A ruling on October 19 by New York City’s Board of Standards and Appeals may provide a turning point in the almost decade-long struggle over the fate of the CHARAS building site. Located near Tompkins Square Park, the former Public School 64 had been used as a community center for many years, until developer Gregg Singer purchased it at a 1998 city auction for $3.15 million.

If the Board rules in Singer’s favor, he may finally be able to move ahead with his proposal to construct a 19-story building, with 222 dorm units on the site. Recently, the Department of Buildings rejected his attempt to build, citing a requirement for the developer to abide by community use stipulations in the property’s deed. Thus far, Singer has had no takers for his dormitory proposal among any of the colleges in the area.

City Councilwoman Margarita Lopez, representing the neighborhood, said that such a building “would destroy the character of the neighborhood.”

Singer recently tried to sell the property on the public market, for an asking price between $50 million and $70 million. Lopez argued that his attempt to sell the property “shows that the community is winning” the struggle. A ruling against him by the Board would be a significant further setback.

The range of uses that Lopez envisions for the building include: a day care center, a social services center, a senior center, or a community theater, “where children can appreciate the theatrical work of Shakespeare or Calderon de la Barca.” Susan Stetzer, District Manager of Manhattan Community Board 3, noted such past uses of the site as a community meeting center and an artists’ space.

Related to the conflict over whether to convert the building into a 19-story dormitory, community activists secured a victory in restricting building heights in the East Village. On September 27, the community board voted unanimously in favor of “contextual zoning,” which would restrict construction to prevailing East Village building heights of about five or six stories. Stetzer said that even newer residents are supporting contextual zoning. ”They moved here because they were attracted to the character of the neighborhood.”