Cardio machines, separated by plastic sheets, are visible inside the 1000 Islands Fitness Center in Alexandria Bay on June 12. Watertown Daily Times

ALEXANDRIA BAY — The owners of 1000 Islands Fitness Center have filed what potentially could become a class-action lawsuit over the continuing shutdown of fitness facilities mandated by the state due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The fitness center, owned and operated by Diane and Gary Bass for 21 years, filed state Supreme Court action Thursday on behalf of the center and others in a similar situation against Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the state attorney general’s office claiming executive orders issued by the governor that have kept fitness facilities closed indefinitely violate the plaintiff’s constitutional rights.

An executive order issued by the governor has kept all gyms and fitness centers shuttered since March 16. Subsequent orders have allowed many previously closed businesses to reopen, but fitness centers have not been included in the reopenings.

“We just want to be treated as fairly as any other business,” said James G. Mermigis, Syosset, the attorney representing the fitness center. “This is just a point where we’re saying enough is enough.”

Throughout the pandemic, several businesses have been deemed essential by the state and have remained open. The lawsuit argues that liquor stores and big box stores were considered essential and that fitness centers, similarly “are absolutely essential to the health and well being of its members and to the financial viability of its owners and employees.”

The plaintiffs contend that the executive orders keeping the public away from their business are unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause, the Equal Protection Clause and state law.

“In short, Plaintiff, and all others similarly situated, bring this lawsuit to define the limits of a State’s police power,” the lawsuit reads. “Whatever, its limits, this legal term of art is not some principle that unlocks absolute executive power and casts our Constitution to the wind.”

The suit states that “every other state in this country has allowed gyms to re-open,” including states that border New York, such as Connecticut and Pennsylvania. It maintains that there has been no health inspection of 1000 Islands Fitness Center, no analysis done of the health status of gyms as essential and no analysis of health-related protocols to see if gyms meet the same health standards as allowed for essential businesses.

The suit argues that gyms can comply with all of the same safety requirements imposed on businesses that are allowed to operate under the executive orders, such as social distancing.

“Nor is there any rational basis any longer since the virus is under control to deprive Plaintiff and members of the putative Class of their liberty and property services for willing customers when they can do so safely and in the same (or reasonably safe equivalent) manner as other businesses allowed to operate (such as manufacturing, restaurants, bars, tanning salons, tattoo parlors and retail),” the suit states.

The suit seeks, among other things, a preliminary injunction halting the enforcement of the governor’s executive shutdown orders, which is the primary goal of the action. Mr. Mermigis said the suit will also seek damages for lost business, with the suit citing an amount of $500 million being sought for hundreds of fitness centers that may be eligible to join the suit if it is certified as a class action.

“It’s time to open up the gyms, unless (Gov. Cuomo) wants to compensate us for staying closed,” Mr. Mermigis said. “You can’t just keep people shut down forever.”

A spokesperson for the governor’s office could not be reached for comment.

1000 Islands Fitness Center has been offering outdoor workouts during the pandemic, allowing customers to use their equipment at no cost.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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(1) comment

Holmes -- the real one

Yeah. Looks perfectly safe. Those little Coronavirus critters will be totally baffled by that hanging plastic. Besides, nobody breathes all that hard when they're exercising and even asymptomatic people "can just tell" if they are infectious. Just sign this little release and you're good to go.

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