Friday, March 21, 2008

Gleason's Gym

The last time I went to the part of Brooklyn now popularly known as DUMBO was in 1997. I went to Gleason's Gym because I was interested in boxing and wanted to see one of the oldest boxing gyms in America.

Getting there felt like a dangerous adventure. It was the middle of nowhere, it seemed, a wasteland of forgotten cobblestoned streets in the dark shadow of the rusty Manhattan Bridge. I did not feel safe, but I did feel brave. And that seemed like the right feeling to have when you go to a real boxing gym. It's impossible to have that feeling today.

I went back to Gleason's last week to find an entire world turned upside-down. The gym is in the same place, but everything around it has changed. There's a West Elm and a Bo Concept on the first floor. The affluent walk the scrubbed cobblestones, shopping for luxury goods. Gourmet markets sell $5 single-serving bottles of juice.

Gleason's sign is on the outside door, but it's dwarfed by a sign for The Fitness Guru. I waited for their customers to come down the stairs, carrying a fleet of Bugaboo strollers, figuring a Mommy and Me class had just let out. I trembled to think what I would find inside Gleason's.

Thankfully, not much has changed inside the old gym. Once the door closes behind you, you can imagine you're still on a former Front Street. Aside from a few young women in hot-pink gloves and a few middle-aged men with white-collar faces, the room is filled with boxers, serious and sweating. Champions and contenders still train at Gleason's.

The owner, Bruce Silverglade, sits by the door and makes you feel welcome--but inside you still get that unsafe feeling. And it feels good. Men are beating each other. Other men dance around the floor, punching heavy bags. A bell goes off and they all drop their hands. It goes off again and the soft/hard sound of fists and gasps resumes. The room seethes with aggression.


Anonymous said...

Gleason's gym used to train working class Irish and Italian boxers as well.

Judy said...

Try Kingsway Boxing Gym on 28th & Fifth Ave in Manhattan.

Anonymous said...

I have been reading this blog for awhile now and as much as I love your effort and totally share your sadness over what is happening to our city, I can't help but wish that you would more often focus on the things that are still here. I see them everyday. Last weekend I went to Carnegie Deli for the first time, wandered down 57th and went to Rizzoli, followed by a stop at Scandinavia House on Park. It was an amazing day that could not take place anywhere else in the world. Today I plan on hitting Donut Pub before walking around the Chelsea galleries. I dunno....I guess what I am saying is that NYC is too immense for everything that is great about it to be wiped away. As much as I will mourn the loss of Florent I know that I will find a new place that I might just love just as much. Not sure where it will be or if it will be old or new but I know I'll find it. You seem to be focusing on a very specific side of NYC passing away. And as much as I also love the slightly shabby, old world, traditional places, I am aware that there has, for a very long time, been many other faces of New York as well. I love alot of those faces, and hate some of the new ones as well. I would'nt be caught dead in a starbucks,chipotle,jamba juice, etc. For everyone of them there is still dozens of independent businesses nearby for me to support. I guess ultimately I would love to see a little less pessimisim here and a bit more focus on what you love about the city, because underneath all of the awful new buildings, and characterless yuppie businesses, there are still brilliantly unique places everywhere. Trust me, i feel the way you do most of the time, but I'm fighting to focus on the good, because otherwise I would be miserable.

Todd HellsKitchen said...

Thanks for reminding me that I need to get over and check out DUMBO... I think they have an Arts Fest every Spring. I gotta get over there!

Anonymous said...

Jeremiah, as I've said before, you are singular in your reporting how the city is being killed off bit by bit. I see no reason to be elated that Bed/Bath/Whatever, K-Mart, Star$, the Trumps or any of the other short fingered vulgarians are still with us. One day, JVNY will be the source when historians address the mosaic of a massive obituary.

srl said...

this was a great post. someone commented on JVNY as being negative, & not mentioning what still remains. jeremiah has featured some really old businesses. (that are still there). i do wish he would a bit more of that. the blog can be depressing. but the gleason's gym looked promising.