Westchester fitness clubs to state leaders: Respond to the reopening plan – The Journal News

Posted: August 15, 2020 at 4:48 pm


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Gym owners and elected officials spoke on the need to reopen gyms while at the Saw Mill Club in Mt. Kisco Aug. 13, 2020. Rockland/Westchester Journal News

MOUNT KISCO Local fitness clubownersoutlined Thursdaythe social distancing, sanitizingand othersafety measures they will useas they pushedfor the state to starta discussionabout reopening gyms, following theirstatewide shutdown since March due to theCOVID-19 pandemic.

"We're ready to be open today," Rick Beusman, owner of Saw Mill Club East, saidin response to a reporter's question during a news conferenceat the club on North Bedford Road. But hesaid he and others understandand wantto have adiscussionwith the state.

A plan has been submittedfor how fitness centers couldreopen, but "we haven't gotten any specific responses, besides some generalities" from the state, said Beusman,who sits on the board of the New York State Fitness Alliance, whichsubmittedtheplan in Albany.

"A big message today is that we consider ourselves to be an essential business in our local communities," he said.

Rick Beusman, owner of the Saw Mill Club in Mt. Kisco, speaks at a press conference to demonstrate safety measures put into place to reopen indoor activities Aug. 13, 2020. Local fitness center owners and elected officials took part in the news conference at the Saw Mill Club in Mt. Kisco.(Photo: Frank Becerra Jr./Poughkeepsie Journal)

At Saw Mill Club East, for instance, 50 percent of the cardio equipment has been removed to allow for better social distancing, Beusman said. Classeshave been reduced to less than half their previous sizes. Masks are required. Temperatures would betaken of people who arrive.There will be reservation and check-in usingphone apps to reserve training time slots and to restrictclass sizes.

Gyms had been slated to reopen under the state's Phase 4 reopening plan. ButGov. Andrew Cuomosaid earlier this year that they are to remainclosed until the state better understandshow the virus mightspread bywater droplets and air conditioning within indoor spaces.

Beusman said Saw Mill Club East is among fitness centers that want to work with the governor and officials in Albany. "We understand the reticence and concern the governor has. We think it's unfounded," he said, "but we simply want to be able to work this out."

Saw Mill Club East and some other fitness centers are not pursuing the matter through the courts.

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But morethan 2,000 fitness-related businesses in New York havejoined a class actionthat seeks both an injunction preventing the state from continuing to ban general fitness gyms, CrossFit gyms and yoga and pilates studios from indoor operation. The suit also seeks financial compensation for the time they've been closed. The lawyerwhofiled the suit has said there'spotential loss of 60,000 to 90,000 jobs ifgyms and exercise studios permanently shut down and thatthe gyms can be operatedsafely.

On Thursday in Mount Kisco, areafitnessclubowners highlighted physical and mental health as reasonsto reopen and showed a video oftestimonials by people who in support. People who'vespent months at home during the effort to curb COVID-19's spread may have also experienced health issues including weight gain, which isassociated with diabetes and heart disease and which can befactors tied toserious COVID-19 cases.

"I applaud the quick action by the governor ... we should be thankful that we live in a state that's taking the issue seriously," said Bill Beck, president of Club Fitin Briarcliff Manor and Jefferson Valley. But hesaid exercise is a foundation for good health and people who do sohave improvedresistance to disease and better outcomes in fighting illness.

"Governor Cuomo talked about a program in New York to offer mental health resources to any New Yorker who needs it," Beck said."Well, if we could get back to health clubs we might need less of that. Let's do all that we can to help our community get in better shape through movement."

Beck said last month that Club Fit has been readyingfor months for reopening,including removingequipmentto create more distancing in itsfitness center and movingequipment to other areasthat had had different uses so that people have more workout space.

Several elected officialsexpressedsupport at the news conference for moving the discussions alongabout reopening, but did not expresslycall forimmediate reopening.

Mount Kisco Mayor Gina Picinich said the Beusman family openedSaw Mill Club Eastin thevillage in the 1970s and have been atthe forefront of promoting health and fitness. Over the years, more health clubs and gymsopened, she said,contributing to area villages and towns in other ways too.

"It's about being generous;it's about being philanthropic; they were good corporate citizens" forthe health of the local economy," Picinich said. "So it's really importantthat these employees are able to bring back their employees to help drive the health of our local economy as well."

State Sen. Peter Harckham said thecoalition of fitness clubs seeking a responsefromthe state is"here in the spirit of collaboration and cooperation" and this is"about a constructive partnershipas to howthis industry can safely open up."

State Senator Peter Harckham speaks at a press conference to talk about reopening indoor activities while at the Saw Mill Club in Mt. Kisco Aug. 13, 2020. Local fitness center owners and elected officials took part in the news conference at the Saw Mill Club.(Photo: Frank Becerra Jr./Poughkeepsie Journal)

The sentiment of Thursday's news conference was echoed in astatement posted on the website of The Arena, a fitness center located in a Westchester Avenue office complexin White Plains.

"Extended periods of isolation is not only bad for the mind, but impacts the immune system and overall health," wrote owner Charles DeFrancesco. "While initially locking down was the correct course of action, many experts believe we need to pay more attention to the consequences at this point.

Michael McKinney covers northern Westchester.Follow him on Twitter@mikemckwrite.Visitoffers.lohud.comto sign up for a subscription.

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Westchester fitness clubs to state leaders: Respond to the reopening plan - The Journal News

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August 15th, 2020 at 4:48 pm

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