Planet Fitness Brings Cheap Exercise to Bushwick

By Meredith Hoffman | March 27, 2012 2:46pm 

BUSHWICK — Working out in Bushwick is about to get cheaper.

Planet Fitness, the giant gym franchise with over 500 locations nationwide, will open its next outpost in mid-April on Broadway Avenue by Sumner Place. And some local residents near the bustling strip have pledged the low rates will prompt them to exercise — for the first time in years.

"I think I'm going to join this place," Nicky Augustine told a friend on her cell phone as she walked by the soon-to-open health club last week. She then tried to convince him to become a member too. "I'm recruiting people to join, it's easier to work out with a friend," she said.

Augustine, 30, hasn't been to the gym in eight years — she gets her exercise by walking since there's no reasonably priced place to work out. But now the mother of three, who works full-time, said the  $10 monthly fee at Planet Fitness will change her habits.

"Ten dollars a month," she said, "that'll make you want to work out."

Peter Calandrino, the local District Manager of Planet Fitness, said the chain's other two Brooklyn locations in Canarsie and Downtown Brooklyn had been highly successful, and that the gym appeals to first-time exercisers seeking "general fitness," with group fitness instruction to teach basic exercises.

He projected that the new spot's special offer of $1 down and $10 monthly for basic membership (including use of the cardio and strength machines in the 21,000-square-foot space) would last until the space opens in mid-April. The deal includes an annual fee of $29 each October.

Once the gym is open, he said the monthly and annual rate would remain the same, but customers would have to put down around $10 to $30, like they do at other Planet Fitness locales. They can cancel their membership for the next month by the 10th of each month, he said.

"There's a lot of interest and traffic in that area," Calandrino said of the spot on Broadway. "We just chose it because we don't have any other gyms nearby."

Martha Brown, a local resident and member of Community Board 4, said the chain was appropriate for her community.

"They're the cheapest in the city," said Brown of Planet Fitness. "That's why we're really welcoming of it. It'll be affordable for people in our neighborhood."

Brown said there were already other gyms in the area, but none that matched the price of Planet Fitness with all that the franchise offers. Zaragoza's is about 1/2 mile away on Broadway but is only a boxing gym, and the most affordable other traditional gym, Lucille Roberts, offers $5 weekly memberships, but it is 1.7 miles away on Myrtle Avenue, technically in Queens.

Richie's on Stanwick Street is the closest traditional gym, nine blocks from Planet Fitness, and costs $25 a month.

Brown said the gym would also be useful for staff at Woodhull Medical Center when they finished their shifts.

And John Kurtz, 89, who owned the Planet Fitness building until 2009, cited a dearth of accessible gyms nearby.

"It's fabulous," said Kurtz, 89, of the new health center.

Kurtz said the Planet Fitness owner had completely renovated the top two floors of the building with steel and had installed an elevator, whereas the previous owner had just used the top floors for storage.

"I hope it gets people in the neighborhood physically conscious," said Kurtz of the gym. "The important thing is to affect people in the neighborhood who live here now."

As for Angel Burgos, 40, who has diabetes, he said exercise is now his only option to maintain health.

"My doctor has said I need to exercise," said Burgos, who works in construction nearby on Bushwick Avenue. "I just started going to the gym with my friend in Queens, but I think I’ll join here, since I can come here after work."

The Planet Fitness will be open Monday to Thursday around the clock, until 10 p.m. on Friday, and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.