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Glen Cove Fitness turns 20

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Gyms have struggled throughout the pandemic, but for Glen Cove Fitness, things are finally looking brighter. After a challenging year, the gym marked its 20th anniversary with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday. Members of the Glen Cove Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Business Improvement District and local elected officials congratulated the gym’s owner, Alvin Batista, for hitting this milestone, especially after a particularly difficult year.

“It’s very exciting to see that a business can endure in Glen Cove and make it through,” Mayor Tim Tenke said, “especially after a tough year and one that was hit hard by Covid.”

Tenke presented Batista with a certificate of congratulations on behalf of the city, saying, “You survived the pandemic and seem to be heading in the right direction.”

Batista was also given citations by State Sen. Jim Gaughran, Nassau County Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton and representatives from the offices of U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi and County Executive Laura Curran. “Thank you for bringing 20 years of good health to the Glen Cove community,” DeRiggi-Whitton said.

Patricia Holman, executive director of the Downtown BID, said that Batista, the organization’s president, was an asset to her while businesses were shut down last year, helping advocate for them. “While I’m certainly thrilled that Glen Cove Fitness made it through the pandemic,” Holman said, “with Alvin’s business sense, I was always confident he would survive.”

Batista, 60, bought the building at 44 School St., then an electronics warehouse, in the fall of 2000. It took about five months to renovate the space, he said, before he could move in. He had previously owned a private training facility down the street, and was initially looking to buy a condo before learning that the larger space was for sale. When he bought the building, he was able to expand his business, creating Glen Cove Health and Fitness, which opened on April 5, 2001.

The gym had a sales office, an aerobics room, a juice bar and a child care room. Then, in July 2005, Batista decided to become a Planet Fitness franchisee — the first one on Long Island — and was required to reconfigure the gym and its offerings, scaling down to focus strictly on weight training and cardiovascular workouts. Ultimately, he said, that didn’t work out, and he left Planet Fitness in December 2017, rebranding as Glen Cove Fitness.

“I learned a lot from them,” he said of Planet Fitness, adding that he simply had a different vision for his business.

The gym now operates much as it has since 2005, with free weights, strength-training machines and cardiovascular equipment.

Everything changed, however, last March. “It was kind of surprising when we found out about the shutdown when everybody else did,” Batista recalled. “We had no advanced notice. In the beginning, we thought it would just be a few weeks, and then it went on for months and months, and there was no end in sight.”

The gym was closed from mid-March until last Aug. 24. Batista said that he and other members of the New York Fitness Coalition spent a lot of that time lobbying Gov. Andrew Cuomo to reopen. He said he also spent the time preparing the gym for its members’ return and improving safety — painting, upgrading the HVAC system, retrofitting light fixtures and adding ceiling fans.

Now, masks and social distancing are required, and extra precautions ensure members’ safety. Half of the cardio equipment is taken out of service every day, alternating days to maintain space and to prevent too much wear and tear on the machines. The gym purchased two electrostatic sprayers, and the entire facility is sprayed down every two hours.

“I think it makes people feel better,” Batista said.

While it has been great to have members back, the gym is still operating at only 33 percent capacity, which means that only 42 people can work out at a time. It has about 2,800 members, and on the busiest days, Batista said, about 500 people come in. Because of the limited capacity, members are checked in and out so employees know how many are there at a time, and how long they’ve been there. Generally, he said, they expect people to stay for about an hour. “It’s difficult at busy times of the day,” he said.

As of April 5, the gym was allowed to be open 24 hours a day again. “It’s been a rough year, but it looks like there’s an end,” Batista said.

At around 1:30 on Tuesday afternoon, about a dozen people were working out, including Glen Cove resident Roni Jenkins, who said she had been a member several years ago, and rejoined last December. “When it was safe to come back in, I felt that this place, in particular, does a great job with the social distancing and cleaning of machines,” Jenkins said. “I feel very, very safe here.”

Glen Cove Fitness will kick off the Downtown BID’s free Fitness in Village Square this weekend, offering a class at 10 a.m. on Saturday at 100 Village Square. Mats, masks and social distancing are required.