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Boards Must Use Caution in Reopening Amenity Spaces

One of the first Executive Orders issued by Governor Cuomo in the early stages of the pandemic directed that fitness centers and similar businesses closed. Most cooperatives and condominiums closed the recreational amenity spaces in their buildings – such as gyms, rec rooms, pools, and similar spaces – citing a combination of public health concerns and legal requirements (which were not entirely clear). Now, as the pandemic enters its sixth month, many buildings are re-examining these decisions.

On August 17, the Governor authorized gyms to reopen, subject to detailed guidelines issued by the New York State Health Department, which clarify that they apply to residential as well as commercial facilities. These include a 33% capacity limitation, mandatory wearing of masks, sanitation and ventilation requirements, and having staff present to ensure compliance with the rules. The Governor also announced that gyms would be inspected by health authorities. The directive allowing gyms to partially reopen takes effect beginning on August 24. However, localities may delay its implementation until early September to allow time to conduct the inspections, and Mayor De Blasio has stated that New York City will do so.

Before residents are allowed to use a reopened gym, they should be required to acknowledge the new rules governing gym use and sign a liability waiver that specifically mentions COVID-19. As with other aspects of dealing with the pandemic, boards facing the issue of whether to reopen amenity spaces in their buildings should consult with counsel before exercising their business judgment.