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Exit Interview: State Senator Thomas K. Duane, East Village Advocate

Tom Duane with votersCourtesy Thomas K. Duane Tom Duane with voters, Nov. 29, 2011 at City Hall.

Thomas K. Duane announced this week that he won’t be seeking re-election, but the state senate’s first openly gay member is still railing against “malevolent” landlords. In an interview with The Local, the Democrat discussed his 14 years of representing the East Village as state senator, including his battles with landlords like Benjamin Shaoul, his preservation efforts for the proposed historic district and the now-demolished 35 Cooper Square, and his attempts at curbing an explosion of nightlife in the neighborhood.


You’ve been fighting for tenants’ rights during the 14 years you’ve served as Senator. How did that spill over into the East Village?


I really fought just a terrible landlord, Ben Shaoul. He wants to expand at 514-516 East Sixth Street and 329-335 East Ninth Street. We’ve been reaching out to both of the city housing agencies, the Department of Buildings and H.P.D. [Department of Housing Preservation and Development], and working with the tenants and the neighborhood activists to force him to comply with the law. Read more…

Want to Party with Questlove, John Legend, and… Ben Shaoul?

East 4thPhilip Ross 118-122 East Fourth Street

It costs a pretty penny to throw down with the East Village’s elite.

A swank benefit for the United Jewish Appeal of New York on June 6 will be co-chaired by Benjamin Shaoul, who owns numerous properties all over the neighborhood, and will feature a performance by another local: John Legend. Questlove of the Roots will also spin records.

Tickets for the gala at Capitale on Bowery start at $360, and go as high as $20,000 for the “Legend package” that includes a meet-and-greet with the piano-playing crooner, as well as a listing on a “Scroll of Honor as ‘Legend.'” Lesser donations yield designations as a “producer,” “promoter,” or “performer,” among others. Read more…

Here’s The Story: A Look Inside That Controversial Fifth-Floor Addition

Screen shot 2012-02-10 at 3.25.34 PM

Want to live in one of the most controversial apartments in the neighborhood? Here’s what the layout of your new pad will look like!

Earlier today, The Local got hold of the blueprints for 315 East 10th Street, the building that got the go-ahead for a rooftop extension literally hours before the Landmarks Preservation Commission declared it within a historic district along Tompkins Square Park.

The completely new, 1,523-square-foot fifth floor will feature a pair of one-bedroom apartments (accessible by elevator!). The exterior will have a new “historic” touch, too: a spokeswoman for the Landmarks Preservation Commission said that the owner of the building, Ben Shaoul, has pledged to build a replica of the existing cornice on top of the new floor. Read more…

Deal to Save Cabrini Center Is Off the Table

CabriniStephen Rex Brown

The new owner of the building that houses Cabrini Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation has failed to come to terms with a  potential new operator of the nursing home, increasing the likelihood that it will close when its lease expires in April.

Kenneth Fisher, an attorney representing Magnum Real Estate Group, which bought the building at Avenue B and Fifth Street late last year, said that negotiations to resell the building to a for-profit nursing home operator fell apart earlier this week. “On Sunday, we believed there was an agreement on the price,” he said. “On Tuesday, they had walked back from the agreement.” He added, “We’re disappointed that the transaction wasn’t reduced to a written contract.”

Michele deMilly, a consultant for Cabrini who is authorized to speak for the company, confirmed that a deal is no longer in the works: “Yesterday we heard that Magnum, meaning Ben Shaoul, was no longer negotiating with the prospective new operator of the nursing home facility on that site – he had terminated all negotiations –  and that Cabrini was going to proceed with their closing plan.” Read more…

East 10th Landmarked, But Not Before Controversial Renovation Is Approved

buildingNoah Fecks East 10th Street. The second building from the right was approved for a rooftop addition only hours before the street was designated a landmark district.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission approved a historic district on a block of East 10th Street along Tompkins Square Park today, though a controversial rooftop addition that led to the expedited hearing also got the go-ahead literally hours before the vote.

With the designation, the exteriors of the 26 buildings between Avenues A and B will essentially be preserved as-is. But at the meeting the executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, Andrew Berman, revealed that developer Ben Shaoul’s plans for a rooftop addition to 315 East 10th Street had been approved by the Department of Buildings.

