NY Gym Opens Amid Controversy

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Photo: nydailynews.com
Photo: nydailynews.com
Photo: nydailynews.com

The Cliffs at LIC, a massive, long awaited and controversial new climbing gym is opening October 5 in Long Island, New York. Massive, yes, at 30,000 square feet it is one of the largest climbing gyms in the country. Long awaited, yes, the project which started construction at the first of the year was slated to open in May, but has been sidelined by stop work orders and a police arrest. Controversial, yes, ever since owner Mike Wolfert has been mired in a bribing scandal that has cost him $5000,0000 and may put him in prison for seven years.

Quoted in the Long Island City Post:

The Cliffs will be so large that 500 climbers will be able to scale the walls at the same time.

The center will include a gym that offers full-fitness cardio and free weights, as well as a retail store that sells climbing gear.

Wolfert said the club is currently selling annual memberships for $1045, which come with a monthly guest pass, gym access and climbing classes.

He said he is looking to introduce programs for children – with scholarships for children from low income families.”

The gym is located in a former cell phone accessory warehouse and took $5 million to renovate. According to the New York Daily News, Brooklyn Boulders also looked at the warehouse but passed and is now looking into other locations within Queens.

With 60 and 45 foot walls built by Waltopia, 16 foot bouldering walls and a full retinue of fitness equipment, the Cliffs is a welcome addition to the former industrial neighborhood.

Photo: licpost.com
Photo: licpost.com

But it has not been an easy path for Wolfert. The Queens Courier reported:

According to the Department of Investigation, Mike Wolfert, owner of a rock climbing facility called The Cliffs, received a Stop Work Order for failing to obtain the correct permit to convert a large warehouse into a 30,000-square-foot climbing arena. An unannounced inspection by the City’s Department of Buildings (DOB) reportedly prompted the order.

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer said on April 10, he received a “disturbing” and “inappropriate” message from Wolfert allegedly asking for help with the violations. The message allegedly offered to provide assistance promoting Van Bramer’s campaign in return for the favor.

After reading the email several times, Van Bramer believed the only appropriate response was to tell the City Council’s General Counsel, who then notified the Department of Investigation (DOI). The tip led to a four-week undercover investigation of Wolfert.

“I don’t believe there was an option here, I had an obligation to report it,” said Van Bramer. “I’m not a hero. Every elected official, if presented with something like this, should always respond like this.”

According to a criminal complaint issued by the district attorney, on two occasions Wolfert allegedly paid a total of $1,094 to a DOI undercover investigator posing as a DOB inspector offering help getting the Stop Work Order withdrawn.

Wolfert is charged with bribery in the third degree and unlawful continuance. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison for the bribery charge and fines up to $25,000 as well as up to a year in prison for the unlawful continuance.

Wolfert’s next court date is Nov. 22 2013 said a spokesperson for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.

Wolfert also runs a second 13,000 sq foot facility in Valhalla, New York.

Photo: Cliffs LIC Facebook
Photo: Cliffs LIC Facebook