Hip Crunch Gym Follows New Residents Eastward in Crown Heights

By Sonja Sharp on September 4, 2013 8:36am 

 A screenshot shows membership deals for a new Crunch Essential location planned for Lefferts Avenue in Crown Heights, one of two moderately priced gyms moving into gentrifying neighborhoods of Brooklyn this fall. 
A screenshot shows membership deals for a new Crunch Essential location planned for Lefferts Avenue in Crown Heights, one of two moderately priced gyms moving into gentrifying neighborhoods of Brooklyn this fall. 
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Crunch Crown Heights

CROWN HEIGHTS — A brand new, brand name gym is coming to the far south eastern corner of Crown Heights, with plans to spread to other rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods across the borough. 

Crunch Crown Heights, a franchise of the hip fitness chain popular in the East Village and Park Slope, has begun selling memberships to its Lefferts Avenue location, one of two 'Crunch Essential' clubs set to open in up-and-coming Brooklyn neighborhoods this fall.

The Crown Heights and Bushwick clubs will be the first of as many as ten that the chain plans to open, DNAinfo New York has learned. 

"Our projected opening date is early November," said Crunch Crown Heights staffer Justin, who declined to give his last name when reached at the Lefferts Avenue location last week. "Right now we only have two — Crunch Crown Heights and Crunch in Bushwick ... but over the next couple of years we’re looking to open 10 more in this area."

Unlike their trendy brand brethren in more upmarket neighborhoods, the franchise gyms are offering membership deals for as little as $10 a month.

"The Crunch Essential [gyms] are made to compete with Planet Fitness' low price range," the Crunch staffer said. "We don’t have steam rooms or saunas or towel service, but all the machines are pretty much the same."

There's just one problem: The building at 842 Lefferts Avenue hasn't been cleared for use as a health club. In fact, the New York City Department of Buildings issued a stop work order to the gym back in June, citing the lack of necessary permits.

"A stop work order remains in effect at this location," DOB spokeswoman Kelly Magee said in an email. "They will have to obtain the [physical cultural establishment] permit from [Board of Standards and Appeals] before applying to the Department for the proper building permits." 

But BSA records indicate that Crunch Crown Heights has not even applied for the permit, while cut-rate competitor Blink Fitness won one for a gym just a half mile away at Utica Avenue and Lincoln Place this July. 

A spokeswoman for the chain declined to speak about the new clubs, or to comment on how Crunch chose its Crown Heights location. But a manager for the Lefferts Avenue gym told DNAinfo New York that the chain handles real estate at the corporate level, and had hand-selected sites for the gym and its soon-to-open sibling in Bushwick. 

The fitness company's foray into one of the borough's most dramatically gentrifying neighborhoods comes amidst a series of rapid changes to the immediate area, which has seen an influx of newcomers priced out of Crown Heights' hip western avenues. 

"The whole neighborhood is changing," said a law enforcement source familiar with the area.  "I’m waiting for a Starbucks to open up."

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