‘It’s like someone is passing away’: Sunset Park’s Richie’s Gym to close in September

End of an era: Manager David Vale is getting ready to close Richie’s Gym on Sept. 12, after 29 years of serving the Sunset Park community.
Brooklyn Paper
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Patrons of a gritty, no-frills Sunset Park fitness center will have to pump iron somewhere else beginning Sept. 12, when the gym’s landlord will give them the boot after nearly 30 years in the neighborhood.

The decision to close Richie’s Gym — located on Fourth Avenue between 51st and 52nd streets — devastated fitness fanatics, who admit that some of the equipment has rusted over, but that’s exactly what they like about it.

“It’s very sad for a lot of people,” said Brian Montalvo, a longtime patron and current employee.

Richie’s Gym is stacked with two floors of old-school cardio and weight machines, many of which date back to the gym’s 1990 debut.

Montalvo said he weighed 300 pounds when his brother turned him on to Richie’s in 1997, but that the camaraderie he found there soon had him making daily trips to the Sunset Park fitness center — from his home in the Bronx!

“They call me insane, but there’s not a lot of places like this,” he said.

In January 2018, fans of Richie’s were furious when a Blink Fitness opened up just three doors down on Fourth Avenue, threatening the more expensive mom-and-pop gym with the fancy pants fitness franchise’s $15 monthly membership dues.

And, while Blink did cause a drop in Richie’s membership, it was the business’ landlord who ultimately decided to boot the old-school gym in a bid to court a well-heeled commercial buyer, Richie’s manager claimed.

“He wants to sell for big money because the neighborhood is changing,” said David Vale, who added that locals had banded together to try to buy the building, but the owner refused to sell it to them.

The gym’s imminent closure has been a blow to old-school gym rats and employees, who say Richie’s acted as a community center.

“It’s a business, but it’s also where people form a bond and form connections,” Vale said.

Montalvo claimed that he made many close friends while exercising, and said that the workout spot hosted weddings for couples who met while working out. The gym even inspired an acclaimed 2015 novel, “Preparation for the Next Life,” written by Richie’s regular Atticus Lish.

“This is all we have,” Montalvo said about the gym’s closing. “It’s like someone is passing away.”

The Sunset Park location may close, but Richie’s will live on in three newer locations in Bushwick, Cypress Hills and distant Queens that will remain open.

Reach reporter Rose Adams at or by calling (718) 260–8306. Follow her on Twitter @rose_n_adams
Updated 7:00 pm, August 26, 2019
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Reasonable discourse

Somebody from Somewhere says:
Well this is what happens when you've got people out here trying to hype up certain areas as if its gonna be the next big thing.
Aug. 26, 2019, 6:19 pm
OJ says:
Who cares? This place was nothing more than a fagoot niger hangout where they would pump each other and deal drugs. Good riddance!
Aug. 26, 2019, 8:03 pm
t from bath beach says:
Racist Hipsters moving in and pushing out people of color and mom and pop businesses
Aug. 27, 2019, 3:14 pm
Ale from Sunset Park says:
Sad to see an old spot go, but please don't blame this on gentrification. People's expectations for gyms has changed with increased competition: people want clean, modern and new equipment. For most people, 90's gym equipment isn't "cool", it just means you haven't reinvested into the business in 30 years and this is the result...
Aug. 28, 2019, 8:34 am
Cc says:
Or they might keep the place vacant and take out a loan instead of taking in a new tenant. Disgusting what these landlords get away with around the city.
Aug. 28, 2019, 11:52 pm
Resident from Sunset Park says:
Yes, the neighborhood is changing, and people can blame its the hipsters but what isn't talked about more frequently is that just like this landlord, these landlords sell to someone else rather than locals from their own neighborhood. THAT'S equally a big part of the problem.
Aug. 29, 2019, 3:25 pm
Ms. Me from Bay Ridge says:
The Yelp reviews concur with Ale from Sunset Park.
Aug. 29, 2019, 5:49 pm
Owner 5119 from Sunset Park says:
This is total BS. The reason the gym is closing is their failure to pay rent, back taxes and other bills totaling over 6 figures, even though the rent is less then half of the market rate. There have been no offers to buy the building and in fact it is not on the market at this time. We bought this building 30 years ago and ran our business there for almost 20 years. We endured floods, fires, drug dealers burglaries and constant issues with various city agencies during those years. We are not wealthy outsiders looking cash in we are a couple of guys who grew up in Brooklyn, built a business through hard work and are entitled to enjoy what we have earned. BTW nobody contacted me or Richie for our take on this article. Richie has expressed his sincere gratitude for all we have done to help him stay and he understands the situation is not sustainable.
Sept. 1, 2019, 7:55 am
Dave from Bay Ridge says:
"Racist Hipsters moving in and pushing out people of color and mom and pop businesses" Wrote moronic "t from bath beach" (WTF did his scumbag comment have to do with this gym closing?)... This idiot forgot Sunset Park was BUILT by Whites and ALMOST ALL WHITE until 50 years ago (when the neighborhood was invaded)....
Sept. 12, 2019, 6:02 pm
Brad Whitcomb from Bay Ridge says:
29 years is an EXTREMELY LONG RUN for a mom & pop gym...They usually only last about 6 or 7 years and then they close when the owner gets burned out from the insane long hours or evicted. Gyms are the second worse business behind restaurants. (Isn't that right Izzy from PowerHouse Gym?). Locally, Dolphin Gym once had 24 locations. Now they are down to their last location on 24th ave & 86th st...
Sept. 12, 2019, 6:14 pm

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