BIG-NAME NY CLUBS RATE AS WORST
By BRUCE GOLDING
New Yorkers eager to tone up and slim down as part of their New Year's resolutions shouldn't count on getting pumped up by Bally Total Fitness.
The national health-club chain ranks at the bottom of Consumer Reports' new list of gym ratings.
Bally scored only 66 out of 100 points from Consumer Reports readers, receiving the worst marks for cleanliness, crowds and locker rooms. It also fared poorly for staff, equipment, classes and value - despite its average $20-a-month price.
Second worst is the company that runs New York Sports Clubs, which scored 69. NYSC was also second in complaints to the city Better Business Bureau, behind Crunch gyms.
The nonprofit magazine faulted the ubiquitous gyms - 41 in Manhattan alone - for bad value, with prices that reach $95 a month.
The clubs also got low marks for cleanliness and crowds.
The rankings dovetail with data from the Better Business Bureau, which recorded 2,704 complaints against Bally nationwide over the past three years, spokesman Tony Barbera told The Post.
In 2004, Bally paid the state Attorney General's office $200,000 after hundreds of complaints about deceptive ads and high-pressure sales tactics.
Consumer Reports gave a mid-level score of 74 points to Curves - which caters exclusively to women. Gold's Gym scored 73 and LA Fitness 71.
Magazine readers recommend independent yoga, dance or Pilates studios - which topped the list with 80 points - or employer gyms and local community centers.
High marks went to nonprofit health clubs run by the Jewish Community Center, which has a branch on the Upper West Side and others, and the YMCA, with 17 Big Apple locations.
At a Midtown Bally Total Fitness on 55th Street, tech consultant and triathlete Dan Ricci, 38, said he lifted weights there because it was cheap. "It's not a top-tier club. You don't get a lot of what you get at the others," the Upper West Side resident said.
A series in The Post in early 2001 cited scores of consumer complaints against Bally, saying the chain fooled customers into signing three-year contracts, destroyed their credit if they didn't pay up and even sued to garnish their wages. The series led then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer to demand an end to such practices.
A spokeswoman said Bally has invested $30 million in upgrades and equipment since the Consumer Reports survey, and was promising "A New Better Bally" in 2008.
New York Sports Clubs disputed the magazine's findings, saying internal surveys found its customers "very satisfied."