The Greenburgh Town Board tonight appeared no closer to adopting a law to give police the tools they need to close down brothels in Town fronting as massage parlors than it was six months ago when the Edgemont Community Council had to post on its website pictures of scantily clad young women in online “adult entertainment” ads in Edgemont for such brothels in order to get the Town Board to agree even to introduce the ECC’s proposal.
Opposing the measure tonight were several officials of the New York chapter of the American Massage Therapist Association, none of whom live in Greenburgh. They were invited to oppose the measure by the Town Attorney’s office, which has been working to kill the ECC measure ever since it was first introduced, and which failed to inform the AMTA representatives that most of the objections they had to the ECC proposal had already been addressed in a compromise proposal put together a month ago by ECC president Bob Bernstein.
Town attorneys Tim Lewis and David Fried claimed not to have known about the compromise proposal, even though they were told about it weeks ago, and advised Town Councilmen Kevin Morgan and Ken Jones not to introduce it or otherwise tell anyone about it.
Before the Town Board were two measures — the pre-compromise proposal drafted six months ago by Mr. Bernstein — after Town Attorney Tim Lewis refused to write one himself — and one proposed more recently by the Town’s Planning Board. The ECC took the position that the planning board’s proposal was illegal and unenforceable and would not give police the tools they need.
Not before the board, though, was the compromise measure drafted a month ago by Mr. Bernstein, after he met with Police Chief Chris McNerney and Town Councilmen Morgan and Jones. Town Attorney Tim Lewis and Deputy Town Attorney David Fried, who had been working for the past six months to oppose the ECC measure, took the position at tonight’s meeting that because the compromise measure had not been introduced by either Mr. Morgan or Mr. Jones — they in fact had expressly advised them not to introduce it — it was not therefore appropriate for anyone at the hearing to comment on it.
Mr. Bernstein, however, brought up the compromise proposal anyway after hearing comments from the AMTA officials last night that the proposal would impose unfair burdens on solo practitioners. The compromise proposal had exempted solo practitioners.
“I brought up the compromise measure,” Mr. Bernstein said, “after listening to AMTA’s complaints and after Chief McNerney came up to me tonight and asked why no one in the room was aware that the compromise proposal even existed.”
Councilmen Morgan and Jones told Mr. Bernstein on May 12 that if he re-drafted the proposal to reduce certain fees, exempt solo practitioners, and eliminate any discretion the Town Clerk might have to deny licenses to massage establishments, all of which he did, they would in turn present the revised proposal to council members Francis Sheehan and Diana Juettner.
However, they never did so, and Mr. Sheehan made the point tonight that he had never heard of any compromise proposal.
Instead, after receiving the revised proposal on May 15, Messrs. Jones and Morgan decided that instead of telling Mr. Sheehan and Ms. Juettner about it, they would consult with town attorneys Tim Lewis and David Fried who they said advised them instead to keep the compromise a secret and not tell anyone about it. Apparently, the town attorneys’ plan was to have industry representatives come to tonight’s hearing in order to criticize the proposal from six months ago and not allow anyone to tell them at the hearing that the proposal had already been amended to address their concerns.
Mr. Bernstein said he was disappointed that no was allowed to be told that the ECC had gone the extra mile to try to get the massage law approved, but felt it was necessary at least to try working with the Town Board.
The Town Board closed the public hearing and agreed to discuss the matter at a work session two weeks from now. Town Supervisor Paul Feiner, however, made clear he was not looking to pass anything anytime soon because he said he now wants to conduct a study of the impact of similar laws that were adopted by the Town of Clarkstown in 1996 and the Village of Farmingdale in 2013. He did not explain why he hadn’t looked into the matter in the six months since the ECC law was first introduced.
For his part, Deputy Town Attorney Fried insisted as he has for the past several months that the ECC proposal was “preempted” by state education law requiring the licensing of massage therapists – but he never explained why that would be so. The ECC proposal requires the licensing only of massage establishments that employ state-licensed massage therapists. Mr. Fried cited a letter from the state Education Department in opposition to the ECC proposal. The Education Department letter claimed only that the ECC proposal might be preempted because, in requiring that massage establishments be licensed, it incorporated by reference the state Education Law’s requirements for licensed massage therapists.
Mr. Bernstein pointed out merely using the state’s definition of massage therapist does not violate state law or give rise in any way to preemption.