NY gym owner suing Cuomo sounds off: Liquor stores are open, but special needs kids can’t get essential exercise

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A New York gym owner is suing Gov. Andrew Cuomo to allow fitness centers to reopen in the state, accusing the Democrat of “destroying everything” with ongoing coronavirus lockdowns.

Charles DeFrancesco, owner of The Arena, called out the New York governor in a radio interview with the “Brian Kilmeade Show” on Monday, slamming decisions that have kept him and other gyms closed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and denied him an exemption to run a special needs class.

(Image: YouTube/The Arena screenshot)

During a news briefing last week, Cuomo  called fitness centers “highly problematic” and claimed that going to a gym with the ongoing coronavirus threat is a “dangerous activity.” DeFrancesco dismissed the Democrat’s remarks as “ridiculous” during his discussion with Fox News Radio host Brian Kilmeade.

DeFrancesco is part of New York Fitness Coalition, the group comprised of more than 700 gyms that sued Cuomo in June. Though gyms in the state were supposed to reopen during Phase 4 of New York’s plan, they were ordered to remain shut as coronavirus cases spiked in other states like Florida and Texas.

“These have been the nationally identified sources of increased infection. We have some data here. We have data. We know gyms are highly problematic,” Cuomo said at the briefing. “Not from our experience because we haven’t opened them, but we know the other states… they opened them and they had to close them.”

“The statements from the governor are ridiculous,” DeFrancesco said.

“I don’t know what gyms he’s talking about because in 44 states gyms have been opened, and we have the numbers and the data to prove that you’re no more likely at a gym to get COVID than anywhere else, and that’s what we can’t understand,” he added.

Kilmeade suggested the governor is “denying people like you the opportunity to make a living,” noting to DeFrancesco that gyms are focused on health.

“It’s beyond ridiculous, especially when there’s no bailout or course of action. Are we just supposed to go broke?” the White Plains gym owner asked, adding that gym owners have a “standard of care” to their clients.

He also noted that gyms have had stringent cleaning protocols in place for years, well before the coronavirus outbreak and that they go “beyond” those required now in the face of the pandemic.

DeFrancesco explained that he was also “refused” a state exemption for his “Fit 4 All Abilities” program aimed at serving children and adults with special needs, noting that his own son, Antonio,  is autistic.

He applied for an exemption as an “essential” business, hoping that he could continue to serve those with special needs either in small groups or one-on-one.

“I was refused,” he said.

“They said it wasn’t essential,” he said, adding that liquor stores and other shops are allowed to be open, “but our special needs children can’t go exercise for mental health. It can’t be more ridiculous.”

DeFrancesco told Kilmeade the lawsuit is now pending the state’s move to give proof as to why gyms remain closed, rather than “making up science” and a trial is set to begin on August 20.

“They’re destroying everything, and you know, gyms and fitness are the only defense that’s proven to combat against COVID. The healthier you are, the more unlikely you are to get sick or die from COVID,” he concluded. “Activity is great for mental health and look at the suicide rates. It speaks for itself.”


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