The Brooklyn Lyceum will shut down next week if the proprietor of the Fourth Avenue venue can’t halt foreclosure proceedings against the bath house-turned performance space.
The Lyceum’s Eric Richmond says he will be forced to pull the plug on the venue if he loses a lengthy court battle against his former architect Jean Miele that will determine which man owns the landmarked building and an adjacent lot that could be a prime development site.
The case started more than five years ago, when Richmond says he took out a $500,000 loan from Miele and temporarily handed over the deed to the next-door vacant lot as he tried to raise cash to pay off the debt.
But Richmond claims that once he procured the funds, Miele tacked on between $600,000 and $800,000 of bogus fees, sparking a legal bout that dragged on as fines and interest accrued, leaving Richmond owing about $5 million.
Claiming there have been a number of improprieties in the case, Richmond is trying to get the foreclosure case brought back to square one — and the interest nixed completely.
“If I wanted to get a development loan for the original amount, I could easily get that and keep the Lyceum open,” said Richmond, 48.
If Richmond loses, the Lyceum and the next-door lot “will be condos and a Duane Reade by next year,” he alleges.
Miele claims that Richmond has repeatedly failed to make payments on the sites and that there is no way his claims will stand up in court.
“Richmond is a really nice guy and I really love him dearly but he is irresponsible and doesn’t do the things that he promises to do in writing, as a result, he’s a bad business risk,” Miele said on Thursday.
Miele expects Richmond will lose possession of the properties and hopes a future owner will preserve the 1910 structure as arts venue after conducting what he describes as necessary repairs, and perhaps build a hotel on the lot beside it.
Richmond purchased the former public bath house and the L-shaped lot in 1994 and went on to renovate the aging building to host events, including concerts, theater, and dog shows.
News of the pending foreclosure has caused some arts groups to back out of their rental agreements, anticipating that the Lyceum will no longer be open when it’s time for their events.
“Bust was supposed to have their spring craft fair here, but they cancelled,” said Richmond. “They couldn’t risk it. They told me to get in touch with them if everything goes well.”
Many members of the Park Slope arts community say the Lyceum will be missed of the historic structure is no longer used as a performance hall.
“Eric has brought a lot to the neighborhood,” said Old Stone House executive director Kim Maier, whose theater company Piper operates out of the Lyceum in the summers. “We’ll probably try to partner with other locations, but it won’t be the same.”
Bryce Norbitz, executive producer of Ugly Rhino Productions, which runs its Ten Minute Plays out of the Lyceum, said the space is unique in the community.
“We’ve put feelers out for other venues, but the Lyceum is so big and beautiful and can hold so many people,” said Norbitz.
This is a breaking story and will be updated as more information becomes available.