HOBOKEN, NJ – The saga rides on…

As previously reported by TAPinto Hoboken, the City of Hoboken found a temporary home for Prime Cycle at the iconic waterfront gazebo on the northeast corner of Pier A. The decision was made in an effort to find an optimal location for a small business struggling to cope with COVID challenges.

For months, Prime Cycle has been utilizing the Maria Pepe Batting Cages as part of Hoboken’s program to offer space to fitness centers impacted by COVID-19. With the resumption of Hoboken’s Little League program this Spring, that location became untenable after significant community outcry over the commercial use of public batting cages.

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As a result, the parties involved sought what they considered to be a better location.

With the gazebo now closed off, Hoboken public space advocacy group Fund for a Better Waterfront (FBW) has subsequently filed a complaint with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), citing code enforcement for unrestricted public access.

“Beginning on April 13, the City of Hoboken permitted a cycling studio, Prime Cycle, to close off the pavilion for its outdoor classes promoted on its website as ‘Spinning with a view,’” reads a statement from FBW. “For 24 hours a day, the site is now completely blocked off to the public, with high chain link fencing and tarps surrounding the structure.”

According to City Spokesman Vijay Chaudhuri, “Thanks to the collaboration between Prime Cycle and the City of Hoboken, the City identified a temporary location at the gazebo that allows a struggling business to continue to use outdoor space for safe, socially distant outdoor workouts. Thanks to the Executive Order signed by Mayor Bhalla last year, over 30 fitness clubs and studios, including Prime Cycle have utilized City parks and fields, to lend a helping hand to business owners due to continued capacity limits indoors. Many of these gym owners have credited this option for saving their business from bankruptcy, including Prime Cycle.”

FBW Executive Director Ron Hine stated, “We understand the City’s commitment to assist local businesses that have been negatively impacted by the current pandemic. This location, however, is unacceptable and disregards state regulations.”

Chaudhuri reinforced the City’s position, saying, “Prime Cycle’s use of the gazebo at Pier A is temporary until capacity limits are lifted, and Mayor Bhalla and the City are glad to provide this outdoor space to a business that has faced substantial hardships due to the pandemic.”

According to FBW, the City has not responded to questions about the duration of the gazebo use. In response to an OPRA request, FBW maintains that the City could not produce a copy of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) waterfront permit or the waterfront walkway easement agreement the City was required to grant to the state.

Specifically, FBW filed a complaint with the NJDEP for enforcing the state’s Coastal Zone Management Regulations. Section 7:7-9.46 of the regulations states, “Public access to and along the main route of the Hudson Waterfront Walkway and on the adjacent piers shall be on a 24-hour [basis].”

Prime Cycle owner Julie Insogna-Jarret had previously told TAPinto Hoboken, “I am deeply grateful to the Mayor and city officials for working with us to find outdoor space to hold classes. As you know, finding a place that can house our bikes is not easy. The move to the gazebo was definitely challenging and costly (fully paid by Prime) but I’m grateful we have the opportunity to keep our business going. Without these outdoors classes we would likely need to close permanently.” 

When asked about returning to Prime Cycle’s own brick and mortar facility at 70 Hudson Street, Insogna-Jarret said, “We haven’t been able to return yet due to limited capacity and social distancing requirements which would leave us with only approximately 8 bikes—not nearly enough to cover rent and operating expenses. We can return once those restrictions are modified or lifted.”

Meanwhile, public opinion has seen passionate support of both arguments.

The pandemic has presented significant challenges to the fitness sector, and many gyms are using public space. Prime Cycle’s business model of utilizing stationary bicycles creates a logistical anomaly when it comes to safely and readily storing that equipment. While many understand and empathize, others still wonder if there is a place better suited for the task—and one that isn’t in one of the most visible public space on Hoboken’s scenic waterfront.

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