NEW YORK — Some Harlem residents are frustrated after city workers confiscated exercise equipment from a community fitness club.
Cellphone video shows the city parks department and NYPD removing exercise equipment from Marcus Garvey Park on Tuesday as Harlem residents argued in protest.
“Everybody comes here because they feel like this is a safe haven that’s somewhere where we can work out,” Harlem resident Jamel Ali told CBS2’s Ali Bauman.
Ali has been running a free fitness club around the park’s calisthenics equipment for 20 years.
The metal bars are pretty bare bones with handlebars broken and torn, so during COVID, Ali says people were donating weights and exercise gear and storing it under a canopy overnight. That’s until the city threw it all out this week.
“It’s designed for us to do exactly what we’re doing — punching bags, weights that were all taken from us and thrown in the garbage,” Harlem resident Christopher Ford said.
“I was basically called a hobo when I’m out here trying to help the community,” Ali said.
The city told CBS2 the cleanup has nothing to do with, but rather Ali’s set-up has historically been in conflict with park rules, which prohibit the storage of personal property.
The agency removed unsanctioned equipment three years ago, and this time around, it gave a week’s notice and offered to hold their equipment at the police precinct.
“I don’t have no vehicle or no place to store,” Ali said.
“The community that we live in is underfunded, and we do not have the same resources as other parks,” Ford said.
Ford, who has been training at the park for two years, feels the cleanup was a waste of city resources.
“This is all we have. We can’t afford a gym. This is all for the community and to end gun violence. The city doesn’t care about that, well, because if they did, again, a single individual wouldn’t have to do everything on their own,” Ford said.
In a statement, the department told CBS2 in part, “NYC Parks is the city’s largest provider of free and low cost fitness opportunities through our hundreds of adult fitness areas in parks, and our free Shape Up NYC fitness classes – and we are hopeful that we can come to a positive relationship with Mr. Ali.”
In the meantime, the club continues to work out with the equipment that’s left.