Residents of Englewood soon will be able to work out on exercise equipment in a public park, and it’s all because of a Teaneck man’s visit to his daughter in Israel three years ago.
During David Siegel’s stay with his daughter Raquella, he was intrigued to see resistance-training equipment installed at many parks across Israel. He tracked down the Israeli businessman in China who manufactures one brand of these machines.
Mr. Siegel, a home loan officer for Citibank, saw a unique opportunity and soon established his own side business, Xrcise Gym. He works with municipalities, school districts, housing authorities, condo developers, and individuals to create outdoor workout setups.
“According to the CDC, over 30 percent of Americans are obese, and we’re trying to help communities provide outdoor exercise opportunities,” Mr. Siegel said.
Xrcise Gym has partnered with the New Jersey Recreation and Park Association and the New York State Recreation and Park Society to research and secure grants from private foundations to help fund the purchase of outdoor gym machines. The township of Teaneck bought about 10 Xrcise Gym machines for each of two parks, Tryon and Phelps, and the borough of Oakland recently made a purchase as well.
The road to Englewood was more unusual.
The story began when Mr. Siegel took a booth at the 2016 NJ League of Municipalities conference last November. Michael Cohen, who represents Englewood’s second ward on its city council (and whose day job is as the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Eastern director), stopped by the booth to learn more about Xrcise Gym.
“Mr. Siegel told me about the uniqueness of these machines and how much they’re appreciated in Teaneck,” Mr. Cohen said. “We discussed different ideas for bringing this to Englewood. I went to one of the Teaneck parks where the machines are installed and saw it was something our city would benefit from.
“But we’re going through a tough budget year and couldn’t take on any new projects. So he came up with the idea of doing a pilot at no cost to the city so folks could try it and see if it works in Englewood.”
Mr. Siegel agreed to give the city four pieces of equipment to test the concept with the public and arouse interest among potential donors. “Our goal is to reach out to the Englewood business community to see if someone will sponsor the installation and will want to put more of these machines in Englewood,” he said.
Before a gift of this magnitude could be accepted officially, the city council had to pass a resolution approving it. That was done, unanimously, on July 11. “Mr. Siegel described the machines at the council meeting and got a big round of applause for his efforts and generosity,” Mr. Cohen said.
To save delivery and installation expenses, Englewood’s department of public works will send a crew to pick up the machines and install them under Mr. Siegel’s supervision.
The four machines include an abs bench for crunches as well as three pieces of equipment with multiple resistance levels: a squat machine, a leg extension machine, and a high pulley for arms, shoulders and back. “The intent is to cover all the muscle groups,” Mr. Siegel said.
The city manager, the DPW, and the recreation department will determine in which park to place the equipment, based on usage statistics. Mr. Cohen expects this to happen fairly soon, so people can start trying the apparatus while the weather is still warm, though workouts on the machines can be a year-round activity.
“I am looking forward to having our residents use this equipment and to let the governing body know after the season what its opinion of this pilot project is,” Mr. Cohen said.
The three-term councilman takes a measure of Jewish “nachas” in the way the project unfolded. “While we might oftentimes throw around the words ‘tikkun olam,’ Mr. Siegel’s creativity and generosity in providing something toward the betterment of the quality of life for all of Englewood’s people is the manifestation of that very concept,” he said. “It gives me great pride to see the success of such a public/private pilot project.”
Mr. Siegel recently received rights to sell Xrcise Gym products in all 50 states, and he has targeted Florida as his next market for expansion. But, he said, “Nothing makes me happier than to be able to constructively work with the local towns where I live, work, and raise a family.”