All “erotic” massage parlors in Edgemont that the Town had ordered closed under its new law requiring all massage establishments in unincorporated Greenburgh to be licensed by the Town, have now been allowed to reopen, according to decisions apparently made behind closed doors by the Town Board.
Four of five such businesses in Edgemont have re-opened and all are advertising on adult websites listing “erotic massage parlors.”
More than 40 Edgemont residents attended a meeting of the Edgemont Community Council Monday night where they were told that the Town had allowed all massage parlors offering “erotic” services to remain open pending appeals from the Town’s having denied them a license to operate, which appeals were to have been decided at last night’s Town Board meeting.
But at last night’s Town Board meeting, town officials altered their agenda to say the decisions on the appeals were being put off until a “special meeting” of the Town Board could be held on Tuesday morning, when the public would have no opportunity to speak.
Town attorney Tim Lewis, who refused to draft the law, opposed its enactment, and then refused to enforce it, said town board members had not yet met to discuss the appeals, which were presented to the board on February 28. He also said he wanted the discussion to take place behind closed doors so that the public would not be privy to his arguments as to why he believes the illicit massage parlors should all remain open.
ECC president Bob Bernstein said Edgemont residents were alarmed to see the “erotic’ massage parlors in Edgemont had reopened, pointed out that listings for all of the “erotic massage parlors” on Central Avenue in Edgemont and Hartsdale could be found today on adult websites such as “rubmaps.com” and “Spa Hunters” with sexually explicit “reviews” posted as recently as a few days ago. Chief McNerney confirmed that the police routinely monitor such websites.
One notorious massage parlor in Edgemont with a long history of problems with local law enforcement is Charming Spa at 390 Central Avenue. On February 2, 2017, Police Chief Chris McNerney confirmed that Charming Spa had been permanently closed, stating it had “submitted an incomplete application for a Massage Establishment License so it was never considered for approval. It was ordered closed, issued town summonses for violating the Massage Law, and issued a cease occupancy by the building department.”
Yet Charming Spa is back in business, same as always, with its most recent review on “rubmaps.com” having been posted only five days ago. Town officials last night did not seem to be concerned.
When asked last night why Charming Spa was allowed to reopen, Chief McNerney said it was a decision made by Mr. Lewis, not him.
The Town’s lack of concern last night might also have been due to the lateness of the hour. Mr. Bernstein was required to wait nearly three hours before the board would allow him to address the matter, by which time it was nearly 11 p.m. Other residents with concerns of their own were likewise required to wait several hours if they wanted to be heard.
Under the Town’s Massage Law, which was drafted for the Town by the ECC, after Mr. Lewis refused to write it himself, all massage establishments must obtain both a license from the Town and a special permit to operate. Licenses were to be issued based on recommendations from the building inspector and the police chief following background checks.
The law gave all massage establishments in unincorporated Greenburgh up to four months from the “effective date” of the law to apply for and obtain such licenses. The law further states (in Section 375-14 of the Town Code) that any massage establishment found not to be in compliance with the law after that four month period “shall be ordered closed.”
The law went into effect on November 9, 2015, but because of foot-dragging by Mr. Lewis, who failed for months to make the application forms for licenses available so that massage establishments could even apply for a license, the Town did not deem the law “effective” until October 2016, nearly 11 months later.
In October 2016, police officials physically delivered to every massage establishment a copy of the law with instructions to apply for the license and special permit. When Charming Spa, for example, failed to complete its application within the required four-month window, the police issued summonses for failure to comply with the law and ordered the premises permanently closed, as the law requires.
But Mr. Lewis had other ideas, and ordered Charming Spa reopened – in direct violation of the Town’s own law and, as is evident from the recent “reviews” on adult websites, town board members evidently think it’s okay for these sexually explicit businesses to remain open in Edgemont (and elsewhere in Greenburgh) without regard to the law requiring that they be closed.
Four other illicit massage parlors in Edgemont had filed “appeals” after Chief McNerney and the building inspector recommended that licenses be denied. They include Jade Spa at 698 Central Avenue; Green Rose Body Works, at 455 Central Avenue, Green Lucky Spa also known as Sung Health Spa at 791 Central Avenue, and GB Relaxation Corp./Scarsdale Foot Massage at 734 Central Avenue.
Their appeals were all heard on February 28, 2017, during which time Chief McNerney presented evidence that each of these businesses was physically served with a copy of the Greenburgh law in October 2016, that licenses were in each case denied following police background checks, and that in addition, police conducted raids on each of these premises and found them each to be operating with unlicensed massage therapists, which is a Class E felony.
Mr. Lewis, however, determined on his own, but with the apparent support of Town Supervisor Paul Feiner and each of the other board members, that even though the Town’s massage law says precisely the opposite, each of these businesses should nevertheless be allowed to remain open for so long as they wish to pursue their appeal of the denial of their licenses. The town board has never publicly discussed its decision not to comply with its own law.
Of the four businesses who filed appeals, all have now reopened except Scarsdale Foot Massage, which was still closed as of last night.
Mr. Lewis contends that the Town might be sued for damages if these businesses are forced to close down. A massage trade association based in Albany last year sued to declare the Town’s massage law unenforceable, but even though the issue of the law’s legality was fully briefed, the case was dismissed without every reaching the issue.
Echoing comments frequently made by Mr. Lewis, lawyers for the “erotic” massage parlors suggested they too might sue the Town if their clients were forced to close their doors but none of them argued that the Town had erred in its defense of the law.
Chief McNerney stressed last night that he fully intends to see the law enforced and each of these “erotic” massage businesses permanently closed, but it remains to be seen whether the Town Board will side with him or with Mr. Lewis.
Just as the meeting last night was adjourned, Mr. Feiner suggested his “personal” opinion was that “appeals” of the denial of the licenses should be decided not behind closed doors as Mr. Lewis had suggested, but rather at meetings where the public would be present; the upshot of his comment though was that the “erotic” massage parlors would still continue to remain open, notwithstanding what the Town’s law requires.