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NYC’s oldest bathhouse, long abandoned, could be remade for public use

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The Baruch Bathhouse on the Lower East Side is being eyed for redevelopment

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After over 40 years of abandonment, the city’s first public bathhouse may be reactivated for public use. At the Lower East Side’s Community Board 3 subcommittee for parks meeting on March 15, the Parks Department, who controls the bathhouse site, discussed issuing a Request for Expressions of Interest for the site, the Lo-Down reports. The RFEI is intended to get the ball rolling on redeveloping the property, which has been closed to the public since 1975.

The Parks Department hasn’t advanced any ideas about how it would like the site to be reactivated, but the Lower East Side community has made its wishes clear that it wants to see the former bathhouse become a community center. But after sitting unused for so many years, the building may be beyond repair. A 2001 inspection of the site at 326 Delancey Street by the New York City Housing Authority, who controls the Baruch Houses surrounding the property, determined that the building suffers from serious structural insufficiencies as well as mold and flooding in the basement.

The most likely course of action, a parks representative told the subcommittee last week, would be to demolish the building at a cost of $2 million. “Based on the 2001 inspection, we believe that’s probably what needs to be done,” Deputy Parks Commissioner Alyssa Konon said of demolishing the building. “However, if somebody wants to respond with some ideas around either restoring the building, or building on the historical elements there, of course, we’re open to that.”

Baruch Houses resident and founder of Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES) Damaris Reyes suggested creating a stakeholder committee that could be designated by the community board that would help guide the property’s redevelopment with meaningful input from the community. “You could go a long way towards soothing some of the fears and making sure that the community is happy with the (outcome),” Reyes said.

Once applications are received through the RFEI, which is expected to go out in three weeks, the department will return to CB3 to vet the options. If the proposals are warranting, a Request For Proposals will be issued.