Royal sardines, anyone?) here in the pleasantly cluttered space on Avenue A between Fourth Street and Fifth Street. There is also the usual assortment of characters inside or out, offering pointed opinions on various topics of the day.
As always, owner Ben "Benny" Dahud presides over the quintessential East Village shop from his perch at the counter...
A private equity firm bought this block-long residential building and strip of retail last September for a reported $64 million. On the way out last fall, the building's previous landlord, who had run the place since the 1980s, informed Benny that he owed three years of real estate taxes, about $20,000.
The new landlord, reportedly Derby Copeland Capital, through the entity Derby Alphabet Blues 5872, LLC, later took Benny to court.
"And they didn't cash three of my rent checks," Benny said. "They disputed the checks — one was undated, one was incorrect, and whatever. They won in court. They won the judgment in a lump sum — three months' rent plus the real estate taxes. So more than $50,000 I owed right away. I didn't have a lawyer, so I signed the stipulation, a legal agreement. I paid 80% but hadn't paid the last 20%, and they took me back to court."
The court again ruled in their favor, and Benny received a Marshal's notice earlier in the month. In addition, Benny said the agreement included a statement claiming that he watched someone urinating in the doorway to the building's Avenue A entrance and smiled — as if he approved of the action.
"I didn’t do that," Benny said. "I come every day and clean the front."
'I have no plans to move. I have been here 30 years," he said. "I don't want to go anywhere else."
He could use legal counsel and the negotiating skills of a nonprofit or advocacy group for small businesses ... or the diplomacy of a local elected official interested in keeping a longtime business in the neighborhood.
"I am hoping to get some help," he said.
Meanwhile, Benny pointed out that the shop's extensive assortment of magazines — from high-end fashion pubs to supermarket-friendly tabloids — remain his best sellers. (Designers are said to particularly appreciate his harder-to-find titles.)