By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Charging that a slew of massage parlors that have opened up in Bay Ridge in recent months might be offering customers “more than they advertise,” namely that they are fronts for prostitution, Councilman Vincent Gentile has contacted the 68th Police Precinct and the Brooklyn district attorney’s office requesting a full investigation into the activities of these storefront businesses.
At least half a dozen massage parlors have set up shop on Bay Ridge’s commercial streets, like Fifth Avenue, over the past six months, according to local residents, who said they often see groups of scantily clad women hanging around the storefronts.
Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) said he has been keeping in “constant contact” with the precinct and with DA Charles Hynes’s office and is confident that the parlors will be thoroughly investigated.
“I can say that there is a lot going on behind the scenes and this remains a high priority of mine. Illegal activities at illegitimate or unlicensed massage parlors are an embarrassment to our community and I will not stand for it,” he told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
One massage parlor on Fifth Avenue placed a curious ad on Craigslist, according to a report from Brooklyn Daily. The ad informed potential customers that they could meet “a sweet young girl” if they patronized the place, the website reported.
One Bay Ridge resident, who asked that his name not be used, approached a reporter taking a photo of a massage parlor’s storefront on Fifth Avenue Monday morning and said he viewed the place with suspicion. “I always see young girls in there, lots of young girls,” he told the reporter.
The man, who said he was 80 years old, admitted that he had been a one-time customer. “I went in there once. A massage is good for your body. All they gave me was a massage, but I saw a lot of young girls when I was in there. They didn’t look like trained massage therapists to me. I haven’t been back since,” he said.
Joanne Seminara, chairman of Community Board 10, said that she is concerned that the massage parlors might be part of the sex slave trade in which pimps smuggle teenage girls into the US and then force them into prostitution. Seminara, a lawyer, told board members she recently attended a legal community seminar focusing on the issue and was disturbed by what she learned.
“The reality of the incredible profit in trafficking young woman and girls for sex is staggering. The average age when girls become entrapped and are often kidnapped as sex slaves is 15 years of age. We are assured by law enforcement personnel that this problem is being addressed in our own neighborhoods as we continue to see what appear to be clear signs of the proliferation of this vile activity on our streets and continue to receive complaints of highly suspicious activity at storefront locations throughout our community,” Seminara told the board at a recent meeting.
“I know you have seen the many new storefronts with darkened window offering ‘massage services’ open late into the night. The practice of selling sex and enslavement is both illegal and reprehensible and we must devote more effective resources to address this growing problem, resources that must include the rescue and provision of services to the powerless victims who are entrapped and forced into this activity and then discarded when they can no longer be used,” Seminara said.