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Gleason’s Gym should be open for pros now, same as the Nets, Mets & Jets

07
Jun

In New York, the first reported death from coronavirus came March 13, Friday the 13th.

As of today, Monday, June 8th, NY state has seen 30,000 plus deaths from the virus. On June 3, people round here got some good news–it was reported that in New York City, on that day, not a single person died from the virus.

That is not to say that people here are celebrating, thinking that the all clear sign is out, and it’s party time. As I walk out and about in Brooklyn, the majority of people wear masks, and when we, say, go shopping in a food store, we generally give each other ample space. Those of us who follow the news, and read up on the virus, and how the nation as a whole is faring, know that some battles have been “won” but this war isn’t going to be over soon. Indeed, I dare say that most people taking part in marches-protests-support rallies following the George Floyd homicide comprehend that they are taking on risk of getting infected when convening with like-minded social activists. (Side note: During a Sunday protest/support session in Brooklyn, click on this video, and see Gleason’s Gym’s ubiquity in the world, at the 4:55 mark.)

And I refer to it as a war, and that is apt, because the virus has wreaked havoc, and taken lives and leaves behind an ever lengthier trail of carnage. 112,500 deaths and counting in the US, 406,000 the world over, though statistics in this area cannot be called exact.

Yes, you can do the quickie math, American exceptionalism wasn’t on display in the initial response to the virus spread. Of course, one can argue that rear view mirror analysis is always 20/20. And analysis, indeed, occurs daily, now more so focused on economical matters than medical. Part of that reality is purely political; the incumbent needs a vibrant economy, or at least one that has the looks of being healthy, for him to have a chance to gain a second term in the White House. Thus, you have seen and heard Trump fixate on how the country will rebound not from the blow to the soul at 100,000 plus deaths from this virus, but from the body blows and head shots taken as industries were affected by the infections.

But, some will argue, you couldn’t very well have it business as usual, in restaurants, theaters, department stores etc while a virus was making the rounds that could infect you because a fellow patron sneezed near you…and infected you, and took over your lungs and blood stream, and was killing persons at a scary rate. The infection death rate could be ten times worse for coronavirus than the regular flu that makes the round every year. And while some shrug that off as the cost of doing business, some of us aren’t so inclined to shrug. Have underlying health conditions…married with little kids, who want mama or dada to be there for a long run…the virulence of this virus is anxiety provoking in a large segment of the populace.

But it is also anxiety-provoking for a business owner who has paid a sky-high rent in March, April, May, and now June….while being unable to run that business, because the state tells you that we need to be safer or we will be sorrier.

And generally, I get that construct, and I support it. Better to be erring on the side of caution.

But I’m only over here paying a rent fee to a landlord, for a residence that me and my wife and kids and dog and cats and gecko and foster kittens (shhh, don’t tell the landlord) can live in.

I have a friend by the name of Bruce who owns a business you may know. “Gleason’s Gym,” in DUMBO, Brooklyn has existed since 1937 and Bruce Silverglade has run the joint since the 1980s.

Silverglade is simply asking for the same consideration given to the other professional athletes who call NY home.

He is beloved, frankly, to me the definition of a mensch, and I respect him tremendously. And getting to know him better over the years has helped me open my eyes, widen out my world view.

Being a business owner, a small business owner in the New York region is no easy task. That is understating it; because of the popularity of the city, lots of people want to live and work here, and space is not infinite. So the price of property is lofty.

“Lofty” if you are the owner, or someone with ample capital. For the rest of us, it’s fucked up.

And today, even an ultra mensch like Bruce Silverglade, really, as patient as the day is long, with a double sized heart, is losing patience.

He sees the Governor, who “earned” a Rolling Stone cover for his efforts since March, announce that it’s OK for the Brooklyn Nets to get together, and train for their jobs, in a gym. Same for the NY Yankees and Mets and Jets. But no word of pro boxing.

OK, Silverglade says to himself, I’m used to this. He’s used to hearing boxing referred to as “the red light district of sports.”

Maybe he thinks to himself, or maybe I’m being a touch more sharp than my friend is inclined to be: Let me see if maybe we can speak to someone at the Governor’s office, and let Andrew Cuomo know that prudence is called for, but when the “prudence” is selective, and leaves out some folks who aren’t as “connected,” with the lobbying power of people who own big arenas, then it’s time to call bullshit.

Me, I’m his friend, so maybe I’m too biased? But I don’t think so; today, Monday, June 8, New York City will start “phase one” of the city “re-opening.”

This means some “non-essential” businesses can open back up, with, of course, stricter regulations. That includes the construction trade, as well as agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting and retail. They are limited to curbside or in-store pickup or drop off. Manufacturing and wholesale trade can return to form in the shifted atmosphere as well. Gyms, alas, cannot re-open.

As many as 400,000 people may return to work on Monday, says the NY Times, “in a city still recovering from the pandemic and roiled by protests.”

But not the boxers, not the gals who call Gleason’s their gym home.

So Heather Hardy won’t be able to get back to her home base to get back into fighting shape, so she can get her fighting career back on track, and secure a bout which will help keep that Con Ed bill, soon to be bloated, from drifting into “late” status.

Hardy would very much like to get the same luv from the Guv that the pro sports teams got.

I ask again, could someone from the Governor’s office explain to Hardy, and the other pros who use Gleason’s rings, why players on the Brooklyn Nets can go to the HSS Training Center in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, to sharpen skills, and she can’t at her favored practice facility?

