Slew of southern Brooklyn massage parlors cited for alleged illegal operations, possible prostitution

massage parlor closed for alleged prostitution
Several massage parlors in southern Brooklyn have been hit with Department of Buildings violations for alleged illegal operations.
Photo courtesy of Council Member Justin Brannan/Getty Images

City agencies are cracking down on a slew of southern Brooklyn storefronts apparently posing as massage parlors for their alleged engagement in illegal prostitution and other unlawful acts. 

The city’s Department of Buildings has issued multiple violations to the profile of buildings including Rose Spa at 7620 Third Ave., Matcha Body Wellness Spa at 7004 Fort Hamilton Parkway, Bayside Sun at 9401 Third Ave., and Wang Wang Spa at 311 76th St. The locations began racking up a slate of DOB complaints starting last fall, after the nabe brought their concerns to Community Board 10 and Council Member Justin Brannan, who represents the district.

wang wang spa alleged prostitution
Police arrested a man at Wang Wang Spa on 76th Street on February 8 for promoting prostitution.Photo via Google Maps

Late hours and covered-up windows drew concerns from neighbors

According to Josephine Beckmann, CB10’s district manager, complaints of suspected illegal activity started coming in for some of the storefronts as early as October of 2022.

“In the past few years periodically we received word from neighbors who are concerned about locations they suspect are involved in illegal day spas and massage parlors,” Beckmann told Brooklyn Paper. 

She said residents started to question the shop’s validity when they noticed the massage parlors posted irregular hours of operation and stayed open late into the night, covered their windows with signs or curtains, and didn’t open themselves to the general public.

“Oftentimes you could distinguish between a licensed and unlicensed facility by hours of operation. That’s one of those indicators that there’s potentially a need to investigate,” Beckmann said. “We felt there were enough concerns that were raised in both cases. Concerns about the possibility of human trafficking and prostitution are taken seriously here and are referred to the proper law enforcement.”

Brannan said his office is currently working with the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement, New York Police Department, and other law enforcement partners to address the concerns and ultimately have the law-breaking shops closed. 

“Any form of exploiting vulnerable people – from forced labor to sex trafficking – will not be tolerated here in Bay Ridge or anywhere,” the Council Member said in a statement. 

The Office of Special Enforcement is a task force that addresses any illegal or unregulated businesses in the city. 

“Owners of commercial spaces are required to ensure they are renting to lawful businesses, and our enforcement is a reminder of that responsibility,” said OSE executive director Christian Klossner. 

Massage parlors rack up violations with city agencies

According to a spokesperson with OSE, their office attempted to respond to complaints of an illegal adult establishment at Rose Spa on Third Avenue on April 11 and again on April 12 however their inspectors were unsuccessful in gaining access to the location.

OSE also responded to a 311 complaint at Matcha Body Wellness Spa in September 2022 and found it to be illegally operating as an unlicensed physical treatment establishment and issued a violation on October 28, 2022. The office conducted a follow up inspection on April 13, 2023, and found the same conditions, plus construction related work without a permit. OSE took no further actions against the spa. 

Fort Hamilton massage parlor alleged prostitution
Brooklyn Paper’s attempt to speak to the manager at 7004 Fort Hamilton were unsuccessful.Photo courtesy of Yelp

All massage therapists are required by law to be licensed by the Department of State. Failure to do so can result in zoning violations issued by the DOB.

Of the four locations suspected of illegal activity, all four have received zoning related infractions from the DOB’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings. 

The storefront located at 9411 Third Avenue has a list of violations under the address 9401 Third Ave. Those include an open zoning and construction violation, both of which were charged on April 11, 2023. 

On February 8, 2023, police arrested Liang Li at Wang Wang Spa for promoting prostitution. Despite the arrest, the location continued to receive DOB violations for unlawful work. DOB has cited Wang Wang Spa with several violations — which have been resolved — and two recent violations for illegal occupancy and unlicensed physical therapist.

The citation notes that the building’s cellar contained three massage tables as of April 2023. 

In order to resolve a DOB charge, the building owners must pay any penalties and submit a Certificate of Correction to the DOB. The correction paperwork would include photos, receipts, notarized statements, inspection records or any other proof that issue has been solved, per the department.

The 76th Street spa has twice tried to resolve the illegal occupancy violation — but both of their Certificates of Correction were disapproved, per DOB records. 

The owner of Matcha Body Wellness Spa on Fort Hamilton Parkway has resolved four violations ranging in concerns, but has one open construction charge, issued for work without a permit in the parlor. According to the report, the owners erected a full partition to create two massage rooms and installed water and waste lines to create a standing shower. 

Rose Spa, at 7620 Third Ave., has one open zoning case, which said the building had work without permit and erected partition walls to create rooms. They also installed water and waste to create a shower.

According to Brannan, the NYPD closed the location by court order for illegal prostitution and possible human trafficking.

Neighbors worry about human trafficking, prostitution

According to data collected by The Network, an anti-human trafficking initiative, illicit massage businesses have grown 32.3% nationally in the past three years. For every one Starbucks location in New York, there are 2 illicit massage businesses, according to The Network. 

These illegal shops are often discussed on online review websites. Users take to the sites to share the parlor’s address, detail the erotic service they received, explicitly describe the women who performed the service and the prices they paid. The businesses, often referred to as “Asian massage parlors” on these review pages, can also be found on classified erotic webpages that advertise sexual services and describe what the women look like.

A Bay Ridge massage parlor with covered windows has received zoning and construction violation.
A Bay Ridge massage parlor with covered windows has received zoning and construction violation.Photo via Google Maps

Several Brooklyn spas are listed on both sites including Rose Spa, Bayside Sun and Wang Wang Spa. The most recent comments for Bayside Sun were posted on July 16, 2023. 

Brooklyn Paper attempted to reach the managers of all four shops. When asked to comment on their violations or alleged involvement in sex services, the women who answered the phones said they could not speak English well and hung up.

The neighborhood now awaits further action from the city to see if all of the locations who have possibly engaged in unlawful work will be permanently shut down. 

“As I’ve learned, these investigations take time – even when what’s going on may seem obvious to us – because it’s important it gets done right so the charges stick and these places don’t re-open the next day,” Brannan said. “We have a list and we plan to address them all.”