19th Street Gym NYC: Down for the count?

Closed for now, or closed for good?

Note: The most recent update (at the bottom of this post but before the comment section) is from: January 16, 2010. See info about the gym’s reopening in a new blog post here.

This past Tuesday, November 17th, 19th Street Gym shut its doors, lowered the metal grate in front of them, and posted a simple sign on a piece of paper: “Sorry for the inconvenience – will reopen on November 18th”.

As of yesterday afternoon, November 20th, that same sign was still there.  Their phone number just rings (not even a message), and there’s no notice to gym members on either their website or facebook fan page.

We'll reopen in a jiffy, promise!

On Nov. 18th I contacted a friend who is a trainer and he said his understanding was that the fire marshal had ordered the facility to be closed due to a building code violation, that management was in court, and the gym should reopen on the 19th.  No such luck so far.  As of this morning, their phone still rings unanswered.

Whether this is a temporary issue or whether the gym is closed for good, this is no way to run a business.  At a very minimum, they should keep their members informed about what’s going on via a phone message, sign on the business, and information online.

This is all a real drag, because I actually like the gym a lot.  It’s never crowded (uh, maybe that was the problem), it has the equipment I care about, and it’s convenient to where I work and live.

The whole thing seems particularly fishy in light of the fact that the gym was resorting to increasingly aggressive renewal tactics in the last week or two to drive memberships.  (Paul says he was called 3 times out of the blue, with the initial offer for $599 for 15 months and then repeated sweetened offers when he said he didn’t want to renew yet).

Members who charged their membership to a credit card may have a remedy.  I’ve already contacted AMEX to dispute the full amount of a membership renewal which begins in January.  AMEX was very helpful.  Presumably it’s also possible to dispute the remaining portion of an existing membership, so that will be the next step.

Even if it reopens next week, it seems dubious that this gym can properly operate as an ongoing entity.

Update 1: November 23rd

Doesn’t look like this place is going to reopen.  The possible good news is that apparently NY State law requires health clubs to provide a $50,000-$75,000 bond, payable to “The People of NY State”, as a contingency for this very type of issue.  Whether or not 19th Street Gym was in compliance with this law I’m not sure, but I inquired with the state’s Dept. of Licensing in Albany to find out (I’ll re-post when I receive an answer).

I’m also filing a complaint with the Manhattan office of the State Attorney General.  The AG’s office has successfully gone after health club owners who have abruptly shut down, even barring them from ever opening another club in the State of New York.

I’m only out $500 here over the next 12 months.  It’s not a huge deal, but it’s just hugely irritating because these folks were trying to hawk new memberships and renewals up until the day the doors slammed shut.  That’s fraud.

Update 2: November 24th

Here are some pictures I took today.  At least somebody is posting information on the premises now.  Doh! But that’s just Equinox, offering $0 initiation for 19th Street members, and also asking former 19th Street Trainer’s [sic] to “come on down and apply!”

Equinox seizes this as a marketing opportunity. Who can blame 'em?

Members lost a gym, but trainers lost their source of livelihood. Bad all the way around.

One interesting thing: the two motorcycles (I think they’re basically nonworking props, but still…) that were left in the lobby suggest that perhaps this was not a completely planned and premeditated closure.  Still, once the gym closed, the ownership/management seems to have sort of skipped town.

2 motorcycles are still remaining in the entranceway.

Update 3: November 25th

I tracked down and talked to the owner of the building, who said 19th Street owed “a lot” of money.  He was very nice on the phone and said he sympathized with members.  I asked him about the possibility of retrieving personal property from rented lockers and he was amenable to setting up a time with the building superintendent sometime next week in order for members to come in and get their stuff.

I’ll talk to him again on Monday to try to set a time (I’ll shoot for 6:00pm or so next Tue or Wed) and will post the information here and via a Facebook post.

Update 4: November 30th

I scheduled an appointment with Adriel, who mans the visitor check-in desk at the main 22 W 19th St building entrance, for 6pm Tuesday, Dec 1 to retrieve personal items from locker rooms.  Anyone who wants to get their stuff should come by a few minutes before 6 on Tuesday so we can go in as a group and minimize the inconvenience for the building’s staff.

