Information about this lot
Why is this lot here?
You can use this form to suggest uses that the community actually wants to see as concessions in this building:
NYC Parks will consider your fantastic ideas and you should also share them as notes below and become an Organizer so you can connect with others to make the futures we imagine real!
Article in Untapped Cities, by Jaime Jensen, following up on last month's testimonies before the City Council Parks Committee:
Baruch Baths, a Historic Landmark on the Lower East Side is Off-Limits to the Public
Within a New York City Housing Authority complex, a historic building remains inaccessible to the public and the surrounding community. The Baruch Baths, located at 326 Delancey Street is a large, neoclassical building, a 115-year-old landmark along the easternmost section of Rivington Street on the Lower East Side. The building pays tribute to two generations of New Yorkers whose work, directly and indirectly, helped bring health and recreation amenities to the masses. More than a century ago, new immigrants arriving on the Lower East Side were forced into congested tenement districts where overcrowding threatened their health and welfare, and epidemics of cholera and typhoid raged because of a lack of clean water and basic sanitation facilities.
Dr. Simon Baruch (1840-1921), who served as a surgeon during the Civil War, witnessed firsthand the debilitating effects of unhealthy water and lack of sanitation. In 1889 Dr Baruch voiced the first plea for public bathhouses, and in 1901 New York City completed and opened this building. Then known as Rivington Street Public Baths, the building featured indoor and outdoor bathing pools, as well as showers, tubs and changing rooms.
In 1939, Bernard Baruch (1870-1965), son of Dr. Simon Baruch and noted financier, donated the surrounding land to the city, and the NYC Parks Department assumed jurisdiction, renovating the bathhouse with better recreational facilities and constructing Baruch Playground on an adjacent site. Since the 1950s urban renewal era, when the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) preserved Baruch Baths while building Manhattan’s largest public housing complex, New York City Parks Department has administered this property for NYCHA, but in 1975, when a long fiscal crisis made the facility too expensive for the cash-strapped city to operate, the recreation center at Baruch Baths was closed.
As you can see from the photos, at present this once-proud public amenity stands as an all-too-vivid reminder of under-investment in New York City’s most marginalized communities. With support from the City Council and other agencies, the bathhouse could be brought back to productive life, perhaps being incorporated into the more than $1.5 billion that’s being invested in post-Sandy resiliency projects in the immediate vicinity of this long-neglected landmark. This is one of the properties that was testified about at the recent City Hall hearing about NYC Parks properties currently closed to the public.
The narrative below was written in 2006 and is from http://michaelminn.net/newyork/buildings/public_baths/ (click the link for photos).
Opened March 23, 1901
Original Cost: $95,691
The Rivington Street Public Bath was the first of the municipally-funded public baths in New York City resulting from the efforts of the progressive public bath movement. Ground was broken in December 1897 for a large building with 91 showers and 10 bathtubs. The building was intended to serve the largely Jewish population of the Lower East Side.
At the time of this writing (Fall 2006) the building is abandoned and nestled in the middle of Baruch Houses, a 2,200-apartment NYC Housing Authority complex that was completed in 1959. Coincidentally, the complex is named after Bernard Baruch, who was the son of Simon Baruch, a physician commonly regarded as the father of the public bath movement in the United States. The high-rise complex was an urban renewal effort created by demolishing area tenements. The area's street grid was altered by this development, terminating Rivington Street West of the complex and isolating this incongruous but substantial building in its midst.
The dilapidated building was closed and sealed in 1975 during the city's financial crisis, leaving only one obvious entrance door at the front. The foliage growing out of the top of the building may be indicative of compromised roofing that would leave what is left of the interior unusable. Ironically, although the real estate on which the building sits is probably of substantial value, ownership by the city in the middle of public housing probably means that this building may remain standing - ignored and unloved - for many years to come.
