Planet Fitness eyes Ridgewood for new gym

Ridgewood may be home to a new Planet Fitness, if a special permit the corporation is submitting to the Board of Standards and Appeals passes.
A representative from the company visited a Community Board 5 meeting in the Christ the King High School cafeteria in Middle Village on Wednesday, February 8, as the application has to win its members over first.
Board members were skeptical of the gym’s lack of off-street parking, but welcomed graffiti cleanup at its proposed site, 329 Wyckoff Avenue. The building is said to have the worst graffiti vandalism in the district.
“You realize you’re landlocked on two sides,” said board Chairman Vincent Arcuri, Jr. when asking about the parking situation. “I think that’s a problem.”
However, Josh Rinesmith, who spoke on behalf of Planet Fitness, said a study showed that 85 percent of its members who live in areas with mass transit use it for transportation to the gym, or they walk.
“Planet fitness tries to make itself accessible and affordable to all members of the community,” Rinesmith said, adding that the location is in close proximity to the M and L trains.
“Right now, the property owner is doing an extensive renovation,” he said. “Once that is complete, we’d like to be able to come in and renovate the rest of the interior of the building to have a fitness center.”
Planet Fitness would occupy a small portion of the first floor of the 29,000-square-foot two-story building for a reception area, and the entire second floor for physical activity.
The gym would occupy about 17,300 square feet in total, Rinesmith said. It would be wheelchair accessible.
The gym would operate 24 hours, seven days a week, with roughly 135 people per hour in its peak hours.
“We’ve been particularly well regarded and popular with municipal workers,” Rinesmith said, specifying “hospital workers who work these 12-hour shifts and are able to stop in and work out either before they go in to their late-night shifts or after.”
One board member asked if Planet Fitness would be willing to consult the local supermarket to possibly share its parking lot. Rinesmith said the company would be open to that idea.
As for the graffiti, “the least we would expect from anybody utilizing their property is to clear every inch of graffiti,” Arcuri said, “and maintain the cleaning. We need that kind of commitment before we can approve anything.”
The application will go before Board 5’s Zoning and Land Use Review Committee next.

Community fights for Grover Cleveland HS

Due to what the Department of Education refers to as a lack of improvement, Grover Cleveland High School in Glendale is slated for possible closure, sparking outrage among community members, staff and students.
According to the Education Department (DOE), graduation rates at Grover Cleveland were at or below 55 percent for the last five years. In addition, the school is named one of the “Persistently Lowest Achieving” schools in the state.
But students and teachers attended a recent Community Board 5 meeting to speak out on the closure, saying their school has a legacy of academic achievement and giving back to its community.
Student Association President Geline Canayon said at the meeting that Grover Cleveland recently beat specialized high schools in a citywide science fair.
“We hope to continue this legacy, but in order to do that we need the support of the community to keep our school open,” she said.
Teacher, dean and coach Michael Irizarry said his students do graffiti removal in the area, volunteer in senior centers, donate to food banks, and work with students from local elementary schools.
“Kids giving back to kids is very important,” he said. “That’s what we do at Grover Cleveland, and I want to continue doing it.”
Lydia Martinez, a Grover Cleveland teacher and Board 5 member, said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott visited the school in October and was “very impressed with what he saw.”
She said Walcott assured staff members that he was visiting on a positive note, and would not close the school. However, in January, they were told that 50 percent of the staff, including the principal, could be cut.
“The DOE has turned Grover Cleveland into another roller coaster ride,” Martinez said.
She added that the struggle to keep the school open gets in the way of its progress.
“The professional adults that have anything to do with the decision-making of these schools should be ashamed of themselves when they see students fighting to keep their schools open,” she said. “Students should be concentrating on their school grades and their future, not on attending meetings and rallies to keep their schools open.”
According to DOE, possible plans for Grover Cleveland include staff replacement and leadership change. However, bringing in mentor teachers with higher salaries and introducing new education programs are also options.
The school could be phased out by not accepting new students, helping current students graduate and bringing in a new district or charter school to the building.
The DOE has no specific plans for the school at this time.
The community is hosting a human chain-link march around the high school on February 16. It will begin at 7 a.m. outside the school.

CB5 discusses 2013 budget

Renovations to the Glendale Public Library and repairing the area’s sewer lines are among the top priorities for Community Board 5’s capital and expense budget for the 2013 fiscal year, District Manager Gary Giordano said at the board’s meeting last week at Christ the King High School.
The budget has $1.5 million available for the rehabilitation of the library, which currently is not handicap accessible.
“That’s the only library in Community Board 5 area that is not handicap accessible,” Giordano said.
The Queens Public Library wants to secure $4 million for renovations for all the libraries in the system, he said.
“Well, if that can’t be obtained in tight budget times, then the least they should do is make it handicap accessible,” he said.
Giordano said several of the other budget priorities are sewer-related, which became an issue during a severe flood in August 2007.
The board currently has commitments from the Department of Transportation for new sewers under Penelope Avenue and 69th Street, north of Grand Avenue.
In addition, the board wants to increase the number of officers assigned to the 104th Precinct to 170.
“We haven’t been at that number for quite some time,” Giordano said.
Keeping the area’s local firehouses open is also a concern.

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