Community Board 12 members refused to vote May 16 on an application to open a gym in downtown Jamaica without a guarantee from the company that at least some of the jobs will go to community residents.
Blink Fitness is seeking a variance to allow a gym to be constructed within portions of an existing building at 163-02 Jamaica Ave. Todd Dale, the zoning lawyer representing the company, said it doesn’t have a hiring plan in place, because it is too early in the process.
When pressed on how Blink typically hires employees at new locations, Dale said it is by posting an announcement on the company’s website, advertising in area newspapers and hanging fliers in the surrounding community.
The site is occupied by a two-story commercial building that was constructed in the first half of the 20th century. The uses are all on the first floor — a shoe store, pizza parlor, a beauty supply shop and a cell phone store.
The Board of Standards and Appeals application is to alter the existing building to put the gym into a portion of the first floor and the entire second floor. There would be a small lobby, located on Jamaica Avenue, measuring about 500 square feet. It would provide access to the second floor, which is where the bulk of the gym would be located — about 15,000 square feet.
The second floor would have standard gym equipment, locker rooms and offices for staff. Stairs and an elevator would provide access between the floors and it would comply with the handicapped accessibility law. Blink is affiliated with Equinox, but is just starting out and only has about five locations in the city.
Blink is anticipating, based on previous gyms that it has opened, that there will be approximately 2,500 regular members with 700 people per day on the busiest days. On weekdays the busiest times will be 6 to 7 p.m. and on weekends from noon to 1 p.m. The facility will be open 5:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday.
The proposed site has four open Environmental Control Board violations and approximately 11 Department of Buildings violations, but as part of its application, Blink is offering to bring the property up to code. It will get a certificate of occupancy not only for its gym, but for all the other tenants of the building, according to Dale.
“They expect to have about 30 staff for this particular site, and if and when it’s approved, and they do hiring, they do encourage people from the community to apply,” Dale said, adding, “Their interest is always to hire qualified people, and they always prefer to hire from the local community, if they can.”
Board members Calvin Hewitt and Bishop Melvin Artis both said that if Dale couldn’t provide concrete answers, then representatives from Blink should appear before the board.
“I think it’s time for us to stop approving these BSAs and start getting some jobs before we let these people come in and start building in our neighborhoods,” Artis said.
Cardinal Sandiford, the chairman of the Land Use Committee, said the group warned Dale when they met with him two weeks ago that he should be prepared to address the jobs issue at the general meeting.
Sandiford added that since the committee considered his response insufficient, more discussions would need to take place with the applicant before the board could take a vote. And he said the panel would be following up to see if Blink rectified the violations and received a certificate of occupancy from the city.
“We have been going through this for years, over and over with many companies,” Sandiford said. “They come in. They open businesses, and we get nothing out of it — nothing at all, neither in the way of jobs or in the way of other things that are fruitful for the community.”