Back in 2008, the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) decreed that the one-story addition to 515 E. Fifth St. was illegal and should be removed.
Ben Shaoul's Magnum Real Estate was behind the enlargements, which were approved by the Buildings Department but were found to skirt certain fire and safety regulations, per published reports. (Read more about the ruling at the Post and Curbed.)
And that was that.
Fast forward to the fall of 2011, where some residents of 515 and several local politicians and community groups held a protest at the address. Per the press release at the time:
[We] will call on the Department of Buildings (DOB) to finally force developer Ben Shaoul to come into compliance with the law and evacuate and dismantle a roof top addition tomorrow — an addition that was deemed illegal by the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA). In addition, there are 13 major code violations that put tenants in danger, including fire safety issues (there was an electrical fire at the building in March), that continue to be unresolved. The DOB has thus far not responded to the BSA’s decision and tenants feel that they are being forced out by the developer for higher paying renters.
And that was that.
However, this morning, there's a BSA hearing about 515 E. Fifth St. that could become the precedent for all similar expansions in the neighborhood. Here's a notice on the meeting via GOLES:
"This construction was found illegal in BSA decisions in 2007 and 2008. Now the landlord is seeking to reverse them. If the landlord is allowed to keep this illegal construction it will set a precedent for other landlords to do the same ... leading to dangerous construction that can cause damage to the structure of such old tenement buildings."
Magnum Real Estate is still listed as the landlord. This was not one of the 30-plus properties that Jared Kushner purchased in recent months.
But Kushner may have plans of his own for extra floors. During a contentious community meeting last month, Kushner reps said that they intend to "follow the law" and that property additions would be considered from "time to time," according to a report by BoweryBoogie.
Last October, the BSA OK'd rooftop additions for these five properties on East Ninth Street.
City Councilmember Rosie Mendez's office told us the following: "No vote was taken...a submission schedule was worked out and the hearing will be continued on July 23."
Mendez provided joint testimony yesterday along with Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh And State Senator Brad Hoylman.
According to their testimony:
Notably, the owner does not claim that the addition was built pursuant to a valid permit or that the addition was built in compliance with the prior zoning. Instead, what the owner is asking you to do is to reinstate the permit under the old zoning, based on an unenforceable promise that eventually, somehow, the owner will bring the building into compliance — despite the compelling fact that the owner has kept the building in willful noncompliance for over six years. In the strongest possible terms, we urge you to reject this request.
Moreover, we note the essential fact that for at least six years, the owner has profited from these persistent and repeated zoning violations. According to DOB records, since at least December 2006, the owner has occupied the four duplex apartments that comprise the unlawfully built addition. We trace such unlawful occupancy back to December 5th, 2006 when the DOB issued a violation for "ALTERED BUILDING OCCUPIED WITHOUT A VALID CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY. SIXTH FL AND PENTHOUSE OCCUPIED WITHOUT A VALID C OF O."
Several people in attendance told us that the BSA was "highly skeptical of the arguments made by Marvin Mitzner, the lawyer representing [landlord Ben] Shaoul." The BSA reiterated that the permits were unlawful and that they are basically offended that the sixth floor and penthouse have been occupied for over six years without a certificate of occupancy while the owner claims a hardship.