A landmarked Fourth Avenue arts venue has been sold out from under its proprietor.
A Manhattan developer bought Brooklyn Lyceum for $7.6 million at a foreclosure auction on Oct. 23, punctuating a more-than-six-year-long legal fight over the fate of the Fourth Avenue performance space, but not ending it, according to soon-to-be-former owner Eric Richmond.
“The only difference to me right now is that maybe someone else will have to shovel snow this winter,” Richmond said. “I’m still going to fight the battle.”
Developer Greystone bought the former bathhouse, which was built between Union and President streets in 1908 and is zoned to allow commercial and residential uses. Its historic designation means proposed alterations would be subject to heavy scrutiny.
A representative of Greystone declined to comment, citing the 60-day waiting period for the sale to go through.
Richmond claims that he and a team of backers had pooled $11 million to buy the property but that his bidder at the auction stopped at $7.5 million, allowing Gresytone to outbid them by $100,000. Richmond said he is challenging the validity of the foreclosure on the basis that the firm that owned the mortgage on the building did not have standing to foreclose when it moved to do so, thanks to litigation he has pending against it in state and federal courts.
“There are two outstanding cases that could unwind the sale,” Richmond said. “I’m going to clear it up.”
The foreclosure proceedings began in 2008, when the property had millions of dollars in liens against it, a debt that has now climbed to more than $5 million.
Richmond had taken out a mortgage from a limited-liability corporation he described as being run by “Manhattan money people” to cover renovations and legal fees for his longstanding feud with his former architect Jeane Miele over control of the lot next door, he said. The foreclosure had stalled because Richmond is in the process of declaring bankruptcy, but an Aug. 14 court order allowed it to proceed.
Last year Richmond opened the Lyceum’s doors to freelancers, charging $10 per day for wifi and all-you-can-drink coffee in an effort to turn the financial tide.
Richmond said he plans to keep the space open at least through the end of the year — and indefinitely if he wins in court — but his annual “A Charlie Brown Christmas” performance is in jeopardy.
“I need to figure out if I’m going to focus on the appeals,” he said. “I love ‘Charlie Brown Christmas’ and it brings thousands of people in, but I’m not sure I can do it this year.”
The Lyceum was named after the garden in Greece where Aristotle taught philosophy. Richmond described the place as “Brooklyn’s medieval town square,” and made every attempt to live up to the billing with wide-ranging programming, including theater productions, concerts, comedy, lectures, DJ nights, classes on subjects such as silk-screening, skate nights and a batting cage.— with Nathan Tempey