Community Board 3's 2017 District Needs statement (http://www.nyc.gov/html/mancb3/downloads/cb3docs/fy_2017_needs_statement.pdf) included this:
The "White House" in Baruch Houses is not operational and is in need of capital repairs so that it can be used as a community facility
Toilets in CB 3 parks, recreational fields, playgrounds and park buildings with park programming are badly needed. Funding is still needed for comfort stations in other parks throughout the district such as Baruch Playground...
Volume 75, Number 13 | August 17 - 23, 2005
City Council candidate Michael Beys and Baruch Houses kids cheer the idea of restoring the old Baruch Houses bathhouse as a community center.
Bathhouse just needs scrub, says candidate
By Ellen Keohane
With their little arms raised high in the air, about 50 children stood on the steps of the abandoned Baruch Houses bathhouse in the Lower East Side on Monday afternoon in the rain, shouting chants and holding homemade poster board signs in support of Michael Beys, a candidate for City Council in District 2.
“When do we want a recreation center!” shouted Beys. “Now!” replied the children in unison. “How are we going to do it?” said Beys. “Together!” they yelled.
Beys, smiling for photos next to the kids, said he wants to make the renovation of the Baruch bathhouse a “top priority” if he is elected. The building, which he called “dilapidated,” has been ignored for too long, and a community center would be a great use of the underutilized space, he said.
The bathhouse, first built in 1901, housed an outdoor pool as well as separate showers and tubs for men and women. After falling into disrepair, the bathhouse was shut down in 1975 during a time of fiscal crisis, said a Parks Department spokesperson. The building’s windows are now encased in cinderblocks and its facade is covered with graffiti.
The Parks Department, which owns the property, does not have the funds to renovate and maintain the bathhouse. It would be a tremendous undertaking and would most likely cost far more than tens of millions of dollars — although no formal assessment has ever been done — a Parks spokesperson said. However, if there is public interest and sufficient funding is made available, it would be something they would definitely consider. For now, Parks is currently constructing new turf playing fields at Baruch Playground.
Beys, a former federal prosecutor, is one of seven candidates running for Councilmember Margarita Lopez’s seat. The other candidates include Reverend Joan Brightharp, Darren Bloch, Brian Kavanagh, Gur Tsabar and Rosie Mendez, who is Lopez’s former chief of staff. Claudia Flanagan, who was knocked off the Democratic ballot, is reportedly considering running on another party line.
“[The bathhouse] belongs to our community and we want it back,” said Roberto Napoleon, Baruch Houses Tenants Association president and head of the Puerto Rican Council. Many of the children present for the press event were from the Puerto Rican Council Day Care Center. The tenants association and the council have given Beys their support, Napoleon said.
Baruch Houses is Manhattan’s largest housing development with 2,389 apartments, according to the New York City Housing Authority. While there is a community center in a Baruch Houses building located at 605 F.D.R. Drive, it can only legally hold less than 30 children, Napoleon said.
“Margarita Lopez hasn’t done anything for Baruch Houses in the eight years she’s been in office,” said former Democratic District Leader Roberto Caballero, who is also a founder of the Committee to Defeat Margarita Lopez. While Lopez earmarked funds for Washington Square Park and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center on W. 13th St., both of which are not in her district, she has neglected Baruch Houses, he charged.
There was no request for the renovation of the bathhouse by anyone in the community, including Community Board 3 or the Housing Authority, said Connie Ress, a Lopez spokesperson. As early as 1998 or 1999, Lopez, acting on her own, contacted the Parks Department several times to request that the Baruch Houses’ bathhouse be landmarked and renovated, but was told that the bathhouse was not a department priority, Ress said.
This year, Lopez advocated for $450,000 for the construction of handball courts that had previously been torn down at Baruch Houses, Ress said. With Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s support, the funds have been allocated within the 2006 city budget, according to a July 18, 2005, letter from Lopez to Community Board 3, which was also CC’ed to the Baruch Houses Tenants Association.
“[If elected] I will work very hard to secure funding for this project,” said Beys, during the press event. “You can’t put a price on keeping kids off the streets.”