By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Storefront spas that are fronts for prostitution would not be able to set up shop in New York State if a package of bills proposed by two Bay Ridge elected officials becomes law.
State Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-southern Brooklyn) and Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-C-Bay Ridge-Staten Island) announced on Aug. 2 that they have drafted legislation aimed at insuring that so-called day spas that advertise massage and reflexology services provide just those services and not prostitution.
Among the legislation’s provisions:
- Regulates the hours of operation of day spas. The spas would be prohibited from operating between midnight and 5 a.m.
- Allows local authorities to close a day spa when there is a pattern of excessive noise or disturbance to the surrounding community. A pattern is defined as four or more reported instances to police within a six-month period.
- Requires that the day spa be shut down if the owner is convicted of a felony.
- Offers a path to licensing for day spa owners that are unlicensed. Owners would be given up to one month after they are notified by authorities to apply for the proper license. Owners would have one year to obtain the license.
The goal is to make sure day spa owners “run their businesses according to the law,” Golden said. “We want to make sure all of these places have the proper licenses,” he said.
Massage therapists are required to be licensed by the New York State Board of Education.
Golden and Malliotakis said they decided to take action in the wake of a recent sweep of Bay Ridge day spas by Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes and the New York Police Department. Twelve day spas and massage parlors were raided and 19 owners and workers were arrested on charges ranging from operating with proper licenses to unauthorized practice of a profession to prostitution.
“The arrests that have already been made show just how badly New York’s laws need to be tightened in order to rid our communities of this criminal activity,” Malliotakis said.
She and Golden made their announcement on the sidewalk in front of Shirley Day Spa at 7811 Fifth Ave. one of the businesses raided by detectives last month. On Friday, the day spa was still closed. A roll down gate covered the front door and window.
In the past two years, Bay Ridge’s commercial districts have seen a disturbing proliferation of day spas opening up for business, according to Malliotakis, who said at least six of them set up shop on Fifth Avenue.
Neighborhood residents have complained that scantily clad young women are often seen hanging out in front of the establishments.
Malliotakis said the allegedly illicit activity going on in many day spas also opens up the ugly specter of human sex trafficking. There are suspicions that many of the young women working in the raided day spas have been smuggled into the US and are being forced into prostitution, she said. The legislation she and Golden drafted would “help women who are forced to be in prostitution,” Malliotakis said.
The two lawmakers said they planned to introduce the package of bills as soon as the new session of the State Legislature begins in January. “This is state legislation. We expect to get it passed,” Golden said.
In an effort to illustrate how many day spas call Fifth Avenue home, Golden took a walk up the avenue after the press conference. With reporters trailing him, the senator walked about three blocks, passing two day spas along the way.
He stopped in front of Linda Day Spa at 8116 Fifth Ave. The spa, which was not one of the places raided in the sweep, was open for business. “My office has received complaints from residents about this establishment,” he said, adding that he had turned the information over to police. The most recent complaint came in Thursday night, the night before the press conference, he said.
“We just want to make sure they’re operating legally,” Golden said.