CrossFit Journal: Better Safe Than Sorry

With plans to open an affiliate in Manhattan, New York, Izzy Levy decided to tackle potential noise issues in advance. Before opening I.C.E. NYC/CrossFit Below Zero in February 2016, Levy spent two years researching locations and zoning laws and interviewing experienced affiliate owners to avoid the pitfalls discovered by other New York affiliates. Levy had no desire to repeat mistakes made by others. “What we figured is ‘let’s do it right. Let’s try to figure out the secret sauces and we can avoid these problems,’” he said. After Levy found a location—a 4,500-square-foot space in the bowels of a luxury apartment building in Tribeca—he hired an acoustics team, not just for eventual tests on the location but also to provide past studies of the team’s previous clients to win over the prospective landlord. Once the lease was signed, the experiments began. “The first thing you think of is noise ... but the real issue is vibration,” Levy said. “What happens is in a building, when you drop 200 lb. from overhead, vibrations run through the columns, and a penthouse 20 stories above you will feel it just as much as the one right above you.” To deflect vibration, Levy and the acoustics team decided to decouple the floor, or create a “floating” platform separated from the floor by acoustic isolators that prevent the transmission of vibration from machines—barbells in this case—to the building structure. First, they built a small mock platform to test various materials, dropping 225 lb. from overhead each time. Steel channels ran from one isolator to the next beneath the platform, topped by layers of dampening material. After a bit of trial and error— sheetrock layers were prone to cracking and foam layers resulted in a floor that was too malleable—the team arrived at the winning cocktail of wood and rubber, which brought the vibrations, measured by seismic readers installed on each of the building’s 17 stories, within the acceptable range. After, Levy soundproofed the walls and the ceilings. Meanwhile, his physical culture establishment (PCE) permit application with the New York Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) was under review as part of a nine-month process he began well in advance. The extensive testing resulted in a full PCE permit just weeks before the affiliate’s opening date. “We’ve been open for three months now and not (had) a single complaint from any of the condo owners,” Levy said. The investment, he said, was worth the risk. “It was definitely scary, and then in the last five years (the BSA has) really cracked down on CrossFit gyms, so we knew we were gonna have an uphill battle,” he said. “But we were not willing to have issues in the future. If we build a beautiful business, we don’t want our members t have to be shut down at one point. So we knew the risks, we knew the expense involved, and we decided to do it the right way.”