Once upon a time, Williamsburg was an off-the-beaten path, outer-borough enclave that lacked the staples of more traditional, less vinyl-siding dense places. Luxury condos and rental buildings, however, offered a solution to one of the neighborhood’s most lacking staples – gyms. Units in these amenities-rich buildings, however, came at quite a premium and were not terribly conducive to the budget renter’s bottom line.
How times have changed! The neighborhood is now replete with pharmacies, fro-yo joints, coffee chains and upscale gyms. Just this summer, an Equinox opened smack dab in the center of Bedford. Like its sister locations in Manhattan, the new Equinox boasts sleek decor, top-notch equipment, and… astronomical prices. If you’re looking for a more affordable gym option, or simply refuse to contribute (more than you already do) to the rapid demise of Williamsburg hipster-dom, consider these alternate options for staying fit.
Location: North 9th at Driggs and Bedford
Pricing: Chalk is a cheaper alternative to Equinox, while still upholding high standards and great service. Membership costs $99 month-to-month, $89/month with an annual commitment, or $999 for the full year upfront. Other benefits include no enrollment fee, a flexible freeze policy and a great student discount for those still in school. You can also use your membership card to score discounts at local stores and restaurants.
Amenities: Chalk has all of the standard weight and cardio equipment you would need, as well as a range of group fitness classes included in the price. Size-wise it isn’t huge, but it does have a spin studio, group fitness studio, and adequately-sized locker rooms with a sauna.
Customer Experience: As two-year member of Chalk, I can attest to its excellent customer service. The owner is very responsive to all questions and billing concerns, and I’ve never had an issue with anything on that front. The gym itself has a cool ambiance with good music playing and a community chalk board (hence the name!) to share fitness goals and progress. The only downside is that it tends to get crowded at rush hour due to its close proximity to the L train.
*Added bonus: This is the gym where Broad City is filmed (it’s called “Soulstice” on the show), so you can feel closer to Abby and Ilana as you sweat!
Location: South 6th at Bedford and Berry
Pricing: Soma is slightly less expensive than Chalk and may be a more convenient option if you live closer to the JMZ train. Membership costs $95 month-to-month, $85/month with an annual contract, and $935 for the full year upfront. On the downside, no student discount.
Amenities: In addition to traditional weights and cardio equipment, Soma boasts a number of amenities such as a sauna, steam room, spin studio, private Pilates/reformer studio, boxing room, yoga studio, and cardio theater (that’s right, a movie theater with workout equipment instead of chairs).
Member Experience: According to a current member at Soma, “They have good fitness classes and fun instructors. Everyone is friendly and you never have to wait for machines. It’s never too crowded there.” However, this member also noted some downsides. For example, “The spin bikes are not good and need to be replaced.”
Location: Corner of North 3rd & Berry
Pricing: Retro Fitness is a good deal if you can tolerate the McDonald-colored workout equipment. They advertise membership plans starting as low as $19.99 a month! However, this price doesn’t include access to all the amenities, such as group fitness classes. In order to have full access, you’ll need the “VIP Plus” membership which costs $39.99/month. They also require a one-year contract and have strict cancellation policies, which may be an issue if you’re looking for a shorter-term commitment.
Amenities: As I mentioned, Retro Fitness is not the most aesthetically pleasing gym (in light of the color scheme, lack of windows, and unfinished look to the facility). However, what it lacks in ambiance it seems to make up for in space and equipment. Highlights include a smoothie bar at the entrance, a cardio theater, and non-stop 80s music (is that a pro or a con?).
Member Experience: This gym seems to be a decent option if you’re looking for a cheap, no-frills workout. That being said, I’ve heard several negative reviews from members regarding billing and contract issues, so just be sure to read the fine print before you sign up.
If you really want to save, check out your local NYC Recreation Center (there’s one on the corner of Bedford and Metropolitan). In addition to standard workout equipment, basketball courts, and group fitness classes, some rec centers even include indoor/outdoor pool access. Prices start as low as $25/year for young adults and seniors, up to $100/year for adults ages 25-61! Better yet, consider using the FREE outdoor track and workout equipment at McCarren Park while the good weather lasts.
Other options to consider
- Frenchie’s Gym (303 Broadway between Marcy and Rodney) Old-school neighborhood gym with just the basics and an authentic Brooklyn vibe. $30/month membership.
- Brooklyn Athletic Club (8 Berry between 13th and 14th ) Training club located in a renovated warehouse on the edge of McCarren Park. Features impressive amenities including infinity pools, private saunas, roof deck fitness classes, and on-site child care. Full Access Gym Membership begins at $135/month.
- Group Fitness: If you’re more of a ClassPass person, keep an eye out for deals at these group fitness studios in Williamsburg:
- Brooklyn Bodyburn (32 North 6th at Kent)
- Orangetheory Fitness (157 Kent at North 4th )
- Soulcycle (196 Kent at North 3rd)
- Pure Barre (204 Wythe at North 5th)