If Commercial Gyms Can Reopen, Why Can’t the One in My Building?

Q: Commercial gyms have reopened in New York City, but my condo’s gym remains closed, and the managing agent says it will remain that way for the foreseeable future because the building doesn’t have the staff or resources to comply with city guidelines. Are gyms in residential buildings really held to the same standard as commercial gyms? Couldn’t the building devise sensible safety measures, like limiting use to one household at a time, or letting residents sign a liability waiver?

A: State reopening guidelines do not differentiate between stand-alone gyms and those inside residential buildings, so your condo has to follow the same rules as an Equinox. For some buildings, overcoming those hurdles is difficult, time-consuming and expensive.

Buildings with gyms that are operated by outside vendors have been in a better position to reopen the facilities quickly. “They’re motivated to open,” said Dan Wurtzel, the president of FirstService Residential New York, a property management company. “This is their business and they know how to get everything done and it’s part of what they do.”

But most apartment buildings operate their own gyms, resulting in what can be a plodding process. “There is no amenity overseer to snap their fingers and put everything together,” Mr. Wurtzel said.

Your condo would need to meet ventilation requirements, space out the equipment, and figure out how to sanitize the area regularly. The board would also need to develop a safety plan and enforce occupancy limits, which are currently capped at 33 percent. The building could implement a sign-up sheet, but someone has to monitor and enforce it.

Some buildings are more motivated than others to get all this done. The landlord of a luxury rental, for example, may look at the sluggish rental market and see the investment as a priority to attract and keep tenants. But a condo board may feel less pressure to act, especially if many residents still haven’t returned to the city.

But your condo should not write off the facility as a lost cause simply because reopening it is complicated. If the gym is a priority for residents, it should be a priority for the board, too. Ask the board to provide you with a reopening timeline, laying out the hurdles to get there. Ask your neighbors to add their voices to the conversation; if the board knows that a large number of residents want to get back to the gym, it may feel pressure to act on your collective behalf.

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