Send in the freelancers: Gowanus arts space rents to laptop-wielders despite foreclosure threat

Send in the freelancers: Gowanus arts space rents to laptop-wielders despite foreclosure threat
Come on down: Eric Richmond, the brains behind the Brooklyn Lyceum, sits at a table he wants to start renting as shared office space.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

An embattled performance venue on the border of Gowanus and Park Slope is expanding its programming and trying to entice freelancers to rent out space even as its owner is mired in legal problems and the building faces a foreclosure auction.

Brooklyn Lyceum proprietor Eric Richmond said that the land-marked venue that sits on a prime development site on Fourth Avenue will remain open despite the ongoing court battle that could soon cost him the building, a former public bathhouse.

Richmond is wrapped up in a five-years-and-counting court battle with his former architect Jeane Miele, who he owes $5-million on a loan of between $500,000 and $2-million. Richmond declared bankruptcy to stave off foreclosure on the 19-year-old arts space and the L-shaped lot next door, but Miele has asked a court to waive the poverty claim so that the properties can be sold at auction. A hearing could decide the place’s fate as soon as next month, but Richmond is confident he will prevail — so confident he is trying to move in new tenants.

Starting this week, freelancers hungry for a place to park their laptops can take advantage of table space, internet, and all the coffee they can drink, all for just $10 per day, Richmond said.

The Lyceum was originally supposed to open its so-called “co-working space” on Nov. 4, but Richmond said he needed to fix up the heating system before opening the doors to daytime roommates.

But Miele is unperturbed. To say that Richmond’s friend-turned-foreclosure-foe is optimistic about his chances of winning before a judge would be an understatement.

“It’s about 95 to five that we’ll win against Richmond, and when that happens there will be a sale scheduled and it will be sold out from under him,” Miele said.

Despite the dire prediction, the space will host its annual production of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” from Dec. 12 to 22, Richmond promised.

Reach reporter Jaime Lutz at jlutz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow her on Twitter @jaime_lutz.

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