EXCLUSIVE: Bill to regulate massage parlors further to be reintroduced days after new raids in Bensonhurst

February 13, 2018 Meaghan McGoldrick
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A local politician is taking aim at illegal massage parlors with legislation he will bring back before the City Council on Wednesday, February 14.

If passed, the bill – to be reintroduced by Councilmember Mark Treyger, who is picking up where term-limited Councilmember Vincent Gentile left off in his last session – would double down on requiring massage therapy businesses to apply for and receive from the Department of Consumer Affairs a legitimate license in order to operate in the city, and further ensure that any person applying for a license is employing practitioners who are licensed pursuant to state education law.

“What we’ve learned is that massage therapists are required to have a license from the state but the state has done a very poor job in terms of enforcing that, and in making sure that a parlor’s workers are compliant with state regulations,” Treyger said. “My bill would require these establishments to obtain a city license to perform massage therapy to ensure that the person doing the work is licensed and credentialed.

“It will also address, at the root level, these very disturbing cases of sex trafficking in our community and in the city of New York,” he went on. “This is not a victimless crime. There’s human trafficking here and it’s a breach of many human rights. At the same time, it’s a basic safety and quality-of-life issue in our neighborhood that really has to be addressed.”

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The introduction of the bill comes on the heels of more massage parlor-related arrests within the 62nd Precinct in Bensonhurst. The night before Treyger spoke with this paper exclusively on the bill, an arrest was made at 6834 Bay Parkway for unlicensed massaging and two more at 7304 20th Avenue for the same, as well as prostitution.

The latter was also closed by cops, and Captain Anthony Longobardi, the 62nd Precinct’s commanding officer, said he didn’t “anticipate the location reopening.”

Both locations were given to the precinct by Treyger, said Longobardi, who said the two had an “outstanding collaborative relationship.”

“This is work that is clearly continuing and that’s why this legislation is so important,” Treyger said, stressing that the issue – though close to home – spans far beyond the borough. “This is not just a Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst issue. This is an issue for the five boroughs.”

Still, Treyger credited Gentile as well as other local stakeholders like Father Michael Gelfant of Saint Finbar Catholic Church in the perfecting of this legislation. He also gave thanks to the 62nd Precinct for its “consistent” and “tremendous” work in cracking down on such establishments.

“My legislation, I think, will create better transparency and hopefully ensure some compliance in this fight,” Treyger said, adding that he would like to see the owners of these businesses held accountable. “They are misleading the public, they are lying to the public and they are endangering the welfare of others. They need to be held accountable on every level.”

“I think this is a great step,” noted Longobardi. “It will certainly help regulate these locations. The ones we get complaints about tend to be more illegal than legal.”

Treyger represents the neighborhoods of Bensonhurst, Coney Island, Gravesend and Sea Gate, just some of the swathe of southern Brooklyn ‘hoods plagued by illegal massage parlors.

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