Heather Hardy at the famed and fabled Gleason's Gym, in June 2020.

Hardy posted to her IG on Sunday, June 7 how much she misses Gleason’s.

Today, some New York Islanders will return to Northwell Health Ice Center, in East Meadow, Long Island, NY, for workouts, and the voluntary workouts will be capped at six players. Trainers and equipment staff can be present, and coaches won’t be there. Testing, said to be thorough, is supposed to be in place.

Great for the hockey players; but what about the Gleason’s boxers, none of whom have broken through to that place where they’ve made the sort of money that allows long layoffs.

Ex 154 pound champ Yuri Foreman is firmly in the corner of wanting Gleason’s open in a safe and structured way, so he can get back to prepping for fighting, properly.

Yuri Foreman wants Gleason's Gym in Brooklyn to re-open so he can resume proper training.

Foreman is a rabbi, too, by the way. He preaches self reliance and perseverance…and summoning courage to soldier on. That is what the pros at Gleason’s are all about.

“Mr. Governor is clearly not a boxing fan,” Foreman told me. “If pro teams are allowed to resume their training, I think by default pro boxers should be allowed to resume their preparation for matches. Not being on a “team” should not exclude them. As a matter of fact, being self-reliant should prompt allowance to return to training as soon as possible!  Pro basketball players might have assistance and contracts that support them during this trying time. 99% of pro boxers do not have this kind of support. So, Mr. Governor, on behalf of the boxing community, please broaden your horizons, there are more kinds of sports besides basketball!”

On Saturday, the NY Post’s Steve Serby laid out the case for why Gleason’s should be able to open their doors, without fear of punishment, in the form of fines, from the state watchdogs.

Silverglade didn’t tell Serby how much rent he’s paid to the building owner on Water St., but we will guess it is considerable. Commercial space in DUMBO can be like $70 per square foot. Federal, state and city loans, which could morph into grants, have been helpful to some business owners, but word on the street is that in many cases, the savvy sharks who have deep insider ties to banks have been getting preferred treatment. The fed’s Paycheck Protection Program offers loan “forgiveness,” but only if 60 percent of the loan–it was initially 75%, before a recent amendment tweak– is spent on payroll, paying workers. That can work better in Nebraska, than NY, which is often the largest per month hit to an NYC business.

But Silverglade did tell the newspaper vet that he’s not spoiling for a fight with Governor Cuomo, he simply wants the state’s helmer to hear him out.

Steve Serby of the NY Post spoke to Bruce Silverglade, who is asking Governor Cuomo to allow Gleason's Gym to open to pros, the same way pro basketball and hockey teams can re-open in New York.

“I’m not trying to get into a fight with the government, because in the long run, I’ll lose,” Silverglade said to the Post. “I just want to say I think that Gleason’s Gym is an exception, and somebody should give me their ear, and listen to what I have to say. The Executive Order is very broad and should have a review process for exceptions to the broad-based plan. I do not think Gleason’s Gym should be included with New York Sports Clubs or yoga studios.”

Silverglade told me more about how he’d handle a re-opening to pros.

“Professional boxers should not be discriminated against,” he said, respectfully but with some zest, because he knows his fighters, independent contractors, are struggling to make ends meet in this pricy region where landlords want their money, because the government wants their property tax money.

(You might recall the tri-state’s Governors banded together and ordered that gym, fitness centers, must close as of 8 PM, on Monday, March 16, part of the push to lessen interactions between people who were carrying the novel coronavirus.)

Silverglade understands the Governor and his staff are barraged by the minute in responding to the COVID-19 assault on the state. But he is asking for a quick fix, a tweak to existing regulations. “It is easy to limit my clients, people allowed to enter the gym, to professional boxers,” Silverglade said. “They are licensed by the New York State Athletic Commission and have been issued Federal IDs. I can provide a reopening plan that will fully satisfy the Department of Health.”

On May 24, Cuomo spoke on pro teams, and how he wants people in NY State to be able to watch sports.

“Work out the economics if you can. We want you up,” Cuomo said then. “We want people to be able to watch sport. To the extent people are still staying home, it gives people something to do. It’s a return to normalcy.”

But that only applies to the big boys, not the smaller scrappers, the boxers, who don’t have a central league office which employs lobbyist teams to make their voice heard?

I know enough small business owners to know that NYC isn’t stellar at acting like they understand how hard these people typically work, how much risk they take on running a business. Many owners I speak to live in fear of being fined for ticky tack offenses, reducing their slim margins to break even, or worse. There are around 50 women and men who hold licenses to fight as pros, who trek to Gleason’s to get their work on. None of them are asking for special treatment, just the same opportunity being offered to professionals outside the realm of the sweet science. “I don’t think a professional fighter should be discriminated against because he or she doesn’t have the representation,” Silverglade said to Serby.

Amen, I say. And I’m askin’ for a friend, and other good people who know that Gleason’s is like a community center where one can improve body and mind, more fun than church and cheaper than a shrink visit: If you know Governor Cuomo, or somebody in his admin with some pull, can you put in the word for Gleason’s?

Because boxers deserve the same respect and love that Nets, Jets and Mets do. Their sport might be more of a niche, their paychecks less gaudy, but their hearts and their souls are all-star grade.

–Michael Woods is a Brooklyn resident, and publishes NYFights.com. Since 2016, he has hosted the Everlast Talkbox podcast.