Gym Approved for West 67th Street Building

BSA granted a two-year special permit to allow CrossFit NYC to operate in the cellar level of an existing 31-story mixed residential and commercial building. The building, located on the corner of Columbus Avenue and West 67th Street, Manhattan, is partially within a C4-7 zoning district and partially within an R8 zoning district. Neither zoning districts permit the use of physical culture establishments. The building owner and CrossFit NYC, the lessee, appealed to Board of Standards and Appeals for a special permit to allow the development of their gym in the cellar of the building. CrossFit NYC planned to use the gym to hold classes, instruction and programs for physical improvement, body building, weight reduction, and aerobics.

BSA public hearings for CrossFit NYC were held on November 26, 2013, December 17, 2013, January 28, 2014, March 11, 2014, and April 29, 2014. City Council Member Helen Rosenthal, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and local community members including residents of the building opposed the application. The major concerns were the incompatibility of the gym with the residential use in the building and the surrounding area, the transmittal of noise and vibration throughout the building, the inclusion of the gym use in the R8 zoning district portion of the site, the extension of the use onto the sidewalk and street outside the building, and the increase in noise associated with competitions and events.

The BSA initially recommended approval of the application. On February 4, 2014, however, the BSA recommended disapproval by resolution. The BSA was concerned with the accuracy and completeness of the information provided by CrossFit NYC regarding the impact of this type of gym and the exercises performed; the lack of analysis of acoustical concerns relating to hammering, percussive, and transmitted vibrations of noise; the short-and long-term impact of the gym activities upon the building structure; and the adequacy of the proposed sound attenuation.

CrossFit NYC informed the BSA that they would not hold events and competitions on site. CrossFit NYC also revised its plans to show that no portion of the gym will operate within the R8 zoned portion of the site and that a wall would be installed to separate the R8 zone from the C4-7 zone. In response to the noise concerns, CrossFit NYC conducted an acoustical study, which determined that the noise effects would be well within the City’s Noise Code regulations. CrossFit NYC also noted that six floors separate the gym from the first residential floor. Additionally, CrossFit NYC proposed to include padding and a raised floor system throughout the gym space to further comply with Noise Code regulations. CrossFit NYC provided a report from the building’s structural engineer, which concluded that the building’s structure can accommodate the gym’s use.

The BSA voted 4-0, with one member absent, to grant CrossFit NYC a two-year term to operate at the location. The BSA concluded that granting the two-year special permit would not alter the essential character of the surrounding neighborhood, impair the use or development of adjacent properties or be detrimental to the public welfare. The BSA established CrossFit NYC’s hours of operation to be 6:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Monday through Friday, and 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The BSA grant included a condition that the DOB review occupancy loads, including related equipment use, and that sound-foam panel be installed and maintained along certain walls according to the approved plans.

Despite the changes made to the proposal, Manhattan Community Board 7 is still opposed to the operation of the gym. Council Member Rosenthal is also still opposed to the operation of CrossFit NYC. Rosenthal explained, “While the BSA promised a two-year lease, they have effectively given CrossFit a three-year lease instead. This is a quality of life issue for the residents of 157 Columbus Avenue, and I will continue to support the residents in their efforts to reduce the lease to a true two-year lease.”

The BSA has also recently granted applications for special permits to Blink Fitness, Bikram Yoga Soho, BFX Studio, and Massage Envy. Each of these businesses proposed to construct physical culture establishments at locations within zoning districts that do not permit the use of physical culture establishments as-of-right.

BSA: 157 Columbus Avenue, Manhattan (228-13-BZ) (May 20, 2014) (Herrick, Feinstein LLP for CrossFit NYC).

By: Jonathan Manfre (Jonathan is a CityLaw Summer Associate and a Student at New York Law School, Class of 2015).

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