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City Asks Developer to Redesign Controversial Balconies on Pleasant Avenue

By Gustavo Solis | January 13, 2015 8:45am | Updated on January 13, 2015 5:01pm
  Over the last year, HAP has invested more than $100 million in six developments throughout East Harlem. The developments will have more than 100 total units and HAP isn't ruling out buying more lots, HAP CEO Eran Polack said.
Developer Told to Redesign Controversial Balconies on Pleasant Avenue
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EAST HARLEM — A controversial development project that includes balconies that look more at home in South Beach than East Harlem will have to revamp its design because of zoning violations, city officials said.

The Department of Buildings audited HAP Investment Developers' design for an eight-story apartment building on 329 Pleasant Ave. in December after receiving multiple complaints about the proposed structure.

The audit found several zoning violations, including the height of the building and the height and size of the balconies, DOB spokesman Alexander Schnell said.

“If the applicant doesn’t clear the objections by remedying the underlying conditions, the agency could revoke their permits,” Schnell said.

Although HAP declined to say how the audit's findings affect their design, they are cooperating with the city.

“HAP Investments has responded to the audit and continues to cooperate with the DOB,” CEO Eran Polack said in a statement.

Renderings of 329 Pleasant Ave., which showed bright pink and baby blue balconies  were named among the most attention-grabbing renderings of 2014 by The Real Deal.

The Daily News, Wall Street Journal and several local television news stations reported on neighbors' outrage at the proposed colors.

In October, the Journal reported on HAP's decision to change the pink and blue color scheme after a community vote. Regardless of their color, some of the balconies will need to be removed or redesigned, according to the DOB audit. 

HAP's plans call for the eight-story building to stand 80 feet, but local zoning laws limit buildings to 75 feet, requiring HAP to reduce the structure's height, according to the audit.

Ever since the building's renderings were released in August, several residents have taken to Twitter to criticize the designer, Karim Rashid.

Locals have said Rashid's design doesn't fit with the century-old buildings on Pleasant Avenue. Rashid has defended his design, saying architecture shouldn't have to marry or reflect existing surroundings. 

“I’m saddened with how easily you dismiss the character and life of these 100-year-old buildings,” Alexandra Pagano told Rashid via Twitter.

“I would not buy horse/buggy, play records on gramophone, use dial telephone or sit in shaker chair or sleep on straw mattress,” the designer responded.

In October, the DOB slapped HAP with a partial stop-work order at the site for, “failure to preserve & protect adjoining structure.”  The stop-work order was rescinded in December, according to DOB records.

Several neighbors have reported property damage, including broken fences and the decapitation of a Buddha statue.

“I’m very upset over those things,” said Eugene Rodriguez, 68, who lives on East 118th Street. “I lost my yard and now my grandkids can't go outside until they finish.”

Rodriguez, who worries that the height of the building will overshadow his backyard, is glad that the DOB audited HAP’s design but fears it is too little, too late.

“I still want to know what they are going to do about my backyard,” he said. "They haven’t been in contact with me at all."

Earlier this month, Polack shared his daily routine for a "Day in the Life" article for The Real Deal.

"I get picked up and driven to the different sites we have under construction," said Polack about a typical morning at 8:15. "I talk to neighbors and make sure nothing with the project is interfering with their life."