110-Year-Old LES Bathhouse Deemed Unstable, to be Demolished for Turf Field

Posted on: February 11th, 2019 at 5:00 am by

The LaGuardia Bathhouse, a Lower East Side relic abandoned since the 1970s, is to be demolished in the coming months, and replaced with a new playing field.

The city quietly determined in mid-December that the crumbling building, situated alongside the Little Flower Playground on Madison Street, is not structurally sound and at risk of collapse. Demolition permits are already in place, according to Department of Buildings records.

This seemingly “sudden” determination comes in the context of the search for alternate open space when the city moves ahead with closing East River Park to implement a controversial resiliency plan. You’ll recall that, despite years of upgrades and work along the coastline (i.e. the “Big U”), the city is now scrapping the plan altogether.

The Parks Department announced that Mayor Bill de Blasio has already allocated funds to demolish the city-owned building, and to replace it with a synthetic turf field. Demolition is imminent, but the field is expected to open sometime in spring 2020 – just as the agency expects East River Park to close for more than three years.

The LaGuardia Bathhouse dates back to December 1909, a time when the area was dotted with many such facilities as a means to combat diseases that spread through the crowded slums of the Lower East Side. It was the called the 5 Rutgers Place Gymnasium for its location on since-demapped portion of Rutgers Place. The facility received an upgrade in the 1940s to include an indoor pool and gym. By 1957, the surrounding blocks were razed to create the LaGuardia Houses (NYCHA). Like the Baruch Bathhouse further uptown, though, the facility fell victim to the city’s financial hardship two decades later.

The community previously rallied for its return to form some twelve years ago. Former Councilman Alan Gerson gathered alongside 200 neighbors in 2007 to demand the city take action. It was reported at the time that the renovation job would cost $40 million, plus $1 million per year in operational costs.

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