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Buffing it up: Developer plans to turn Brooklyn Lyceum into a gym • Brooklyn Paper

Buffing it up: Developer plans to turn Brooklyn Lyceum into a gym

Beauty and the beast: A rendering of the modern 12-story residential building that will be built next to the landmarked Brooklyn Lyceum.
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Muscles aren’t the only thing being built at this gym.

The developer that bought Park Slope’s landmarked Brooklyn Lyceum last year has benched its plans to turn the beloved former performance venue on Fourth Avenue into condominiums and will instead lease the space to a fitness-center chain — but it says it needs to get the building itself into shape first.

Real estate company Greystone announced Monday that it has inked a deal with Blink Fitness to take over the 107-year-old bathhouse between Union and President Streets.

But first, it claims it needs to remove the chimney and parapet, add signs, put a new entrance to the front of the building, stick an air-conditioning unit on the roof, and replace the current windows with what it says will be “historically-accurate” replicas — all of which will require approval from the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Greystone says the chimney and parapet are neither historic nor functional, and that the new entrance is needed to make the building wheelchair accessible. It says the makeover will leave the facade in better condition than it is in right now.

“The exterior will not only be kept intact, but it will be restored to its original beauty,” said Greystone spokeswoman Karen Marotta.

But the building’s former owner claims the modifications will change the original “character” of the building, and hopes the landmarks commission turns down the plan when it reviews the changes on July 21.

“It goes against anything the landmarks commission should be approving,” said Eric Richmond, who ran a neighborhood arts venue in the building for almost two decades, and had long foretold that the building would become a Duane Reade pharmacy once he left.

Richmond first purchased the then-decrepit structure in 1994, and turned it into a popular local performing-arts venue — best known for its annual community production of “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

But he became embroiled in a years-long financial dispute with his former architect that left him with $5-million in liens on the property, and the building went into foreclosure. Greystone then snapped it up for $7.4 million at an auction in October last year, when it also bought the lot next door for another $12.5 million, where it plans to erect a 12-story apartment building.

But Richmond is still fighting to get the property back, which he says should never have been auctioned off in the first place. He filed a lawsuit in February against the bankruptcy judge who okayed the sale in order to pay off his creditors, claiming she did not give him enough time to file an appeal.

Richmond says he’ll keep fighting the judge until the building is his again. In the meantime, he issued a warning to the future tenants that if he wins his legal battle, any lease for the building would dissolve.

“I wouldn’t be signing a lease with Greystone,” said Eric Richmond. “If the only way they have a lease is through the violation of law by a judge then the lease doesn’t matter.”

Greystone expects to wrap-up construction on the property, as well as the new apartment building next door, in 2016.

Reach reporter Allegra Hobbs at ahobbs@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8312.
Sweat shop: Developer Greystone is leasing the Brooklyn Lyceum to gym chain Blink Fitness.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

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