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Brooklyn Lyceum Owner Warns Arts Venue Could Become Duane Reade

By Leslie Albrecht | February 12, 2013 6:50pm

GOWANUS — The owner of the financially troubled Brooklyn Lyceum arts venue says his landmark building could turn into a Duane Reade or condos if he loses a battle to prevent an upcoming foreclosure auction.

Brooklyn Lyceum owner Eric Richmond has asked supporters to attend a Feb. 19 court hearing that could decide the fate of the former public bath house on Fourth Avenue and President Street.

In a passionate message on the Lyceum's website, Richmond detailed how he bought the "big wreck of a building" in 1994 and set about turning the one-time hangout for crack addicts into a haven for striving artists.

Today the multi-purpose 8,000-square-foot Lyceum hosts music, theater, film festivals, New Year's parties, Zumba classes and roller skating. Big name musicians including Fiona Apple, The Polyphonic Spree, Vernon Reid and Jose Gonzalez have played there, according to Richmond.

But the building has been embroiled in a lengthy legal dispute with an architect and faces more than $5 million in liens as a result. Richmond and his attorneys are now appealing a judge's decision to allow the building to be sold at a foreclosure auction.

"If we are successful, the Lyceum survives," Richmond wrote. "If we lose, who knows what will become of the building: condos? a Duane Reade?"

The Lyceum isn't the only landmarked building in the area facing an uncertain future. The historic Coignet building on Third Avenue and Third Street was recently put up for sale or lease.

A broker representing the building's owner said it's likely that a Starbucks or a bank will want to take over the structure, which is next door to the new Whole Foods scheduled to open later this year.