FOREST HILLS, QUEENS – Police closed a Forest Hills spa on Tuesday after allegations of sex work, but it was allowed to reopen days later after the current tenant blamed the activity on a previous tenant. Community members, however, have been making similar claims about the spa for months.
Pink Rose Beauty Spa, which is located at 71-49 Yellowstone Boulevard and bills itself as a “luxury Asian massage spa,” was closed on October 12 by police acting on a Queens Supreme Court order, a sign displayed in the company’s window shows.
Police also issued a restraining order against the spa, deeming it illegal to take anything from the company or use it for any purpose, including prostitution, a sign said.
An NYPD spokesperson confirmed that the department temporarily closed the spa on October 12, three weeks after a report of illegal activity on September 25.
However, an attorney for the current tenant then contacted the police department, saying the tenant had recently moved into the spa – presumably after September 25 – and was not involved in any of the reported criminal activity, the police department said. . .
âWe allowed them to reopen,â an NYPD spokesperson told Patch of Pink Rose Beauty Spa, adding that the current tenant will have to go to court and prove he was not operating the spa when sex work has been reported.
On Friday, Patch contacted the spa, which is listed online as “temporarily closed,” and someone responded and confirmed the business was open. She said her English was not good and that she could not answer other questions.
“They advertise sex”
Community members, however, first reported that people used the spa for sex work months ago; long before the police said they got involved.
On August 18, a neighbor filed a complaint with the Ministry of Buildings, writing that the spa was operating like a “brothel”.
âGooge the phone number on the front door and you see they are advertising sex. Men come and go late at night,â they wrote, adding that the spa is in a neighborhood. residential and near a synagogue.
The company is also named on several forums that advertise massage parlors where people prostitute themselves.
A day later, the complaint was attributed to the Office of Special Enforcement, or OSE, which is investigating illegal and unregulated industries throughout the city.
However, when Patch contacted the OSE, a spokesperson said the agency “had not had time to investigate” the complaint due to staff issues and directed investigations to the NYPD.
Sex work in New York
The New York Post reported that at leastmassage companies across town are operating as fronts for sex work, according to data from an anti-trafficking organization. More than 42 percent of those businesses are said to be in Queens.
While some experts quoted by the Post have said that criminalizing sex workers is one way to reduce human trafficking and third-party profiteers, sex workers have been fighting for decriminalization for decades.
In April, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office announced it would no longer prosecute people for unlicensed prostitution and massage.
âOver the past decade, we have learned from those with lived experience and from our own field experience: Criminal prosecution of prostitution does not make us safer and, too often, achieves the opposite result by further marginalizing them. Vulnerable New Yorkers, âDistrict Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said in a statement.
The office will, however, continue to prosecute pimps and sex traffickers, as well as people who pay for sex, effectively shifting the punishment from sex workers to those who exploit prostitution.
Some criticisms argued that this will always keep sex work underground, but Abigail Swenstein, a lawyer with the Legal Aid Society’s Exploitation Intervention Project, sees the move as a step in the right direction, in part because it is a decision made in collaboration with the sex workers themselves. .
“Countless sex workers, those portrayed as sex workers and victims of trafficking have suffered under the weight of convictions and warrants,” Swenstein said in a statement. “These life sentences extend to family and immigration court and impact our clients’ ability to find stability through housing and employment.”
Swenstein argued that the state should still pass a law to completely decriminalize sex work and clear the criminal records of those convicted of prostitution-related crimes.
In Queens, District Attorney Melinda Katz in March dismissed hundreds of prostitution-related cases in which people were charged with “loitering for the purpose of prostitution” under a state law repealed in February and known as the ban on “walking trans”, which critics said encouraged police to target transgender people.
Sex workers can still face lawsuits in Queens, including fines and jail time.