Gyms, martial arts studios, licensed massage therapy, and other health and fitness facilities do not need to obtain a BSA special permit in New York City, effective December 9, 2021. This is a significant step in cutting red tape and streamlining burdensome zoning requirements.
Health and Fitness Text Amendment
Under the Health and Fitness Text Amendment adopted by New York City Council in the waning days of DeBlasio Administration, gyms and spas will be allowed to open and operate in commercial and manufacturing districts without first going to BSA. In addition, licensed massage therapy studios will be allowed in residential, commercial, and manufacturing districts.
This amendment has removed outdated regulations for “physical cultural establishments – PCEs” – as such health and fitness facilities were known- and has made it easier for them to open and operate in communities across New York City. It has removed special permit requirements and has simplified the building permit process for such uses.
Proliferation of commercial sex in 1970s
“During the 1970s, concerns were emerging by members of the public and elected officials regarding the proliferation of commercial sex in New York City. Many establishments engaging in such activities were masquerading as health clubs and massage parlors”, as noted in the Health and Fitness Text Amendment. However, commercial gyms and other types of private fitness facilities—such as yoga studios, martial arts, and indoor cycling—have become essential urban amenities, as we strive to combat high obesity levels and promote healthy lifestyles. In addition, such legitimate PCEs provide beneficial services and generate economic activity.
Post-pandemic recovery of Health and Fitness Facilities
The fitness industry was devastated during the Covid-19 pandemic as various facilities were forced to shut down permanently. The rise of home-based workout programs added to their misery. Getting rid of burdensome zoning requirements is a step in the right direction as many of these facilities attempt to regain their pre-pandemic momentum for the benefit of all New Yorkers.