A few weeks ago I went to the Russian and Turkish Baths on 10th street on the Lower East Side (we got a deal through groupon). It was the first time I’d gone to a sauna in a long time, but it was fun. The place has been there a hundred years,1 is completely cramped and has an improvised2 feel I found charming. All in all it was a reminder of how people deal with (and have dealt with) the reality of living in a cramped space like the lower east side. The place has been accused of hosting stereotypical bath house shenanigans in recent years, but I didn’t see any. I went on a Saturday morning—coed, no nudity allowed, and hardly any space for such shenanigans to happen in the first place.
1Literally; it was founded in 1892. The Russian Room is heated by a furnace replete with forboding steel door. I don’t know if they use it to heat the rooms any more; I was too focused on not boiling to death to ask.
2One room was heated by old metal radiators under the benches that are simply turned WAY, WAY up. I couldn’t make out the fixtures completely, but I suspected that the steam room was steamed by a simple spigot attached to a steam pipe.