One beer may sway you. Two will persuade you. And three will make you want to move in and call the club your own. So is this a fair review and comparison to other squash club options? Nope. But you go to a club as nice as CityView, play a few good games on their glass-backed courts, and then have three beers (I got the first; friends brought over the 2nd and 3rd. Honest.) and tasty appetizers with some of your favorite Printing House pals in the club lounge, and you’d be ready to move in, too.
People keep talking about the schlep. Any place with the word ‘Long Island’ in it sounds like a trek to most city folk, and it definitely concerned me. For ten blissful years, I’ve worked on Hudson Street, a few blocks south of PH. I can’t even tell you how short my commute to the club was without wincing…. But on Thursday evening around 6:30, I bucked up and got on the 1 train at Houston, switched for the 2/3 to 42nd, and then jumped on a 7 express. As the train pulled into the 33rd Street stop, I checked my watch. It wasn’t even 7:00 yet; less than half an hour had passed. Only the train didn’t stop. It stopped about five stations later. Note to self (and you): get the train with the green circle around the 7, NOT the diamond. It would’ve taken me half an hour, door to door. However, I got lucky at the next stop and an inbound train got me back to 33rd St. in just a few more minutes.
This is not the West Village. Nor is it quaint Brooklyn Heights where the Eastern Athletic Club is located. This is warehouseville Long Island City. Long low buildings stretch down the streets away from Queens Blvd where the 7 runs overhead. Fortunately, it’s a quick one block walk from the train, across the street from the LIC YMCA and across the avenue from MoMA’S PS 1, for you art lovers. To be honest, the neighborhood’s probably not vastly different than the lower West Village decades ago when it was less residential and more industrial. At the very least, both have stunning views from the buildings’ top floors. The entrance is well lit and a security guard greets you just inside where you wait for the large elevator to take you up. If you think PH’s elevator (just as slow, but about 5x the size) you’ll feel right at home.
Once the elevator doors open, however, the similarity ends. And definitely not in a bad way. I don’t hang out in Soho or Tribeca boutique hotels, but I kind of felt as though I should’ve wheeled in my bag and checked in at the long front desk. Instead, I walked past it into the airy, modern, well-lit space. Past a snack bar and pro shop, entrances to the tennis courts on either side, and over to the squash courts, bordered by exercise equipment and machines, and a lounge area. The space outside the courts is brightly lit and while there are no bleachers, it’s easy to watch people playing, whether you’re sitting on one of the benches, standing with friends, or running on a treadmill. I’m not sure if it was the lighting, the people, or just the overall positive vibe, but the place felt familiar—a good place to hang out.
Speaking of hanging out, let’s get to the piece de resistance. The bar. It’s up a curving staircase and would also fit right in at that boutique hotel. Sleek. Backlit. With a variety of tables and chairs at which to stand or sit. And a modern fireplace in the center gives the whole place an après-ski kind of feel. Pull up a few friends and drinks and stay a while. Can I see impromptu PH alumni parties happening here? Definitely.
The numero uno party-goer may be the newly named squash director. Professor Musto to me. But you can call him John. If you read my article about him, you know I’m a fan. Admittedly, I haven’t known John Musto for long, but it seems that every person I run into who knows him has something great to say—from his animated personality to his smooth, superlative playing to his intuitive coaching. In deliberating about which club I’m going to end up at, the squash pro is an important factor. I enjoy playing for fun, but anyone who knows me, knows I like to win. So I still want to keep improving my game and who’s going to be around to help me do that? I’ve been fortunate to work with some great pros, but having seen John’s coaching in action while training for the Howe Cup, I was learning parts of the game I’d never thought of before and knew I had a lot more to learn from this guy.
I also wouldn’t mind learning and playing doubles. I tried playing it a few years ago down in Philly at the impressive Fairmount Athletic Club, and while I think I’d have to get a whole new brain for the game, it was definitely enticing. Besides its three singles courts, CityView has a doubles court as well. And with a brother who plays, we could be a sibling team!
So am I going to join? Well, while you’re at the club, there’s no question that you want to be a member. In fact, if a real estate agent had been at the Open House hawking apartments nearby, I bet they could’ve made some sales. It’s easy to be blinded by the, well, boutiqueyness of this place. Thick towels, rainhead showers, terrycloth robes to wrap up in as you wander around the sprawling (and sparkling) locker rooms. Valet parking! This place could make me very happy. But as I rode the oh-so-slow G train home and the drinks began to wear off, a few realities hit me.
CityView is a “Racquet Club” not a general athletic club. On the one hand that’s a good thing; it’ll focus on its courts, players, and programs, and not get distracted by yoga twisters, spinners, and body conditioners. Problem is, I am all of these things and since CityView doesn’t offer classes, I’m going to have to shell out for another club. Ten years ago I was happy to wave g’bye to the impersonal New York Sports Club chain; now it looks like I will be waving hello again.
There are also other niggling concerns that may or may not affect you. If you are smaller and/or non-male, you may not like wandering out at night into a much less populated neighborhood than you are accustomed to. But given that the street/avenue is well lit, across from a Y, and very close to the subway, I felt fine myself. Maybe swinging my racquet around helped…. I also was less than thrilled by the steep ($660!!) annual fee for a locker. Yes, that includes laundry service, but it would be nice if there were some other options. Lastly, the reservation system is currently only by phone, and you must cancel the day before to not get charged for a no-show. The owner explained that the tennis players like it this way to protect their privacy. I guess that we squash players are exhibitionists.
So this is probably more than you need to know about CityView. But if it’s not, there will most likely be another Open House in early December. And if you want to swing by for a visit of your own, go right ahead, contact John Musto at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or call 718.389.6252. If you want to share any other details about CityView or any other club you may be considering, please do so. In the meantime, have a great Thanksgiving. At least the Printing House courts will be open a few weeks longer to work the leftovers off.