Updated: Governor Allows Gyms to Open at One-Third Capacity; UWS Fitness Pros Have Mixed Feelings


Photo of X93 from early in the pandemic before mask mandates, Chris tells us.

By Lisa Kava

Governor Cuomo announced on Monday that gyms in New York State will be allowed to reopen on August 24 at 33% capacity with safety guidelines, such as mandatory mask wearing, in place.

Update: The governor’s action may not trickle down to New York City gyms for quite some time. “Despite Cuomo’s announcement this morning, it is highly unlikely that New York City gyms will be ready to be reopened next week,” Gothamist reported, late Monday afternoon. “A spokesperson for the mayor said that the city’s inspectors are currently prioritizing inspecting schools and childcare centers in anticipation of them reopening. Gyms won’t be inspected until those are all done, and the city won’t allow gyms to reopen until after those inspections are done.

The reaction of Upper West Side gym owners to the possibility of reopening was mixed.

Large gyms and smaller fitness facilities have been closed since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in March. Earlier this summer, Governor Cuomo pulled gyms from New York State’s Phase Four reopening plans.

Many Upper West Side fitness studio owners have been offering virtual exercise options, in order to both serve their clients and save their businesses.

“I am happy I will be allowed to open but not happy with 33% when I still have to pay 100% rent and bills” said Chris Fernandez, owner of X93 Fitness on Amsterdam and West 93rd Street. “At only 33% a lot of gyms won’t be able to pay back loans, back rent or any bills from being shut for over four months.”  Fernandez is part of a not for profit organization called New York Fitness Coalition (NYFC): a group of gym owners with a private Facebook group, who joined forces and filed a class action lawsuit against Governor Cuomo pushing for gyms to reopen.  Fernandez believes Cuomo’s announcement is directly related to pressure from the lawsuit. “It is not a coincidence.”

In preparation for reopening, Fernandez has already installed Merv13 air filters, steam cleaners and has rearranged the equipment in the gym so that all machines are 6 feet apart from each other.  “I have disinfected the entire gym and will continue to do so.”

West Side Rag interviewed Fernandez in May when he was having trouble getting a Paycheck Protection Program ( PPP) loan. In a telephone conversation with a spokesperson from Chase, WSR was told that Fernandez had filed the wrong forms when applying.  The day after the phone call a representative from Chase reached out to Fernandez to help walk him through the process. Ultimately Fernandez was able to get the loan which he says was crucial in helping him survive.

“It was because of your help that I was able to get the loan, pay my mortgage and feed my family” Fernandez told the Rag. He is grateful for his Upper West Side clients who “never gave up on us and continued to train virtually. They helped me survive.”

Hallee Altman, the owner of Candlestick Pilates on West 83rd Street is feeling thankful and cautiously optimistic after hearing Cuomo’s announcement.


Candlestick Pilates.

“We will look forward to opening slowly (not on 8/24 as allowed, but shortly thereafter) and comply with DOH guidelines” said Altman who is a member of the NYFC Facebook group but did not participate in the lawsuit. “I will use this next week to reach out to clients, prepare the studio with a reopening schedule and offer outdoor and indoor private appointments. We will continue classes virtually and keep capacity below the suggested amount to ensure everyone’s safety.” Altman, has been offering virtual classes on zoom to her clients since March. “What a relief to know that we are finally being valued as a safe necessity for health and wellness.”

NEWS | 35 comments | permalink
    1. S says:

      Honestly, FINALLY. Anyone who understands science at all would understand how important it is to workout. PERIOD. Nothing else to say. You literally cannot refute science. Working out is 110% a nessesity to stay healthy and remain living on planet Earth.

      • Mark R says:

        What’s stopping you from working out in the open air? Plenty of people are running and cycling. You can walk to Coney Island or to the Palisades: that’ll surely burn lots of calories.

        You can stay in shape many ways, but there’s only one way to keep us all safe from infection. If you can’t do your part, you don’t deserve to benefit from a place in civilized society.

      • yddub says:

        You dont need a gym to workout. Do the exercises and workouts you have been doing all this while

      • Sid says:

        I’m not re-joining my gym after discovering calisthenics and the pull-up bars in Central Park!

    2. Disgusted UWestsider says:

      I think Cuomo has done an exemplary job of leading through the Pandemic, but this seems premature. I’m a fitness nut but I just don’t see how gyms can operate safely-even with masks– when people are sweating, breathing more heavily and aerosolizing all that comes with an intense work out. I feel terrible for the gym owners and fitness pros of course. For the attendees not so much since there are viable alternatives to the gym on Zoom and outside. Also, shouldn’t we get the school thing right before we open gyms?

      • Josh says:

        Agreed. There are many ways to stay fit during the pandemic without the gym, such as jogging, cycling, or virtual classes over zoom.

        I agree about getting schools right first. Sadly, we’re not even close. I’m a DOE teacher and am embarrassed to say that I have absolutely no idea what I am going to be doing as a teacher come September because the DOE hasnt actually figured it out yet themselves. Normally, I would have done a lot of work already planned for the first couple weeks of school.

    3. Helen Lemay says:

      What about the pools in the gyms?

    4. Equinox (77th & Amsterdam) emailed me a few weeks ago that I wouldn’t be allowed back when they reopened, as I don’t have a cellphone, and booking an appointment through a cellphone would be the only method used to enter their facility.

      So I wrote back: !%^$%#@#%!!! Etc.

      Anyway, I don’t want to wear no mask as I’m doing those EZ bar curls while on the floor, & I’m assuming the feeling is mutual…

      jeez, I’m gonna be so, so, sad not being able to hand over what amounts to $200+ monthly to them any more.

      Boo hoo, sniffle…

      • Mary Jones says:

        You need access to the app to book appointments for workouts and also for entry to the gym. Communication to members is mostly through the app now. iPad works for this as well as cellphone.

    5. K Gersh says:

      What is happening with the larger chain gyms? Specifically, NYSC, which has completely failed its members during this closure period with a lack of transparency and communication. Does that mean we’ll be able to cancel our memberships in person?

      • CrankyPants says:

        You can cancel your NYSC membership by emailing memberhelp@tsiclubs.com You can also alert your credit card to reject any future payments they may try obtain. Frankly, it’s hard to believe that they will be able to come back from this at all when they were already so rapidly deteriorating pre-pandemic.

        • K Gersh says:

          I’ve tried all the emails, including that one, webforms, and certified letter (as instructed by the 2nd level form email). No luck after a month. Already discussed with my credit card.

      • Marianne says:

        Don’t know if the New York Health and racquet club qualifies as a large Chain gym, it’s probably a smaller one, but sadly they permanently closed their doors and whoever has been a member can carry over their membership to lifetime fitness who have purchased the NYHRC club locations and are in the process of renovating. Don’t know when they will open.

    6. Amy Cook says:

      Misleading. NYC gyms aren’t opening.

    7. Iris says:

      I’d say hi to Betty too, but she is not wearing a mask! Why are you posting this X39 picture when the article is about gyms
      opening provided they abide by safety guidelines, “such as mandatory mask wearing?”

      • Chris Fernandez says:

        You can say hi to Betty. She is amazing. This was before Covid-19 lock down. I was taking all precautions ahead of the pandemic. We are not open yet.

    8. Neal Hurwitz says:

      I wanna play pickleball!!! Call me 212-666-6217 Neal at Columbia U. TY.

    9. GG says:

      Don’t get why people need to go to a gym to work out. There are parks to run, walk, ride bikes. Weights can be used at home. Stationary bikes and tread mills as well. Think that’d be cheaper than membership fees. But. What do I know?

    10. Calamari Kandinsky's sister says:

      It’s unfortunate that the photo of X93 Fitness shows a client with her mask beneath her chin. It sort of undermines Chris Fernandez’ description of all he is doing to make his facility safe(r).

      • Chris Fernandez says:

        This was a before Covid lock down. I was taking precaution before we was force to lock down gyms.

    11. B.B. says:

      Don’t anyone get their hopes up about going to gym anytime soon.

      Yes, Albany gave nod for gyms/fitness centers throughout the state to open; but BdeB has stated those in NYC will remain shut until city says otherwise.

      https://nypost.com/2020/08/17/de-blasio-says-nyc-gyms-not-reopening-anytime-soon/

    12. GC says:

      It is wiser & safer to exercise outdoors in the fresh air or at home rather than within the confines of a gym. A gym, sweaty with hundreds of touch points, is the perfect breeding ground for Covid-19. To think otherwise is to kid yourself & to rationalize, which always ends badly. As such, I am canceling my gym membership in advance of their being permitted to reopen at 33% capacity next week. Of course, gyms will continue to go out of business and that is sad but there really is no alternative until a cure &/or a vaccine is discovered.

    13. Lorraine says:

      I hope Hallee has room to separate her towers! 🙂 I do have to give a shout out to NeXa Pilates on Bwy/82nd. I saw pictures of their reconfigured space and it looks great. The equipment is well separated. And they’ve had their Merv13’s in place since July!

      I also have to wonder what the guidelines mean for places like Pilates and Yoga studios with respect to his caveat about classes. These places are all classes! I hope there won’t be issues there.

    14. Danielle Remp says:

      There is a *plethora* of workouts (for free) on YouTube. They’re for every age, stage and purpose.
      Here is a sampling:
      https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=workouts+at+home

    15. Steven says:

      I’m glad for the business aspect so it can make money again. But I worry as is it really safe to use the same gym equipment right after someone else used it during a pandemic?

      • Gainz says:

        At 1/3 capacity and with masks and wipedowns, I think so. Contact risk is very low.

        • Steven says:

          Contact risk I agree with, skin touching skin, but it’s different when a person sweats on equipment that the next person then has touch their body. It’s not skin then but a person’s body moisture. So even with 1/3 at capacity, it’s still 1 persons sweat onto another persons skin. But I’m certainly no doctor, it just makes me feel cautious & concerned.

    16. BronxBoy says:

      In normal times, I was happy to pay Equinox for the pleasure of working out in a clean, well-equipped gym with plenty of space between the machines and lots of TVs.

      I don’t want to run outdoors and I don’t want to deal with weather. I liked the aerobics machines, which I could use while watching TV, and the weights, and the showers were clean and convenient the 2-3 days a year when my home hot water was off.

      All that said, I’m not going back anytime soon. You can’t really do aerobic exercise while wearing a mask, and the risk of one asymptomatic super spreader in an enclosed space is just too high for me.

    17. yoma43 says:

      People who think gyms are not essential must have never had to do post-surgery rehab – or post-surgery maintenance. If you can’t do impact, those machines are key. And not everyone’s apartment is big enough to house equipment.

      As for YouTube or Instagram workouts… who the heck can watch a workout on a small laptop or phone and do the work at the same time? Also, a lot of people have to wear glasses to see the screen. Working out in glasses is not

      • Member.uws.equinox says:

        Does anyone belong to the Equinox on Columbus Ave/ 67 st and WoN’t return in September because. it Won’t be safe from Aerosolized-Virus from Asymptomatic Members or Employees? (We all emit aerosolized particles through breathing.) How can we Organize to either 1) get our Paid-Membership reimbursed or Put a Hold on our Membership, to Wait until there’s a Safe Vaccine ?? How can we organize?