Local leaders are wielding a new weapon in their fight against illicit massage parlors.
Eighteen Bay Ridge and Dyker spas are violating of city zoning laws — and neighborhood leaders want the city to padlock them.
City law mandates that spas, like gyms, obtain a special permit for a “physical culture establishment” — which defined as “business where customers go to exercise or to care for their bodies.” The measure was adopted in the high-crime era of the 1970s to crack down on prostitution, a problem that has increased in Bay Ridge in the past two years. Originally, the law provided for different permits for “adult” and “non-adult” physical culture establishment, with the aim of phasing out the adult permits as a way to eliminate those establishments.
An “adult physical culture establishment” was any business offering “massages, body rubs, alcohol rubs, baths or other similar treatment, by members of the opposite sex.”
“Zoning has proved to be the most effective tool in closing down houses of prostitution masquerading as massage parlors,” the City Planning Commission announced when it passed the new regulation in 1979.
The city long ago stopped issuing permits for adult physical culture establishments, but the law still requires all non-adult physical culture establishments such as spas and gyms to have the special permit, and Bay Ridge leaders want the city to use that as a way to crack down of sketchy massage parlors.
“The zoning resolution is quite clear. All physical culture establishments are required to obtain a permit, and that includes massage parlors,” said CB10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann. “Not doing so, we take that very seriously.”
A source provided this paper with a list of 18 suspect spas in Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights — two on 11th Avenue, one on Fort Hamilton Parkway, one on Eighth Avenue, one on 13th Avenue, three on Third Avenue, six on Fifth Avenue, one on Fourth Avenue, one on 91st Street, and one on 73rd Street.
CB10 sent a letter to the Department of Buildings late last year demanding it take action against any of the spas that don’t have the necessary permits.
The agency said it was still investigating the locations, but a quick search of the Buildings Department’s online database shows that none of the massage parlors has obtained a permit for a physical culture establishment.
Ex-District Attorney Charles Hynes shuttered 12 spas in Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights last year on charges of prostitution and massaging without a license, following this paper’s exclusive story on neighborhood complaints of dim windows, male-only clientele, and scantily-clad girls at several of the same locations.