(Photo: Kavitha Surana)

(Photo: Kavitha Surana)

If you haven’t heard, the old Allen Street bathhouse (called “comfort station” in polite parlance) may be getting a long overdue facelift. The poor thing had a short life– built in the 1930s, it was closed by the ’50s once the Second Avenue El closed down. Since then it just sits there, an odd sentinel on the Allen Street Mall, reminding passersby of a bygone era– and perhaps teasing them when they really need to go.

Last night we learned more details about its future. The city’s Economic Development Corporation visited CB3’s Parks & Rec committee to ask feedback about an imminent Request for Proposal for a food establishment to take over the landmarked building. The parks department expects it would be something like a walk-up joint where you order and take your food to a new (public) outdoor seating area, or a sit-down cafe (so, something like Mudpark), but it could also be a grab-and-go spot.

They estimate the renovation may cost around $4 million, but $2 million are already available, through the city and Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. The future restaurant operators would need to provide the rest of the money and commit to 15 years in the space.

Committee members emphasized that they wanted any future cafe or restaurant to be something affordable and at least moderately healthy, not some kind of Shake Shack knockoff soiling the integrity of the Lower East Side. Alexander Han, Deputy Director of Concessions at City of New York, reassured them that this was already being taken into consideration.

“All of our RFPs require that concessions are affordable and that they provide healthy options– that’s standard language in our RFPs,” he said. 

Susan Stetzer, district manager, asked why the RFP had to be so narrow – why not a bike repair shop, or some other creative proposal that feeds a community need? 

“If it’s a municipal use, why does it have to be a traditional use?” she said. “I mean, we have millions of food places all around– that’s all we have is food. And I’m not saying a food place would be bad, but it just seems you are precluding something else coming in.”

Han replied that city parks have certain regulations and can only do so much. “We don’t have any bike repair shops, that’s just not what we can use park money for,” he said. The RFP would only consider food applications, but they could also have secondary uses, like bike rental as an amenity for the park. 

The committee plans to write a resolution incorporating their desires for the RFP at the next committee meeting in March. The RFP is likely to be issued at the end of March.