The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Bistro Manager Rats on Neighbors After City Fines Him for Sidewalk Benches

 The benches at Whynot curve around the bistro's building along Gay Street.
The benches at Whynot curve around the bistro's building along Gay Street.
View Full Caption
DNAinfo/Danielle Tcholakian

WEST VILLAGE — Businesses all over the West Village are receiving $100 fines from the city because of a bistro owner on Christopher Street.

Miki Mihajlov, the manager at cafe-turned-bistro Whynot at 14 Christopher St., was issued violations by the Department of Sanitation for placing benches outside his eatery without a permit.

But Mihajlov insists the agency is engaging in "selective justice," singling him out for punishment for something done by businesses all over the neighborhood.

"I didn't put the benches here because I'm the smartest guy," Mihajlov said. "I put them because I see everyone has them."

To prove his point, he prowled the neighborhood and took photos of benches outside various dining establishments and provided them to the Sanitation Department.

"Now I think they go everywhere and they put tickets to everyone," he said, a little sheepishly.

He said the owner of the Original Sandwich Shoppe on Greenwich Avenue came over and yelled at him, saying, "Because of you, I got tickets!"

Mihajlov said that wasn't his intention — but he stands by his point.

"If my benches are not legit, anyone's benches are not legit," he said. "They cannot do selective justice."

On a stroll around his neighborhood, Mihajlov pointed out the various businesses he had photographed: Joseph Leonard and Jeffrey's Grocery on Waverly Place, his tiny Christopher Street neighbor Delice & Sarrasin, the now-shuttered Grano Trattoria.

"No one is complaining," he said. "Look how nice it looks."

The Department of Sanitation confirmed that Whynot received two violations recently "for sidewalk obstruction," but balked at the notion that Mihajlov is being targeted.

"The Department does not single out businesses or residents when issuing violations," said Sanitation spokeswoman Belinda Mager. "We investigate complaints that are brought to our attention. If we receive a complaint or see a quality-of-life or sanitary violation, we are able to issue a violation.

"This particular sidewalk and the preponderance of street furniture leaves precious little space for mothers pushing strollers or for people in wheelchairs to safely navigate, especially with the tree pit and bicycle stands [outside]."

Mager confirmed that the department is "currently reviewing other businesses in the area for sidewalk obstructions," and said that business owners or residents or believe they have been wrongly issued a violation can appeal by following the instructions on the back of their ticket.

The Department of Transportation issues "revocable consent" permits for benches to be placed on the sidewalk, at their discretion and for a fee. Mihaljov says he was told he needs to have eight feet of space on the sidewalk in order to have a bench out, but said the city's layout makes it impossible for many businesses to meet those requirements.

"I think it's that you cannot get any permission," he said. "No one in this neighborhood can have benches."