Muscle-headed gym keeps flouting regs with illegal signage

Neighbors and preservationists are waiting for Equinox to “undo it” and remove this huge, illegal sign on Greenwich Ave.  Photo by SAM SPOKONY
Neighbors and preservationists are waiting for Equinox to “undo it” and remove this huge, illegal sign on Greenwich Ave. Photo by SAM SPOKONY

BY SAM SPOKONY  |  Equinox made them do it — but now two city agencies are making them undo it.

The trendy gym on Greenwich Ave. at W. 12th St. is being forced to take down a massive advertising sign that covers nearly the entire side of its four-story building, which lies within the Greenwich Village Historic District.

Responding to complaints from both neighbors and preservationists, the Landmarks Preservation Commission ruled on Jan. 7 that the sign must come down, since the gym never received the necessary permission for its installation within the historic district.

According to an order from L.P.C. Chairperson Robert Tierney, the 97 Greenwich Ave. building’s owner — Almi Greenwich Associates, which leases the space to Equinox — will have to pay a $5,000-per-day fine as long as the gargantuan ad remains up.

Prior to that, the Department of Buildings on Jan. 3 issued the building a violation for intalling the sign without a permit, following an inspection that was prompted by 311 complaints. Neither the building owner nor Equinox representatives ever filed an application to put up the signage, according to city records.

D.O.B. also issued a stop-work order on Jan. 6 as a result of the inspection.

Both Almi Greenwich Associates and Equinox’s corporate office did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

Equinox, which has several gyms in New York and a total of 64 around the world, installed the advertising on Jan. 2 as part of a new marketing campaign. The text of the sign — which reads, “Dear Greenwich Village, Equinox Made Me Do It” — refers to the campaign’s message that, apparently, working out at an Equinox gym allows everyday people to live an uninhibited, “more provoked” life, according to a Dec. 30 company press release announcing the marketing scheme.

“The ads connect the cause and effect of an Equinox workout, asserting that a good workout can be a bad influence,” the release stated.

But in this case, the “Dear Greenwich Village” message was particularly enraging to residents and preservationists, because that very same gym was forced by the city to remove a similar oversized sign — for the same reason  — back in 2010.

“Clearly, there’s a problem with Equinox in terms of their wanton disregard of the rules,” said Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, in a Jan. 7 phone interview. “They’re simply thumbing their nose at the law and the correct public process, and that’s not the way to be a good neighbor.”

When this newspaper visited Equinox’s Greenwich Ave. location on Jan. 8 to ask about the sign — which was still in place as of press time — one gym employee mocked complaints about the advertising eyesore.

“Is it about the marketing again?” the female employee said, with a laugh, to her co-worker behind the counter, in response to an initial question about the sign. She apparently thought, at first, that this reporter was a block resident filing a complaint.

When this reporter identified himself as a member of the press, that same employee said, in a particularly sarcastic tone, “Oh, that’s even better!”