Incidentally, Adriel also worked out at the gym and hoped that it would reopen.  The last he heard was that the most recent meeting between the building’s owner and 19th St. management went “well” and that it was possible the gym would open “later this week”.  Best of luck if they do.  At this point I (and I know many other 19th St. Gym members) have simply moved on.

Update 5: December 4th

I received an email today from a former member whose trainer passed on the following information. This has not been confirmed through other sources, though:

  • the gym in its current form is closed for good
  • the gym owes more than $100,000 in back rent
  • discussions are taking place with a potential new owner
  • should a deal with a new owner be successful, it would likely be at least 2-3 months before the gym could reopen

Side note: If you’re going to dispute a charge with your credit card issuer, you should do it as soon as possible.  Turns out that many issuers have a policy that disputed charges must be declared within 60 days from the end of the billing cycle on which they were posted.  That means that if you recently renewed, you’re probably in pretty good shape.  But if you’re more than 3 months or so into your current membership, it may be much tougher to recoup the residual value of your remaining months.

Update 6: December 17th

Since today marks the 1 month point since the gate came a-tumblin’ down, it seemed like an update was in order (even though there’s little new to add.)

Several people have emailed me to ask how to contact the building’s management to retrieve things from lockers.  To do so, go in person to the main entrance to 22 W. 19th Street (it’s two wooden doors east of the gym’s entrance).  Ask for Adriel at the visitor check-in desk or alternatively Henry, the building’s superintendent.  They should be able to grant you access or at least schedule another time to do so.

Other people have asked for tips on a similar type no-frills “muscle gym” in the city.  I dunno- I suppose there’s Gold’s on W 54th, or Steel on W. 23rd.  This would probably be an opportune time for me to make a shameless plug for you to try Hunch.  There’s a decision topic on Manhattan gyms which might include some you haven’t yet explored.  Answer questions on the left side of the screen and you’ll see the gyms change on the right side to reflect your preferences.

Happy holidays all former 19th St. Gym members…

Update 7: December 31st

Someone emailed me the following info:
“Apparently the landlord has eleven different parties interested in the space. Whether or not they were all interested in it as a gym isn’t clear. Of those eleven, there were two that the landlord favored. One is a corporation and one is an independent group…both looking at the space to remain as a gym. Even though the landlord favors those two, he is still reviewing all the applications.  A decision will likely be made within another week or so.  Right now, if it’s to be a gym, it is supposed to be back open by February.”

Update 8: Jan 4th, 2010

The motorcycles have now been removed from the lobby.  (Someone emailed me to say he witnessed this happening on 12/30 at 9:15pm, with 5 guys including the former owner doing the removal).  Out with the old, in with the new?

Update 9: Jan 13th, 2010

Someone emailed me the following info:

“The space has apparently been leased to Complete Body.  Aside from new cardio equipment everything else should remain the same.  February 1st is the target date to reopen.  It’s unclear what arrangements/accommodations will be offered to former 19th St. Gym members.  But word is that the gym’s new owners do want to make sure that the independent trainers come back.”

Given that real news is happening again, I’m going to turn comments back on.

Update 10: Jan 16th, 2010

It’s confirmed: the gym will reopen under the management of Complete Body, whose CEO posted a comment below.  Target dates are:

  • Feb 1 for trainers & existing clients
  • March 1 for everyone else

I’m going to start a new post with more info as soon as I get some additional info from Complete Body.

** Please take a brief, 30 second survey I put together about whether you’ll be returning to the gym. **

52 responses to “19th Street Gym NYC: Down for the count?

  1. “It’s never crowded (uh, maybe that was the problem) ” LOL
    I enjoy reading your posts as they make me experience everyday life in NY.

  2. Thanks Ictus! Glad to have a Huncher as a reader.

  3. Very informative!!! I heard the same story of the Fire Marshall shutting the gym down from a building security guard. The lack of communication from management to the gym members is extremely bad business and very upsetting because I went thru 3 other gyms closing with little to no prior notice. If they do re-open could you image the resentment members may have toward management & staff! I’ll stay tuned to your website for more info. Good job!

