Lyceum’s former owner: Judge hornswoggled me out of the property

Out, but not down: Brooklyn Lyceum proprietor Eric Richmond is holding out hope that he can win the venue back in court.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

A Brooklyn judge cheated the owner of a landmarked Park Slope building out of his property when she illegally allowed its sale at auction to pay off creditors, a lawsuit claims.

Eric Richmond, who purchased the Brooklyn Lyceum on Fourth Avenue between President and Union streets in 1994 and used it as an events space until this winter, claims a bankruptcy judge lied when she ruled that a court filing to keep the building in his name got to her a day late, and that the auction she subsequently approved should never have happened.

Richmond alleged Judge Carla Craig gave him seven days to appeal a ruling she filed on Sept. 30 that allowed the property to be auctioned. But when he filed his appeal on Oct. 7, the judge ignored it, claiming it was a day late, as she signed her order on Sept. 29 — and that was when the clock started ticking.

“Due process matters,” Richmond said. “If you’re given seven days, you’re supposed to get seven days — and you can’t just change that after the fact.”

But Craig lifted the order keeping the Lyceum off the market and it sold at auction on Oct. 23 for $7.6 million.

Richmond’s motion is one of several last-ditch efforts to regain control of his pet project, which was a decrepit eyesore when he bought it two decades ago. He has battled for the Lyceum since foreclosure proceedings began in 2008 over millions of dollars in liens against the property, a debt that at the time of the sale had climbed to more than $5 million.

Richmond is fighting his legal battles in hopes of reopening the venue, but he said he is also taking a stand for fair treatment by the courts.

“My main goal is getting the building back, but if I have to fall on the sword of due process, I will fall on that sword,” he said.

The new owner, meanwhile, is steaming ahead with plans to restore the Lyceum’s facade and convert the inside to condos. The firm, Greystone, also plunked down $12.5 million for an adjacent lot on which it plans to build a 12-story, 75-unit residential rental building, along with ground-floor retail space.

The decision to snap up the arts center came at the last minute, a representative said.

“While in the process of purchasing 225 Fourth Ave., we found out about the auction next door,” said Karen Marotta, a Greystone spokeswoman. “It all happened very fast.”

Marotta said Greystone expects work on the rental building to begin in the spring, but the development of the former Lyceum will take longer, as the developer must navigate the strict requirements of the Landmarks Preservation Commission in order to get approval for the project.

Greystone has filed an initial application for the renovation, but it has not submitted its full plans, and a hearing has not yet been scheduled, according to a Landmarks spokeswoman.

A clerk for Judge Craig said the judge had no comment.

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at nhurowitz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz
Curtains: The iconic Fourth Avenue building is a former public bathhouse — and might be fancy private housing in the future.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

More from Around New York