Traders in the Raw
Beefcake manager Constantine says the Wall Street Spa appeals to money guys, who take breaks there. One Sunday afternoon, men and women read aimlessly by the “junior Olympic pool,” the fitness machines stand empty, and nobody gives a damn. The only sign of business-as-usual is the upscale pose: cigar room, pool table, even a leather-couched VIP lounge for private hot-tub parties. Middle-aged Russians patronize the Finnish sauna, Turkish steam room, frigid plunge pool—the best in town—and the array of exotic body treatments, from $60 salt glows to $75 seaweed wraps. Formerly a fitness club, this elegant but mildly claustrophobic basement space reopened with the mission of restoring the public bathhouse from sex cave to health retreat. But not too healthy: On your way out you can visit the on-site restaurant for delicacies like plov (a lamb stew) at $12.95 and herring à la Russe at $6.95. Vodka is served. —M.J. THOMPSON
Wall Street Bath and Day Spa 88 Fulton Street 212-766-8600 Open daily 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. $26 per visit, 10 for $200, $975 annually Robes, towels, slippers provided
Sweat It Out
In another life, Bania Inc. Russian-Turkish Baths might have been an auto shop. But this two-story warehouse on an industrial strip in Brooklyn’s Kensington district has sworn off hard work. Styled like a poor man’s antiquity, with miniature Greek columns and two-dimensional statuary, Bania provides fierce heat in a social setting that’s meant to heal. From the dry Finnish sauna with cedar benches arranged agora style, past the wet “Russian room” with its tile-and-concrete sitting platforms, to the saturated “Turkish” room with its body-obscuring clouds of steam, talk comes easy here. Especially fun is the crowd of fleshy men, mostly Russian, mostly straight, who cluster in deck chairs overlooking the water—in this case, a vaguely funky Jacuzzi and cold pool—and a Greek mural of toga wearers. Synthetic, yes. But real glasnost comes in the restaurant, where bathers and staff alike wash down cheap caviar with 16-ounce Russian beers called Baltica for $3 a pop, and live like the ruling class. —M.J.T.
Bania 602 Coney Island Avenue (near Beverly) 718-853-2525 Open Monthrough Fri 10 a.m. to midnight, Sat and Sun 8 a.m. to midnight $20 per visit, towels and slippers provided
It’s a Wrap
I thought a seaweed wrap meant being mummified with strands of ocean greenery, but I was doused with liquid seaweed and wrapped in a silver Mylar blanket, like leftover sushi. At the Oasis Day Spa, a woman glazed my entire body with the cool, silky, slippery emulsion; it felt like being finger-painted, only sexier. Packaged up, I was alone with my thoughts—and my itchy nose. The Mylar fastened my arms to my sides so that I couldn’t scratch. After half an hour and much twitching, I was rescued and unwrapped. A six-headed shower fixture slid into place. Hallelujah! I thought as warm water gushed over me, rinsing away seaweed, toxins, and the itch. When I return to the spa, where a long, candlelit corridor leads to a diverse therapeutic world, I may choose a simple massage or a classic European facial instead. —ARIELLE FREEDBERG
Oasis Day Spa 108 East 16th Street 2nd floor 212-254-7722 www.nydayspa.com Open Mon through Fri 10 a.m. to 10:15 p.m., Sat and Sun 9 a.m. to 9:15 p.m.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 13, 2001