  4. @cam76: thanks. I was at a party over the weekend that had about 10 members (or should I say former members) from 19th St. Gym. Some had heard that the gym had not been paying rent for several months (quite plausible), others heard they were busted for selling steroids (equally plausible). Almost everyone had been shopping around for new gyms over the weekend and were not holding much hope that the gym would reopen.

  5. The fire or building departments don’t shut down businesses without posting official notices, which are not present here. I talked to the building super who stated that 19th had not paid its rent.

  6. @seth: very true…good point.

  7. I really really hope that this gym reopens, I don’t exactly have another 500-1000$ to join another gym and I at least want to know if it’s time to start saving for another gym. For some people 500 is not a big deal, but for me this is a huge loss esp when a big part of my life involves working out.

  8. @erik: yup, it certainly is unfair and it’s certainly real money. Unfortunately, it looks like you’d better start saving again. See my latest update after speaking with the owner of the building.

  9. Kelly — Bless you! I’ve been on the road, came back to find the gym closed, didn’t know what to do. Been a member there for 12 years. Damn! If you do find a time for us at least to get our stuff back, you’ll be even more my hero. I’m out about 800 bucks, hope I can get some back. Will contact Mastercard. THANKS!!!

  10. @SJ: aw, gee- no problem.

    I’m flabbergasted to say that I just recontacted AMEX to clarify what would happen to a disputed charge if the deadbeat merchant had truly skipped town and doesn’t reply. AMEX said if that’s the case, the cardmember is refunded in full.

    AMEX says they reimburse merchants within about 48 hrs. So think about this: it means that AMEX isn’t withholding disputed charges from future payments; it means they are essentially taking the hit and transferring bankruptcy risk from the cardmember to themselves. This is pretty phenomenal.

    I’m not sure what the Visa/MC policy is on this, but I am incredibly impressed with AMEX’s response.

  11. kelly i don’t live in nyc anymore but really dig your blog.

  12. Thanks Mark- we miss you! (and Paul says hi)

  13. fyi, folks, Mastercard will make good all your unusued months, no questions asked, just like Amex. I called, talked to the Disputes Resolution dept. They’ll try to contact the gym, and if they can’t, they’ve been down this road before. They want a letter from me and a copy of my contract, and that’s it. Bet Visa will do the same.

    Anyone found a new gym they love?

  14. I hope Tommy gets prosecuted for this, if that is even possible. What douche bag! The writing was on the wall when they kept offering new equipment for almost a year and never delivered on it. This was the worst run business I have ever seen. It’s a shame because it had such potential.

  15. @deebo: well, filing for bankruptcy is obviously not a crime. But selling a good or service with little to no expectation of being able to deliver that good or service, could rise to the level of malicious intent and fraud. I guess we’ll see.

  16. Well, I am this close to joining Steel today. do you have any more info about the gym’s status before I spend the cash lol?

  17. Haven’t heard any new news. I’ll be speaking with the landlord again on Monday to schedule a time to get stuff out of lockers, but I don’t expect anything to have changed regarding overall status.

  18. Thanks so much for looking into this! I also have a lot of lifting gear at the gym and as crappy as it is to lose my membership, I really just want to get my stuff at this point. I’ll keep an eye on here to see when they’ll open the place up for us. Thanks again!

  19. Hey thanks for the info, although none of this should be a surprise to anyone. I was walking around the East Village the day before Thanksgiving when I bumped into “Junior.” He was the latest person to call himself “Gym Manager.” Anyway I asked him what happened and he said they’d be open on Monday. Yea sure.

  20. I spoke to a building worker this past Wednesday (Nov. 25, 2009) and he told me that the gym would re-open on Monday (Nov. 30, 2009). I’ll believe it when I see it but my fingers are crossed – I’m getting fat here, lol!!!!!

  21. I’ve also now heard from several people I bumped into around town that they heard the gym would reopen on Monday. All I can say is that when I talked to the landlord at 10:30am last Wed, he gave no indication of that.

    Anyway, cross your fingers (and call first). I’ll be talking to the building owner again on Monday, anyway, so will post an update then.

  22. Thanks for all of your research and follow up. I just rejoined 5 days before they shut down. Luckily, got a refund form MC. It’s a shame – great gym with really bad management (Tommy).

    BTW – your blog is great!

