Ben Shaoul: “I am the victim” in East Village addition feud

From left: Ben Shaoul and 515 East 5th Street
From left: Ben Shaoul and 515 East 5th Street

Developer Ben Shaoul, whose contentious sixth- and seventh-floor additions at 515 East 5th Street were recently slammed by a Community Board 3 land use committee, fired back at critics in a statement to The Real Deal.

His sixth-floor addition and seventh-floor penthouse were consistent with the approvals he got from the city Department of Buildings in 2006, Shaoul said via email.

When the DOB approved the addition — including a penthouse a third the size of the roof area — the agency waived certain requirements under the Multiple Dwelling Law in exchange for the addition of sprinklers and other fire safety measures not technically required, he said.

“One need only look at all the many pop-ups built over tenements, primarily on the West Side and Lower Manhattan, to know that this was a standard policy at the department,” Shaoul wrote, noting that he had “every right to rely on the department’s approvals and no reason to suspect that anything was wrong.”

However, after completing the addition in 2007, Shaoul ran into trouble with the Board of Standards and Appeals, which reversed the 2006 DOB ruling allowing the additional two floors. According to the BSA, the new structures violated the Multiple Dwelling Law with regard to safety and elevator requirements.

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The BSA voted to approve Shaoul’s new sixth story, but not the penthouse above.

Shaoul contended that he was a victim of changing circumstances, namely the BSA ruling and a zoning change that effectively meant the addition would have to be demolished.

“So an owner who followed the rules that existed at the time … and having spent over $1 million on fire safety improvements for the building, was now being told that he would have to demolish the enlargement,” wrote Shaoul, the head of Magnum Real Estate.

The BSA said that adding the two additional floors required Shaoul to install elevators in the rent-stabilized building, which he had not done.

Shaoul said he has returned to the BSA to “seek relief from the unconscionable burden” of DOB’s and the BSA’s actions. He is hopeful, he wrote, that the situation can be resolved. — Julie Strickland