Magnum Real Estate President Benjamin Shaoul has become a widely criticized real estate figure thanks to his dealings in the East Village, but he told the New York Times that much of the criticism he has garnered is undeserved.
In a profile of the 35-year-old developer, the Times explained how after dropping out of community college Shaoul began his real estate career by buying 219 Mott Street — using his father’s savings and a mortgage. Within two years he began inviting controversy for his renovation efforts at a nearby Elizabeth Street tenement that turned off the gas for months.
Though Shaoul admitted he made some mistakes at that juncture in his career, he’s drawn far louder criticism since his entry into the East Village in 2006 with the purchase of 120 St. Mark’s Place, an artists’ squat he intended to convert to rental apartments. Now he owns an estimated 40 buildings in the neighborhood, and has been slammed for his work at many of them, including at the former Education Alliance building on East 10th Street, the rooftop addition he built at 514-516 East Sixth Street and the conversion of the Cabrini Center to market-rate condominiums, from a low-income seniors residence.
Community activists and tenant advocates point to these as examples of Shaoul’s disregard for the well-being of his tenants and the neighborhood, whose hyper-gentrification they say he’s encouraged. But Shaoul countered that he’s never been found to have mistreated a tenant and has worked with the Department of Buildings to ensure all of his construction jobs are legal.
“Why are my tenants complaining about my improvements?” he said. “Like, how about a pat on the back for doing that work? Instead, we get resistance the whole way through.” [NYT]