Local residents are once again up in arms over the future of the
historic terra cotta building on Broadway at 110th St.
This summer, after both Community Board 9 and the Board of
Standard and Appeals approved a variance that would have allowed a
new building to rise several stories higher than the current
structure while still preserving the fa�ade of the present
storefront, two local residents filed a lawsuit in protest.
A lawyer for the plaintiffs claimed Wednesday that the
developers have withdrawn their request for the variance--an
exemption from certain zoning laws--and that plans may be back to
an "as of right" building, which would not preserve the current
storefront. That may mean that West Side Market, a popular local
grocery that closed in May, would be unable to reopen.
"The latest word we have is that the case appears to be over. I
heard from the city yesterday that the developer was going to
withdraw his variance," said the plaintiff's attorney, Jeffrey
The lawsuit was filed by Jonathan Schachter and Robert
Roistacher, both residents of 545 W. 111th St., against the City of
New York and the Board of Standards and Appeals, which oversees the
granting of variances.
The suit alleges that the city failed to follow procedures and
improperly discounted certain testimony presented last spring at
hearings before the board. It is scheduled for a preliminary
hearing on Thursday.
A withdrawal of the variance would greatly restrict the options
of Surtsey Realty, who hopes to build on the site. Without the
variance, the organization must build "as-of-right," meaning that
any structure would have to use the entire footprint of the lot and
would be restricted to around 11 stories in height.
The developers would not comment directly as to whether the
variance request had been withdrawn, but spokeswoman Michelle de
Milly said that "as a result of Schacter and Roistacher's
litigation, the probability of building the variance building is
bleak, and it may well be that they are going to proceed with the
The building spawned major debate last spring when the
developers fought to gain a variance. Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell
brokered a deal that would have traded a taller building for one
set back from the street and would have assured that West Side
Market would return when construction was completed. Now that
agreement appears to be defunct. "It would be a great tragedy if
one member of this community would end up leading the developer to
destroy the terra cotta building on 110th and to extend the time
until West Side Market will return to the community," O'Donnell
Danny Katz, formerly a co-owner of 535 W. 110th St., spearheaded
the campaign to stop the building's construction. He was pleased
with the lawsuit.
"We have a great system of justice, and I think this is part of
the process," he said. "I welcome the scrutiny of the courts."
Despite his empathy, Katz denied being involved in the suit in
any way, a charge made by several others in the community including
Barbara Hohol, a resident of 111th St. who advocated for the
Hohol said supporters of the variance building have not given
up, and described the suit as Katz "once again attempting to
pervert the legal system to his own purposes and acting in a manner
to disregard the clearly expressed wishes of most of the
"Fate of Historic 110th Building in Doubt Again" (Sept. 9)
quoted Morningside resident Barbara Hohol as accusing Danny Katz, a
former owner of a 110th Street building, of "attempting to pervert
the legal system." Hohol was referring to Bob Roistacher, a 111th
Street resident who recently filed a lawsuit against the City of
New York, and not to Katz.