By Gina Martinez
The city Department of Buildings has found multiple massage parlors in Murray Hill have been operating illegally after a lawmaker asked the agency to investigate their status.
The four massage parlors along 162nd Street between 46th Avenue and Northern Boulevard were all under investigation after residents raised concerns to state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) They informed Avella that suspected illegal activities were taking place. In response, Avella contacted DOB, NYPD and the Queens district attorney’s office in December.
The DA informed Avella that the section chief of the Human Trafficking Unit would be asking NYPD’s Vice Enforcement Division to help look into the parlors, according to Avella. The DOB investigated the houses where the massage parlors are located and found that two locations in the Murray Hill area were operating illegal adult/physical cultural establishments, which the city defines as health clubs or gyms, without a permit. Two others violated the certificate of occupancy, the DOB said.
Massage parlors located at 45-53 162nd St., 45-74 162nd St., 162-13 46th Ave. and 45-60 162nd St. were inspected in June and a vacate order was issued on three of the four except for the 45-74 162nd St. location. Two of the businesses removed the signs, Avella said.
“It’s unbelievable just how many of these ‘massage parlors’ exist in our communities, operating under false pretenses in an effort to conceal illegal acts,” Avella said, The lawmaker also expressed the fear “that women employed at these ‘massage parlors’ may be victims of human trafficking.”
Shady massage parlors have been a big concern for residents and leaders in Flushing for years. In March the Queens North vice unit made 31 arrests after inspections were made at 18 massage parlors in the greater Flushing area. The charges included unauthorized practice of profession, practicing a profession without a license and prostitution-related charges, police said.
Avella has notified the DA and the NYPD of the DOB’s findings and hopes that criminal charges will be brought against the operators and that the criminal charges will deter other businesses from engaging in similar practices,
“We must do everything we can to eradicate these shameful business practices,” he said. “These illegal businesses, and ones similar, must be removed from our communities once and for all.”
While the DOB did not investigate the massage parlors specifically for human trafficking and prostitution, the community is worried that these crimes may be taking place, according to Avella’s office. The state senator is waiting for an official response from NYPD and the Queens DA’s office on further charges.
Earlier this year the NYPD’s Vice Enforcement Division arrested several people who were running massage parlors in Ridgewood, Glendale and Maspeth as part of an ongoing investigation into illegal activity in Queens.
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart