Greenpoint is home to dozens of interesting, creative micro-communities, from potters and runners to actors and musicians, but none is more daring than the rock climbing community whose amazing ability to scale sheer rock faces and even mountains inspire awe in those like me who fear heights.
Until recently local climbers had no home, but that has changed in the past year. I recently became acquainted with the guru of the local climbing community, Cliff Simanksi, who has constructed a climbing gym that has won rave reviews from experienced climbers and an online climbing magazine. His gym, known as GP81 (81 Quay St.), is a business, but for Simanksi it’s a love and an endeavor he has poured heart, soul and copious sweat into creating. Simanski splits operating duties of the facility with Julian Acevedo, and founding partner Mike Cesari has stepped away fromb the day to day operations.
The 6,500 square-foot venue features walls of 35, 45 and 60 degrees, another of 40 degrees and there are also multiple hang boards, campus board setups, weights, and other training-focused items to help climbers reach new levels in their climbing.
The gym just celebrated its one-year anniversary with a party whose music was played by fellow climber and jazz pianist Jesse Lynch, but reaching that anniversary was not easy. Simanski achieved his dream on a shoestring budget, doing much of the work himself or together with other climbers. He and his team did everything themselves from designing and building the walls to making the grips and laying the flooring. They initially completed a small wall climbing section so they had something to climb on to relieve the considerable stress involved in building the many complicated parts of the gym.
An accomplished climber himself and a die-hard climbing enthusiast, Simanksi wanted to provide a place solely dedicated to promote and support the growing climbing local climbing community. “We wanted to create an environment for the NYC climbing community that felt like a home,” Simanksi said.
While there are many gyms that offer climbing walls, GP 81 is the first in the city designed solely to meet the needs of those who are training for climbing. The gym, which was built in a former garage, has a bare bones, Spartan feeling that sets it apart from other, swankier and more expensive, climbing venues. “We wanted to create a space that was focused on training and just climbing,” Simanski said. “Most climbing gyms seem to be getting bigger, fancier, and more expensive but all we really wanted was a few simple angles and some quality route setting to session on.”
Although I am not a climber myself, it was clear from GP 81’s anniversary bash that Simanski and his gym have quickly attracted a large and loyal following of climbers. I overheard one of the climbers at the anniversary party raving about the gym because he felt the venue took the sort back to its simple, unadorned roots. If you are an experienced climber, or someone who wants to train for his or her first climb, check out GP 81 during their hours: Mon-Fri 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sat-Sun 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.