Addabbo and Miller propose bills to combat illegal massage parlors

By Gabriel Rom

Following the closure of several illegal massage parlors in Glendale and Middle Village, state Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) and state Sen. Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach) have introduced a package of legislation meant to deter and regulate these unlicensed businesses.

The expansive legislation comes after a substantial increase in the number of illicit massage parlors operating in Central Queens and a concerted effort from police at the 104th precinct to shut them down.

In December, police announced a new tactic which involved stationing a uniformed police officer outside of suspected locations.

The bills would do the following: expand the definition of “massage therapist” and require licensees to be on premises at all times; impose a duty on the landlords to verify the license of a massage therapist tenant prior to entering into a lease agreement; prevent a massage parlor from obstructing the view of their lobby area; and impose a duty on landlords to terminate a tenancy at a massage therapist location found guilty of promoting prostitution within 60 days of notification to the landlord by a city or state agency.

“We don’t want to arrest these women,” Miller said last week at a Woodhaven Residents Block Association meeting, referring to the many undocumented workers who are employed at the parlors. “Many of them are slaves.”

“I have introduced this package of bills in an attempt to shut these illegal parlors down,” Miller added in a written statement. “These bills would increase regulation on unlicensed massage parlors by allowing the Department of Consumer Affairs the authority to enforce the law and it also expands the definition of massage therapist to require these illegal parlors to be licensed as opposed to just opening up another massage parlor wherever possible.”

The latest illegal massage parlor to shut down is Dream Spa, located at 65-18 Myrtle Ave. in Glendale. The closure is one of many over the past three months due to increased police enforcement

“We only have so much enforcement powers the Police Department can do, but I need help. I need legislative help. I need the laws to be changed,” Wachter said at a 104th Precinct community meeting last month.

One of the bills would also grant the city Department of Consumer Affairs the authority to enforce the imposition of fines relating to the practice of massage therapy.

“While identifying these facilities is the first step toward shutting them down, enforcement has been the downfall due to current regulations that tie the hands of law enforcement officials behind their backs,” Addabbo said. “This package of bills will help remedy that and show those who operate these illegal facilities that they will not get away with breaking the law.”

Reach reporter Gabriel Rom by e-mail at grom@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.