Beef among beefcakes: Blink Fitness opens in Sunset Park on same block as old-school gym, riling iron pumpers

Training partners: Certified personal trainers Mashood Shabbir, Sean Marshall, and Jenni Morris welcomed workout fiends to Sunset Park’s newly opened Blink Fitness.
Photo by Jason Speakman

They don’t want to work it out.

Sunset Park’s old-school gym rats are infuriated that an outpost of a chain gym opened its doors just three doors down from a smaller, no-frills one that has been in the neighborhood for nearly 30 years. Blink Fitness opened the company’s 65th location in Sunset Park on Jan. 15, on Fourth Avenue between 51st and 52nd streets, but management at the smaller Richie’s Gym said that the chain operation had no business opening its doors on the very same block.

“I think it’s ridiculous. The neighborhood is big enough for them to open up on another block,” said David Vale, the general manger of Richie’s Gym, which opened in 1990.

He suggested that opening the spiffy new workout spot so near the gritty local stalwart was a deliberate move to create a contrast.

“Being only a few doors down, they’re throwing shade at us to make themselves look better,” he said.

Blink’s three-story Sunset Park outpost is the company’s 13th location to open in the borough, and features more than 80 pieces of cardio equipment and 50 weight machines. The gym chain is known for its affordable membership, which starts at just $15 per month and includes one free 30-minute training session, along with small-group training sessions.

Richie’s Gym, on the other hand, has four other locations in the borough, charges $25 per month — but not the $50 annual fee that Blink requires — and also offers boxing in addition to its two floors filled with cardio and weight machines.

But the president of Blink Fitness said he picked the Sunset Park location because the neighborhood has so few gyms, and insisted that he isn’t trying to encroach on Richie’s or the other specialized yoga, martial arts, and boxing facilities in the area.

Three doors down: Richie’s Gym boasts a no-frills, bare-bones aesthetic — the opposite of Blink’s sleek and expansive interior.
Community News Group / Julianne McShane

“There really is no competition — there’s a small gym a block or so from here,” said Todd Magazine. “But we are very respectful of our competition and our job is not to put them out of business, that’s not what we came here to do.”

Vale said that his problem with Blink isn’t that it came to Sunset Park, but that it opened on the very same block as Richie’s and is sure to take away business with its better-known brand name and larger advertising budget.

“It’s not about them coming to the neighborhood, it’s about them being on the same block,” Vale said. “Our business runs on blood, sweat, tears, and dreams, pretty much.”

One Borough Park resident who said he’s pumped iron at Richie’s for about 15 years said that someone from Blink should have approached the management at the older gym before the outpost opened, since Richie’s is practically a neighborhood landmark.

“It’s not a problem that a new gym’s in the neighborhood, but I feel that if they were going to at least open on the same block as him, they at least should’ve came and talked to him and see how he felt about it, and not just do it,” said Raoul Vasquez. “It’s not right, this gym’s been here for such a long time.”

But Vasquez said that he thinks Blink will at least have some success appealing to the nabe’s younger residents who are contributing to the area’s increasing gentrification.

“There’s a lot of gentrification right now, so a lot of people that move from Williamsburg are going to choose to go to that gym,” he said.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
Blink of an eye: The new Blink Fitness on Fourth Avenue in Sunset Park boasts a sleek look on the inside and outside.
Photo by Jason Speakman

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