“It reflects poorly on Shaoul and the city agencies that they couldn’t get their act together,” said Mr. Berman. Read more…

Cabrini Building May Be Resold to For-Profit Operator, Remain a Nursing Home

CabriniStephen Rex Brown

A letter sent from Kenneth Fisher to local politicians indicates that the attorney’s client, Benjamin Shaoul’s Magnum Real Estate Group, may be close to reselling the property that houses the Cabrini Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation, which Magnum recently purchased for $25.5 million. With a new for-profit operator in the mix, the deal would allay fears that the building will be replaced by condos, and would help insure that it continue to be used as a nursing home.

The letter was sent on Wednesday to State Senator Daniel Squadron and other politicians who had earlier written to Mr. Fisher reiterating their position that “any future use of the building should retain nursing home beds on the Lower East Side.” In his response, Mr. Fisher indicated that on Dec. 6, he was advised by a lawyer representing Cabrini that an earlier plan to relocate the not-for-profit nursing home had fallen through, and the Center was now negotiating to be purchased by a for-profit operator that might also be able to purchase the building from Magnum. Read more…

Landmarking Push Doesn’t Bother Shaoul

buildingNoah Fecks East 10th Street. Ben Shaoul’s building is one over from right.

The developer that spurred the Landmarks Preservation Commission to expedite a public hearing for a proposed historic district on East 10th Street said today that the designation would not affect his plans for a building on the block along Tompkins Square Park.

“It doesn’t make a difference if it’s landmarked or not — we’re going to comply with whatever is set forth by the governing parties,” said Ben Shaoul, who recently bought the building at 315 East 10th Street. “We intend to fully restore the façade to its original state, anyway.”

It was Mr. Shaoul’s application with the Department of Buildings to build a rooftop addition to the property that garnered the attention of the Commission, which is considering protecting the exteriors of the 26 buildings on the north side of Tompkins Square Park. By law, the Commission can fast-track the landmarks process if proposed renovations to a property would affect the historic aesthetic of a district up for consideration. Read more…

Spurred by Possible Construction, East 10th Street Landmark District Put on Fast Track

Historic buildings of the EVDavid Jarrett Details from a building within one of the two proposed districts.

A critical hearing regarding a proposed landmark district on East 10th Street has been expedited due to a controversial application for an addition to a building in the area, the Landmarks Preservation Commission revealed today.

Last week, the real estate magnate Ben Shaoul applied for an additional floor to 315 East 10th Street along Tompkins Square Park, which he had recently purchased. The rooftop addition, which would be a departure from the 26 buildings – most of which are four-story 19th- and 20th-century dwellings – that line the block, garnered the attention of the city Landmarks Preservation Commission.

“The reason we’re scheduling the date earlier than we planned is that the Department of Buildings notified the Commission’s staff this past Sunday that the owner of 315 East 10th Street had filed an application for a permit to construct a rooftop addition that could potentially affect the character of the proposed district,” wrote Elisabeth de Bourbon, a spokeswoman for the Commission. Read more…

Squadron Slams Shaoul Penthouse

-1Lauren Carol Smith The rooftop extension at 514-516 East Sixth Street.

Speaking of rooftop additions, the three-year battle against an extension to an East Sixth Street building continues. Today, State Senator Daniel Squadron testified before the city Board of Standards and Appeals, urging that the landlord be forced to remove the addition that looms above neighboring buildings. Last year, the Board had ruled that the new sixth floor of the building at 514-516 East Sixth Street could remain in place, but that the seventh floor had to be removed. The landlord, Ben Shaoul, is now seeking a waiver of that order.

“By granting this variance, the Board of Standards and Appeals would set a precedent that would allow additional apartments to be built far in excess of what current zoning laws allow,” Mr. Squadron said. “Granting today’s request could also lead to a permanent change to the original height of the tenement buildings on East Sixth Street, putting the buildings out of context with their neighbors and altering the feel of an historic neighborhood.”

The dispute over the rooftop extension mirrors complaints about an extension to 515 East Fifth Street, which is also owned in part by Mr. Shaoul.