STATEN ISLAND, NY – Larissa Schiano-Gonzalez often goes to her business, Be Yoga & Dance in Rosebank, to dance and / or meditate alone.
It helps relieve the stress she has suffered because her business has been closed for almost a year as fitness classes are still not allowed in New York City amid the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) – despite resuming in the rest were the Empire State.
“My yoga practice and my meditation practice have been a great support for me,” said Schiano-Gonzalez. “I go to the studio a lot and just dance alone. It’s like therapy for me. My exercise practices have helped me feel emotionally healthy … But there are days when I mourn losing my place. “
And she’s not alone – the Staten Island boutique gyms have been closed for nearly a year. And many, like Schiano-Gonzalez, have pledged to be part of a lawsuit against Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York City so they can resume classes.
While Governor Andrew Cuomo said gyms across the state might reopen on Aug. 24, he said local elected officials – in the case of New York City, that is de Blasio – could delay the resumption of fitness classes. While many big box gyms were able to open on September 2, 2020, the mayor is not allowing indoor fitness classes to resume. This has resulted in boutique gyms like the Max Challenge, yoga centers, CrossFit and Pilates studios, which rely on classes as their business’s main attraction, cannot be reopened.
“We are filing an article 78 that says Mayor de Blasio’s decisions are arbitrary and capricious,” said Charlie Cassara, president and founder of the New York Fitness Coalition (NYFC), noting that the lawsuit was on behalf of many individual boutiques will be submitted to gym owners in a matter of days. “We want this rule, which de Blasio is allowed to enforce according to the governor, to be removed so that we can open fitness classes. … We ask that de Blasio be repealed. “
A spokesman for the city’s legal department told Advance / SILive.com that the office will review the complaint and act on it as it is filed.
Boutique gyms are among the last types of businesses to close under coronavirus mandates.
And the lawsuit that is being filed is one of several since the pandemic began. A report filed in Richmond County last year was unsuccessful. No judge has yet overturned de Blasio’s decision against fitness classes.
And there is no time frame for resuming fitness class. As a result, many Staten Island boutique gym owners have little or no income indefinitely.
“This is an utter sin right now. With all the data and science we know, everything it is is just cruel. All the mayor is doing right now is putting people out of business permanently. It’s unconstitutional, ”said Cassara.
Regarding the time frame for resuming fitness classes in the city, de Blasio said, “We want everything to be decided by data and science. As the doctors have said, there is a special sensitivity in these places. … I want life for the people in the city to continue to improve. I want to see more and more things openly – open them again. I want companies to survive and their employees to have jobs, but Job 1 is the health and safety of all New Yorkers, and these locations are particularly sensitive. “
FIGHT TO SURVIVE
Roseann Camarda, who owns three popular gyms – in Grasmere, Woodrow and Great Kills – as part of the Max Challenge franchise on Staten Island with husband Anthony Camarda, said she “barely holds on”.
“I’m behind on my rent. We still have to pay for all kinds of insurance. I keep the utilities running, ”she said, noting that she lost a large portion of her membership because she could only offer virtual courses. “I just heard that Governor Andrew Cuomo is opening amusement parks. Why are we the only ones closed? I just read that Mayor de Blasio wants women-owned businesses to flourish. I’m a women owned company, but it’s destroying me. “
Joseph Cannizzo, owner of the Judo Jujitsu Dojo on Staten Island in Annadale, said: “We are approaching the one year anniversary of the mandatory closure of my martial arts school. My dojo is facing bankruptcy due to outstanding property taxes, mortgage payments, and collaboration fees that have not been paid in nearly a year. Politicians have failed to pass quick and efficient laws that focus on subsidizing small businesses like mine. … We were absolutely destroyed. “
Schiano-Gonzalez started yoga classes through Zoom at Be Yoga & Dance the day after she was forced to close the store on March 17, 2020. Although she has many loyal members of the studio taking the courses, her sales have fallen by 75%. She said she could pay her rent, but not much else.
“I literally just pay the rent and my teachers. I can stay afloat, but I had to work extra hard and do things outside to support the studio, ”she said. One way to raise funds was to sell a sweatshirt that said “Belonging begins with being”.
Like Schiano-Gonzalez, Karen Torrone, owner of 5 Boro Power Yoga, has been offering online classes since her studio closed.
She was forced to close her studio in Tottenville and only her New Dorp location is still operational, she said.
“I’ve lost more than half of our members and more than 60% of sales. Because we understand the needs for health, wellness, and connection, we offer four free online yoga classes per week, including one for addicts. These free online courses have been a lifeline for those suffering from anxiety and stress who need an outlet but don’t currently have the resources, ”said Torrone.
She said she was working with “limited resources coming in each month from the members we have left and the EIDL [Economic Injury Disaster Loan] Loan we received. “
“We are continuously applying for grants, including those from Bar Stool Sports, but have not received anything yet. We just got a small amount from the second PPP [Paycheck Protection Program] and that will help us a little for the next month or two, ”added Torrone.
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