The Greenburgh Town Board today voted in “special session” to introduce a measure proposed earlier this month by the Edgemont Community Council to ban brothels fronting as “massage parlors” and then referred the matter to the Town’s Planning Board for report and recommendation which means it may be several months before the Town Board actually has to consider whether to enact the measure.
In the meantime, brothels fronting as massage parlors in Edgemont are likely to continue to proliferate.
By law, because the ECC measure seeks certain required changes to the Town’s zoning code, the Town Board is required to refer the matter to its Planning Board. However, because the planning board’s current agenda is so crowded, it may take at least three months before the Planning Board even considers the matter.
The Town Board could have asked the Planning Board to expedite consideration of the measure, but did not do so, although it still can.
The Town Board last referred a measure to the Planning Board on October 22 — to amend the zoning code to allow new car dealers to compete in Edgemont along Central Avenue. But because of its crowded agenda, the Planning Board did not put the Town Board’s auto dealer proposal from October 22 on its agenda for a “work session” under “new business” until tomorrow, January 21 — nearly three months later.
Based on that protracted schedule, the Planning Board is not likely to entertain any discussion of the ECC’s “massage establishment” proposal until April at the earliest.
If the Planning Board waits until April to first have a discussion about the ECC proposal, the Town Board may not get the Planning Board’s recommendation until sometime in May, at which point the Town Board will have to schedule a public hearing on the measure, which means the public hearing on the measure might not take place until June. A public hearing on the measure is legally required before the Town Board can vote to enact it.
It is believed there are at least seven such businesses currently operating in storefronts in shopping centers along Central Avenue, including one that just announced its “grand opening” directly across the street from the Greenburgh Nature Center.
In October 2014, Police Chief Chris McNerney told the ECC that because of inadequate regulation by the Town, Edgemont had become the “massage parlors capital of Westchester County.”
The Town Board last week failed to introduce the ECC proposal, drafted by ECC president Bob Bernstein, because of opposition by Town Attorney Tim Lewis and Town Clerk Judith Beville; two days after the board failed to act, two “adult” massage parlors in Edgemont announced their “grand openings.”
That announcement apparently led to a turnaround on the part of the Town Board, which announced Friday night that it was holding a special meeting today to introduce Mr. Bernstein’s proposal and Town Supervisor Paul Feiner said the version of the legislation would be the one Mr. Bernstein originally proposed in early January — before Mr. Lewis began modifying it in ways Mr. Bernstein felt made the proposal illegal and unenforceable.
The ECC had found itself in the unusual position this winter of having to draft legislation for the Town to adopt after the Town failed to come up with any acceptable legislation of its own.
At Mr. Lewis’s suggestion, Mr. Feiner had introduced a measure in November calling for a 120-day moratorium on the Town issuing permits for massage parlors to operate, but the ECC found that idea unworkable because the Town does not issue permits for massage parlors to operate. When the ECC inquired why the Town had not simply proposed legislation to ban brothels fronting as massage parlors, as other towns in New York had done, the town attorney said he didn’t think towns in New York had the legal authority to enact such legislation.
Mr. Bernstein’s proposal is modeled along similar laws enacted without legal challenge in 1996 by the Town of Clarkstown in Rockland County and in 2013 by the Village of Farmingdale on Long Island.
At today’s meeting, the Town Attorney made clear he still opposes the measure and will seek to persuade town board members in executive session to oppose it.
And after blocking the Town Board last week from even introducing the measure, the Town Clerk, who has no legal vote on the matter, said today that she supports measures to address prostitution — but said nothing about her opposition last week to the proposal’s requirement, identical to provisions elsewhere in the Town Code, that the Town Clerk be responsible for issuing the required licenses to operate.