Desperate to open, gyms plan class action against Cuomo

Fitness centers, malls and movie theaters were excluded from phase 4

Governor Andrew Cuomo (Getty)
Governor Andrew Cuomo (Getty)

Thousands of New York gym owners plan to file a class-action lawsuit against Gov. Andrew Cuomo challenging his decision to exclude gyms from the fourth phase of the state’s reopening.

SC Gym owner Charles Cassara, who has locations in Hicksville and Farmingdale, had 10 other owners on board with the lawsuit before putting out an appeal on Facebook. Cassara and lawyer James Mermigis now expect to have between 1,500 and 3,000 plaintiffs, Newsday reported.

“Phase 4 is here,” Cassara told the newspaper. “There is no Phase 5. There is no layout, there is no guideline, there is no direction, there is no timeline, which basically means that after Phase 4, your authority rule — whatever we want to call it — should be given over. We should be given our opportunity to open.”

Cuomo spokesperson Jason Conwall declined to comment on a lawsuit that hasn’t been filed, but reiterated a prior explanation for certain businesses being carved out of phase four.

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“There are some things that don’t fit neatly into a phase that are going to require further study and we’re going through that right now,” he told Newsday. “We’re not going to be like other states that are inviting a second wave.”

Without a clear timeline, gym owners say they are struggling to manage the financial insecurity and lack of clarity around lease decisions. Public health experts note that certain aspects of gyms make them particularly conducive to the spread of disease.

“You have to be really careful when opening a gym,” Stony Brook Medicine infectious diseases division chief Bettina Fries told the newspaper. “People aren’t quietly sitting in a corner with their mouths closed. They have their mouths open, they cough, they breathe loudly.”

The pandemic has forced some gyms to rethink their business plans. In May, rock-climbing gym Brooklyn Boulders sued its Williamsburg landlord to get out of a lease for a new location, arguing that its “specialized business plan” was “completely destroyed.” [Newsday] — Kevin Sun