Press Releases

For Immediate Release
May 19, 2021

Melissa Grace, Joe Marvilli – (212) 720-3471

Zoning Proposal Makes It Easier for Small Businesses to Open and Provide Valuable Health-Related Amenities and Services To New York City Communities

Public review begins for Health and Fitness Text Amendment; cutting red tape for Gyms, Spas and License Massage Therapy

Intergrative Welness Center Storefront
Pilates storefront

NEW YORK – City Planning Commission (CPC) Chair Marisa Lago today announced the start of public review for the Health and Fitness Text Amendment. The proposal would remove burdensome and outdated rules that currently exist for gyms, spas and licensed massage therapy, helping an industry reeling from the impacts of the pandemic to recover more quickly and supporting the City’s long-term goals of health equity.

“We New Yorkers love our neighborhood health and fitness facilities! But starting these types of business can be a multi-thousand-dollar headache because of seriously outdated zoning restrictions. Health and fitness facilities, many of which are small businesses, are desirable amenities that improve the well-being of New Yorkers. By removing the antiquated requirement for a discretionary special permit and cutting red tape, we’re supporting small businesses, improving equity and making health and fitness facilities easier to open in neighborhoods across the city,” said CPC Chair Marisa Lago.

“This administration is committed to cutting red tape so our small businesses can come back stronger than ever,” said Jonnel Doris, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Small Business Services (SBS). “We are thrilled to see this proposal come together as it will eliminate unnecessary and costly permits – and allow health clubs, gyms and studios to reopen and expand into even more areas of the city.”

Over the past few decades, health and fitness facilities have disproportionately located in lower Manhattan and other locations near the Central Business Districts in western Brooklyn and Queens, while neighborhoods farther from the commercial core of the city have seen far fewer facilities. The proposed changes will help ensure that communities across New York City have access to important health and fitness amenities.

Unlike many other commercial businesses, opening a gym, spa or licensed massage therapy studio currently requires a special permit from the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA). The process for obtaining this special permit is expensive, often adding six months and up to $50,000 in additional costs to open health and fitness facilities, a high barrier for small and independent businesses. The Health and Fitness Text Amendment would remove this special permit and allow these valuable facilities to open without the added steps, saving them time and money.

In addition to removing regulatory barriers for these businesses to open, the proposal would provide more flexibility for health-related businesses to locate in more areas across the city. Small gyms, like martial arts and boxing studios, and spas would be allowed along many commercial streets across the city where they are not currently allowed. Similarly, licensed massage therapy would be permitted in locations where other outpatient health care facilities are allowed, providing more options for these businesses.

“IHRSA applauds the introduction of the Health and Fitness Text Amendment as a common-sense approach to fixing an outdated permitting process and reducing red tape for fitness and health-related businesses, which the city needs now more than ever. The elimination of special permits for health clubs, gyms and studios will make it easier for the public to access safe and supportive places to exercise and allow small businesses to recover and grow,” said Brent Darden, Interim President and CEO, IHRSA, The Global Health & Fitness Association

“The Health and Fitness Text Amendment is an important step in removing antiquated red tape for wellness and fitness businesses to open in New York City. These businesses are essential to the wellbeing of our communities, the employment of our citizens and the recovery of our neighborhoods. The removal of the costly and outdated burden of acquiring a special permit will encourage the growth of our industry after a year when our industry was amongst the hardest hit and slowest to recover. This is a wonderful step in aiding small businesses in the self-care industry to once again grow in NYC,” said Amanda Freeman, Founder and CEO of the Boutique Fitness Alliance.

“It takes all New York City residents to ensure that our city recovers its economic health as all New Yorkers recover healthy in mind, body and spirit. DCP has been working with The New York State Society of Medical Massage Therapists, Inc. (NYSSMMT), one of oldest professional associations in the US for massage therapy since 1927. We thank DCP for the outreach and perfect timing in contacting NYSSMMT. This rezoning proposal will bring some long overdue relief and encouragement to many licensed massage therapists who can now consider that they can confidently bring their practice stand alone to high demand or underserved communities while being seen as another healthcare option. Also, it will heighten the distinction that licensed massage therapy – whether in a clinic, studio or spa – belong in its zoning home with other healthcare professionals. Our patients and clients are the real winners to benefit from the rezoning of licensed massage therapy,” said Kristina Hinckson, President, The New York State Society of Medical Massage Therapists, Inc.

“The current permitting process for fitness and spa businesses in NYC is costly and time consuming, especially for small businesses that have already suffered so much as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a company that partners with thousands of studios and spas, we at ClassPass believe that the Health and Fitness Text Amendment will help small businesses to more efficiently reopen, create job opportunities, and ultimately begin rebuilding the fitness and wellness industry in NYC post-COVID. The proposed changes will also expand the neighborhood reach of wellness-focused hubs in our communities, helping more New Yorkers to invest in their wellbeing and boosting foot traffic to other local businesses,” said Shari Castelli, Director of Industry Development at ClassPass.

The Health and Fitness Text Amendment implements a recommendation made in SBS' Small Business First report, a comprehensive plan released in 2015 on ways to reduce regulatory burdens on small businesses throughout New York City.

The Health and Fitness Text Amendment will be referred out to all Community Boards for review, followed by all five Borough Presidents and Borough Boards. The proposal will then go to the City Planning Commission for a public hearing and vote, followed by the City Council.