  23. Just canceled my renewal on Mastercard this morning, without a problem. My current contract runs into January, and I had renewed early in November for another 15 months. I can always reinstate the charge if they re-open, but having been screwed once before I’m not willing to take the chance this time. A friend sent me your website link late this afternoon. Thanks for all the info! I’m going to try to be there Tues. at 6pm to clean out my locker too.

  24. Kelly — thanks for all your work. Will be there Tues. to get my stuff.

  25. Tommy has really skrewed everybody with his lack of information. I thought it was a shady operation ever since I witnessed a drug deal go down in the locker room between 2 employees.

  26. FYI – I spoke with the NYS Division of Licensing Services and they said 19th Street Gym had their “performance bond” cancelled by their insurer back in September 2003…..so there is no chance in trying to collect from that.

    Info on the required performance bond can be found at: http://www.oag.state.ny.us/media_center/2003/jan/jan09a_03.html

  27. Hey Kelly,

    Do you by chance have this guy’s number? Adriel told my roomates he’d be there at noon one day last week to let them in to get their stuff and then never showed up (didn’t know about this blog then, otherwise I would have posted it). They also didn’t have his number to try and contact him though. Either way I’ll be there at 6 tomorrow along with you guys. Thanks again.

  28. hey Kelly.really appreciate your effort to keep us informed.i agree the management really has been disrespectful to it’s members.if in fact the gym is closed permanently it will be sad.19th st. is a great mix of people.

  29. @arden: I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to publicly post Adriel’s phone number. But he really tried to be helpful when I talked to him in person and I’ll confirm tomorrow’s appointment again before we all show up. When you see him tomorrow maybe you can ask for his # if your roommates want to try to contact him directly another time.

    See everyone tomorrow at 6-

  30. Final confirmation: I spoke to Adriel again today to confirm today’s 6pm appointment.

  31. I had a gym (24/7 – Tribeca) close in the same manner that 19th street gym did. The Marshall came in about 10am on a Friday back in January 2007, told everyone to get dressed, take all their belongings and leave ASAP. Found out days afterwards that owner of the gym had not paid the rent (for the gym) for many months. What he did do was communicate with his members by posting notes on the front door of the gym. A week after being closed by the Marshall, the gym owner contracted another gym (24/7 – Chelsea) to take over his gym member’s current membership. This other gym honored all memberships from the closed gym for 6 months (after the gym closed) before they told members that they would to buy a membership at their gym if they wished to continue to work out there. “That is how a captain of a ship saves his passengers from his sinking ship.”

  32. Were you (and others) able to get into the gym and retrieve your belongings??

    Any more info about the gym re-opening??

  33. Thanks for letting us know about meeting there at 6pm today. I was happy to get my things out of my locker. I still hope Tommy re-opens the gym, but he’s got a LOT of members with hard feelings to deal with — including mine — over how he’s handled this whole thing.

  34. About 15-20 of us showed up tonight at 6pm to retrieve items from lockers. Adriel, who works the visitor desk at the main 22 W 19th St building lobby, could not have been nicer or more accommodating.

    No new news about a possible re-opening. Just about everyone who showed up tonight was fed up and had joined or was about to join another gym.

    It occurred to me that the uncertainty of this is actually perfect for an online prediction market, since information is scattered and nobody really knows what’s going on. I actually set one up today on inklingmarkets.com, with the virtual trading based on when (if ever) the gym might reopen. But ultimately I decided this was too complicated to get many people to participate.

    So…good luck, all. I (and my partner Paul) have joined NYSC.

  35. Kelly is DA MAN! Thanks, Kelly, for taking the lead on this.

  36. @sj: nice to meet you tonight. If I didn’t know better I’d swear that my mom hired you to say nice things, lol. Good luck finding a replacement gym!

  37. If I can’t get my money back, I am going to make a formal complaint to the Attorney Generals office. The form can be downloaded from this article “file a complaint”. I am sending a copy of my contract. My hope is that maybe someone will at least go to jail for this. They had an aggressive renew your membership campaign, then they pulled the plug and split with the money. It has happened before, and it will happen again.

