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A green gym grows in Bushwick


GM Rachel Devlin models her green hardhat on what is now an outdoor roof garden and yoga studio.

Gyms are temples of health and wellness, so it’s ironic that most use chemical-laden cleaning supplies and don’t give a watt about energy usage. Enter the prosaically named, but pioneering Green Fitness Studio (GFS), opening December 21 in Bushwick with an ambitious green agenda.

Well+Good got a sneak peek at the airy, light-filled health center housed in an old factory when we sat down for a chat with its passionate general manager Rachel Devlin, a yogi-turned-community health-care advocate.

WHY SUCH A GENERIC NAME FOR SUCH A GENIUS CONCEPT?
I think the goal was to highlight the eco-friendliness, so we wanted the word “green” front and center. We also liked “fitness studio” instead of “gym” because we offer a total mind-body, wellness experience.

THAT’S THE YOGA TEACHER TALKING. HOW DID YOU BECOME GM OF SUCH AN AMBITIOUS, COMPLICATED, AND LARGE FACILITY?
I was teaching yoga in Manhattan, but I’ve been living in Bushwick for four years. When I first moved to New York, I lived in the East Village where I expected to find a vibrant, bohemian community. But really everything I expected New York to be I’ve found in Brooklyn. I’ve been really involved in Bushwick: I helped start a CSA and a farmer’s market. And I’m a member of Community Board 4. So working for a business that combines community outreach and fitness was a natural progression.

HOW HAVE YOU BROUGHT THIS COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT WITH YOU TO YOUR NEW POSITION?
Knowing what’s going on here has made me more effective. Bushwick is facing a health crisis, and it’s really difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle here. The neighborhood has a high prevalence of major health issues, such as diabetes and heart disease, and we want to ensure that residents have access to our services. We’re working on offering a sliding-scale membership based on income.

WHAT MAKES THIS A FITNESS STUDIO AND NOT A GYM?
We have a registered dietician on staff, a spa offering reiki, deep tissue, and facials with organic products, and classes like adult ballet. Plus a juice bar modeled after Liquiteria. Out here, there’s nowhere to get a fresh juice. We’re working with the Bushwick food coop and CSA farmers for affordable produce, and we’ll deliver the juices, making them even more accessible.

The cardio deck is filled with natural light

IS THERE SUCH A THING AS CARDIO MACHINES POWERED BY THE WORKOUT YET?
Yes, we have self-powered cardio machines! Genius, right? The exerciser’s motion generates the machine power so it’s cordless. The bikes, the cross trainers, the rower, and the endless rope are all cordless. The treadmills, however, need power.

WHAT ABOUT RECYCLED EQUIPMENT?
Actually, Gym Tech, a company down the street, helped us procure our remanufactured cardio equipment. Being in an industrial part of town, we also have access to scrap metal that we used to build things like the juice bar stools.

HOW IS THE COMMUNITY RESPONDING TO AN ECO-FRIENDLY GYM RUN BY A WHITE YOGA LADY?
[laughter] I don’t know; I guess you have to ask the community! The feedback has been very positive. So far we’ve invited people to come to us. But we need to take our concept to the community. We’re partnering with local churches, teachers, police, and firemen. We understand a place like this can be intimating—residents are concerned that we won’t understand their needs, may not speak their language, and that they can’t afford it period. We need to show people that we’re really here to support them.

GFS is opening December 21. Day rate: $25 unlimited use, all classes. Membership $50-$100 based on commitment, packages, and income; 232 Varet Street, btwn. White and Bogart Sts., Bushwick, Brooklyn, 347-599-0663, www.greenfitnessstudio.com


Do you know of any other green gyms in NYC? Tell us, here!

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