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Columbia Spectator Staff

The longstanding controversy over the future of a building on 110th Street, formerly the home of West Side Market, developed yet another new wrinkle yesterday.

A representative from New York's Board of Standards and Appeals claimed the board had received a letter from the developer of a proposed building on 110th Street that surrendered the company's exemption from city zoning laws, but the developers denied sending such a letter.

A spokeswoman for Surstey, the developer, did confirm that Surtsey has been in contact with the city about surrendering the variance.

Without a variance, the developers have three options: build nothing; build a structure that complies with zoning laws, called an as-of-right building; or design another structure requiring different variances and have them approved.

"It is the intention to develop this site, and Surtsey Realty is looking at building an as-of-right building," said Michele de Milly, a spokeswoman for the developers.
She cited a lawsuit filed recently against the city by Bob Roistacher and Jonathan Schacter, two 111th Street residents who alleged that the city did not act properly in the hearings leading to the July decision.

"The bank financing that has been in place will not move forward in light of the litigation," de Milly said.

The company received the variance this summer after several months of petitioning both Community Board 9 and the Board of Standard and Appeals. At every step, a group of local residents vocally opposed the developer's quest for a variance.

The variance building would have been 14 stories tall and set back from the street. It would have preserved the façade of the existing terra-cotta building and allowed West Side Market, which previously occupied the building, to move in faster than an as-of-right. An as-of-right structure can only be 11 stories high and will take up the entire lot.

Reaction to the news was mixed.

Bob Roistacher, who brought the lawsuit against the city, was pleased that the variance building was dead, but hoped that the developer would not move ahead with an as-of-right.
"When we challenged the variances, we presumed they would not build the so-called as-of-right building because their testimony to the [city] was that it was not financially feasible," he said.

Roistacher opposed the variance building because, he said, it would leave a void in the street wall, would deprive residents of light and air, and was bad urban design. He defended his lawsuit by saying that he hoped it would force a compromise.

Daniel Katz, a co-owner of the adjacent building on 110th Street, lobbied against the variance and borrowed the words of poet Lewis Carroll for the occasion.

"O frabjous day," Katz said. "Callooh! Callay!"

Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell, who worked with Surtsey in planning the building and the necessary variances, was not happy.

"I believe that the building--the variance--that they applied for, that was designed with the consultation of the community, and was approved by the [city] was a better building for the community," O'Donnell said.

He noted that an as-of-right building will not preserve the terra-cotta building.

"Anybody that would interfere with that process and force the building to be built as-of-right is doing so against the interest of the community, and that makes me very sad," O'Donnell said.

Barbara Hohol, a resident of 111th Street, blamed the lawsuit for the defeat.

"Mr. Roistacher, by his selfish and self-centered lawsuit, has cost the community and the city a cherished icon, a historical building, and very likely the trust and cooperation of future developers," she said. "I think most of the community feels not so much defeated, but cheated."