  38. Does anyone have a contact name and/or number for Mastercard resolution dept?

  39. There’s a lot of misinformation stated above. So I will help shed some light.

    “The whole thing seems particularly fishy in light of the fact that the gym was resorting to increasingly aggressive renewal tactics in the last week or two to drive memberships. ” –
    In response to this, everyone in the gym did not know it was going to be closed down on that Monday a few weeks ago. It was an embarrassing and uncomfortable shock to the members, crew, and trainers (many of which were in the midst of training their clients when the fire Marshall walked in and said everyone has to be out in 5 minutes). So you can lay you’re skepticism to rest on that issue.

    Secondly the full functional motorcycles left in the lobby are not props to make it seem as if this was a planned event. Weather it is lawful or not, Fire Marshalls do not always post warnings with the party being shut down. I cannot speak for the owners, but I can speak for the staff on this situation. The closing was a shock and an incredible inconvenience for the trainers and staff who make their living, feed their families and pay the bills with the money they make through 19th street gym. They can’t charge back a measly $500 to a credit card.

    At the same time, I agree the gym and its crew did a lot of things wrong in this situation, such as not updating the phone messages, facebook, or website for the members.

    Yes there is blame to be placed and issues to be resolved, but before you start getting people riled up and filing complaints, get the facts strait. Parties involved with the gym haven’t even been given all the details about what is going on and what is going to happen. And lastly, I do agree it is complete B.S. There is still a lot of uncertainty that will play out over the next few weeks with this situation. It’s a shame that such a great space is being driven into the ground.

    My suggestion, find a new, reliable gym in the area and also, don’t think the 19th street staff knew this was coming and was trying to steal your money. They just wanted to make that gym what it should have been, they just did not have the tools to do so.

  40. @Erik Smith — The phone number should be printed on the back of your Mastercard, and definitely on a billing statement. It depends on which bank issued you the card.

  41. I worked for Tommy at 19th Street for a year, and this comes to no surprise. Poorly run by drug dealers….that is true. Tommy was all talk and no action. I give him credit for the “dream” he had for the place. But himself and the “gym manager” were a joke.

  42. @joe:

    * If you re-read my comment about motorcycles, you’ll see that my point was that the fact that they are still there suggests that this was *not* a planned closure
    * I don’t blame staff for doing their job selling memberships; the issue is that somebody was giving directions to sell aggressively while at the same time knowing that rent was not being paid (which could only mean that closure was an ongoing and even imminent possibility). That’s wrong.
    * No doubt that this is a real hardship for trainers, and I had already noted that in a photo caption.

  43. Ok all: I think these comments have about played themselves out. The point here was to share information and resources, not to get into personal attacks directed at the gym owner or staff. If there’s a verified significant new development I hear about, I’ll post an update to the main part of the post. But comments for this post are now closed.

  44. Given that there’s now news about new ownership, I’m turning comments back on. They will continue to be moderated, so I’ll delete any rants about the prior ownership. (example: I had one person try to post the previous owner’s private residential address)

    Please focus on info related to what’s going to happen going forward.

    • i renewed at 19th street gym a few weeks before they went bust. now i ahve joined a new gym. is there anything i can do to get my money back. i paid with a debit card the full amount cuz of the few extra months and other supposed perks offered. i would appreciate any info. thanks

  45. Moved on!! Over “19th street gym” or whatever it is called now. Found a new gym, very content!!! Good luck to the new owners and hopefully they won’t be haunted by the ghost of the past gym!!!

  46. Hello everyone!
    Good news – our company Complete Body & SPA signed an agreement yesterday with the landlord.
    Opening February 1 for the old trainers/clients.
    March 1 – grand opening.
    Any questions please email to info@completebody.com.
    We going to post pre-sales prices for the new trainers/clients on the web site http://www.completebody.com/19street
    We are going to have SPA, Physical Therapy services. We appreciate your comments and suggestions.
    Alex Reznik

  47. Pingback: Former 19th St. Gym to Reopen as Complete Body & Spa « Bits of Kelly

  48. Pingback: Search techniques in action: the big head, long tail, broad match, phrase match, and exact match « Bits of Kelly

  49. is the gym open and running now?

  50. The gym is open and it is amazing!!

  51. There seems to be some confusion. The new Gym is NOT the former 19th street gym ” under new management”. It is a completely new c0mpany with many other gyms throughout the city.

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