Photos by Tequila Minsky
Workers removed material — including a bundle of pink insulation — from the illegal seventh-floor penthouse at 514-516 E. Sixth St. on Wednesday. The B.S.A. ruled last fall that the penthouse must come down.
BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | It took almost five years, but Ben Shaoul is finally removing the penthouse that he added onto 514-516 E. Sixth St. The Villager was tipped off by concerned reader Terry Towery, who said a crane had come in last Friday and was delivering equipment, making the resident think Shaoul was actually going to add more to the already illegal rooftop addition.
“Were’t they supposed to tear it down and not add more?” Towery asked.
But Kelly Magee, the Department of Buildings’ press secretary, said what’s going on is that Shaoul is indeed removing the tenement’s illegal seventh-story penthouse. He also had added a sixth story but is being allowed to keep that. The work is being done in compliance with a Sept. 12, 2012, ruling by the Board of Standards and Appeals.
“Work is being performed to dismantle the penthouse, in accordance with approved plans,” Magee said. A crane isn’t being used. Rather, the penthouse is being dismantled by hand, as in “with handheld devices,” Magee said.
She also noted that D.O.B., during a recent site inspection, issued one violation for “failure to provide guardrails” around the work area so that workers don’t fall off the building.
Shaoul also added a sixth floor and a similar, seventh-story, setback penthouse at another building he owns, 515 E. Fifth St., where the tenants have also challenged the additions in court.
At both the Fifth and Sixth St. buildings, tenants — working with the Urban Justice Center — challenged the rooftop additions under the 1929 Multiple Dwellings Law, charging that they were illegal because neither building had an elevator or adequate fire escapes, as required by the law.
Tenants at the Fifth St. building also filed a lawsuit charging D.O.B. had issued Shaoul the permit for the rooftop additions in violation of the so-called “Sliver Law,” which limits building heights on lots narrower than 45 feet.
According to Alice Baldwin, a tenant at 515 E. Fifth St., the “Sliver Law” issue didn’t affect the Sixth St. building, which — because Shaoul somehow wrangled variances for violating the Multiple Dwellings Law — is being allowed to keep the sixth-story addition, though must remove the seventh-story penthouse.
“The B.S.A. is going to have to consider the zoning laws first on Fifth St., before even considering the M.D.L. variances [Shaoul and his partners] want,” Baldwin told The Villager. “We are hoping they will recommend removing both the sixth and seventh floors. It is taking so long because the owner is collecting rent on those floors and wants to keep doing so.”
Tenants from both buildings asked the B.S.A. back in 2008 to reverse the D.O.B. permits that allowed the rooftop additions.
On Sixth St., the rooftop addition was never actually fully completed because D.O.B. hit Shaoul with a stop-work order.