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Derelict Lower East Side bathhouse will be demolished for turf field

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The field will stand in for East River Park during its three-plus year closure

The shuttered public bathhouse predates NYCHA’s LaGuardia Houses and sits within the development’s confines.
Max Touhey

A 110-year-old public bathhouse on the Lower East Side will be demolished to make field space that will stand in for part of the East River Park during its closure. The plan was quietly put into place in mid-December when the city determined that the bathhouse at 5 Rutgers Place within NYCHA’s LaGuardia Houses was not structurally sound, and should be demolished. Plans to demolish the structure are already on file with the Department of Buildings.

“The safety of New Yorkers is paramount, and the Mayor has allocated funding for the immediate demolition of the bathhouse and the clearing of the site,” Parks spokesperson Crystal Howard told Patch, who first reported the new plan for the site. Howard also said that plan is an immediate response to the need for open space during the reconstruction of East River Park.

In September the city announced that it would bury East River Park with ten feet of landfill rather than enact a version of the Big U resiliency project that won the Rebuild By Design competition in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. That plan consisted of bringing a series of berms to the park and drop-down flood barriers from the FDR. The Department of Design and Construction claimed its new plan would reduce construction time by six months while also delivering flood protections nearly a year earlier than projected.

But the new plan ends the community’s access to the park for three and a half years, to the protest of locals, creating the need for new public open space on the Lower East Side. City officials say the bathhouse that sits within the Little Flower Playground will be demolished as soon as possible, and replaced with a synthetic turf field.

The community has previously called for the blighted building to be reconstructed. In 2007, area residents banded together to demand that the structure be renovated and reopened as a center for recreation and elderly residents. At the time, the Park Department estimated that a renewed facility would have cost $40 million with $1 million a year in operating costs. Now facing 12 more years of neglect, the property is worse off. DOB violation records list the property as in an “extreme state of disrepair” with corroding steel framing.

DOB records show that demolition could start as soon as February 19, with the park expected to open in spring 2020.