Planet Fitness wins permit in GN Plaza

Dan Glaun

The Village of Great Neck Plaza Board of Trustees okayed budget gym chain Planet Fitness’ plan to fill a Great Neck Road location left open by the closing of the New York  Health and Racquet Club at Wednesday night’s meeting, over the objections of residents concerned about the chain’s sparser amenities and its clientele.

Village of Great Neck Plaza Mayor Jean Celender said Planet Fitness had agreed to modify its plans to address the board’s earlier concerns, including the elimination of tanning beds – prohibited under village code – and an agreement to forgo 24-hour operation.

“They understand the issue,” Celender said.

Members of New York Health and Racquet Club had bemoaned Planet Fitness’ plans for the location inside the shopping center opposite the Great Neck Long Island Rail Road station, citing concerns that the chain’s low-cost memberships would crowd the shopping center’s parking lot and that its limited services would disappoint gym-goers.

At Planet Fitness’ first board presentation in September, residents presented a petition with 512 signatures to the board arguing that Planet Fitness’ closure of amenities including the previous gym’s indoor pool, as well as potential traffic and crime, made the gym a bad fit for the neighborhood.

In an interview Thursday, Celender said the board could not deny an application based on the amenity preferences of residents.

“We have a very limited area in which we can review these applications,” Celender said. “I kept trying to explain that to residents that wanted to have a different kind of application before us. It’s frustrating to me.”

Because the space was already approved for gym use, Celender said, the board could not discriminate based on the type of gym or price point of membership. And though she acknowledged residents’ concerns about parking, Celender said a decision could not be made based on anecdotal evidence and suppositions.

“If we have a problem we’ll deal with it, as we always have with that shopping center,” Celender said.

In September Planet Fitness’ architect Daniel Mullin laid out the company’s $2 million renovation plan, which would see an increase in cardiovascular and training equipment, along with the removal of the current saunas, pool and steam rooms.

The gym’s business model includes memberships for $9.99 or $19.99 per month, 24-hour operation, and an emphasis on cardio and light weightlifting that Planet Fitness representative Brian Kunkel said fits the needs of a wide range of gym-goers.

The chain originally petitioned for 24-hour operation and the inclusion of tanning beds. But commercial ultraviolet tanning is prohibited by village code and the board objected to all-night use, leading to the company’s acceptance of the restrictions in the permit approved Wednesday.

Planet Fitness will be allowed to be open from 5:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on the weekends, Celender said.

The board also passed an eight-month moratorium on the opening of businesses that profit from on-site smoking, following that measure’s approval by the Nassau County Planning Commission this week.

The law, introduced following controversy over the planned opening of a hookah lounge in the Village of Great Neck, will give the Village of Great Neck Plaza time to research possible permanent smoking regulations, Celender said.

“Now we’re going to have to do some investigation,” Celender said.

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Dan Glaun

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