The Benefits Outweigh The Limited Risk, Reopen The YMCAs

Hundreds of gyms across New York state have filed a class action lawsuit against Gov. Andrew Cuomo alleging the governor’s continued shutdown is causing irreparable harm to their livelihood and is unconstitutional.

The plaintiffs allege that Cuomo’s executive shutdown order violated their due process, and that the decision to not allow gyms to open while spas, retail and other businesses operate is discriminatory. It also claims that the distinction between essential and nonessential businesses at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic was arbitrary.

It will take time for a lawsuit to make its way through the court system — and the gyms need help now. That’s particularly true of the state’s YMCAs, which provide day care and summer meals to youth in addition to access to fitness equipment. Like many non-profit organizations, YMCAs don’t have huge bankrolls to sustain them through a forced closure like Cuomo’s, and pandemic assistance only goes so far. And, for as much as Cuomo has left gyms twisting in the wind, the federal government and its incessant posturing on a next wave of pandemic assistance makes relying on the federal government for too long a risky proposition. Unlike libraries, they can’t latch on to a public school district to levy a tax to stay open. YMCAs rely on members — and members aren’t going to stay members in Jamestown or Lakewood if they can join a gym 20 minutes down the road in Pennsylvania and resume their workouts.

Cuomo argues that gyms aren’t essential businesses, but we wonder if parents whose children receive free meals through the YMCA’s summer food program would agree with the governor on that. Is day care not essential? Of course they are. But the YMCA can’t provide those services without the financial support of members who pay to use its fitness facilities.

The Greater Jamestown YMCAs are ready to service their members safely. They surely could live within some sort of reopening that limits the numbers of people inside the building at any one time. What’s the hold up on reopening both YMCAs and their for-profit fitness center brethren? If not now, then when?

The day is coming — perhaps sooner than later — that the governor’s recalcitrance in reopening gyms will mean the Jamestown YMCA never reopens its doors again.

We hope it doesn’t come to that — but the matter is ultimately up to a governor who has already left YMCAs twisting in the wind for more than a month since the county reached the last phase of reopening.

As Mark Eckendorf, Greater Jamestown YMCA executive director, told The Post-Journal recently, “Y’s can’t hold on much longer.”

It’s time to act, Mr. Governor. Reopen the YMCAs. The benefits outweigh the limited risk.


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