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City OKs changes to landmarked Brooklyn Lyceum building

City OKs changes to landmarked Brooklyn Lyceum building
Tone up: The Lyceum will lose the existing parapets and chimney but get a new air-conditioning unit on its roof.
Daniel Goldner Architects

The city has given a developer a green-light to alter the facade of the landmarked Park Slope building that previously housed the Brooklyn Lyceum, which the company ultimately plans to transform into a fitness club.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission on Tuesday unanimously approved real-estate outfit Greystone’s bid to make changes to the 105-year-old former bathhouse on Fourth Avenue — officially called Public Bath No. 7 — as first reported by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

The developer plans to create new entrances on both Fourth Avenue and President Street, replace existing doors and windows, put an air-conditioning unit on the roof, and add neon signs, among other modifications, according to its application.

The commission made only one change to the proposal, instructing Greystone to match the design of the building’s ground-floor windows with those on its second-floor.

The developer also plans to do some restoration work on the building’s worn exterior, which currently has several boarded-up windows and terracotta crumbling off the roof. The company claims it will fix the broken brickwork and masonry, and give the whole thing a good wash.

Once the makeover is compete, Greystone says it will lease the building to gym chain Blink Fitness — coincidentally returning it to one of its earlier functions.

The city first opened the bathhouse in 1910 as a place for the great unwashed to become slightly less so, according to the commission. The city built a whole network of giant washrooms around the same era, but Public Bath No. 7 — designed by architect and Brooklyn native Raymond Almirall, who also created many of the borough’s beloved Carnegie libraries — was reportedly considered to be the borough’s fanciest at the time and was also the only one in Brooklyn with a swimming pool.

In 1937, then-parks-czar Robert Moses closed the building — describing it as a “disgraceful institution” and instructing locals to go swimming in newer pools in Red Hook and Sunset Park instead, according to a New York Times report — and reopened it five years later as a gymnasium, which was in operation until the 1950s. Various private owners then passed the facility around, but it ultimately fell into disuse and disrepair.

The city designated the structure a landmark in 1984, but it wasn’t opened to the public again until 1994, when the most recent owner Eric Richmond purchased the building and turned it into a popular neighborhood performing arts venue called the Brooklyn Lyceum. But Richmond got into a long financial dispute with his architect that left him with millions of dollars in liens on the property, and the Lyceum went into foreclosure in 2008.

Richmond fought the proceedings for years, but a judge pulled the plug last year, and Greystone bought both the bathhouse for $7.5 million at auction.

The developer originally planned to divide the landmarked building into condominiums, but ended up deciding to keep it in one piece and lease it to Blink instead.

Greystone is also constructing a 12-story apartment building on the lot next door, and expects to finish work on both properties next year.

Reach reporter Allegra Hobbs at ahobbs@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8312.
It goes a little something like this: Developer Greystone plans to turn the Brooklyn Lyceum into a gym and build a 12-story apartment building next door.
Paperfarm Inc.

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