Cops in Bensonhurst and Bath Beach arrested more than 30 people between March and June, in an extended undercover sting operation that focused on massage parlors in the neighborhoods.
A total of 33 locations in the neighborhood were targeted by 62nd Precinct cops, working in cooperation with the NYPD Vice Squad, and investigators from Worker’s Compensation and the Department of Buildings, and supported by a host of “community partners,” according to Deputy Inspector Anthony Sanseverino, the precinct commander, following initial reports about three locations back in March.
The initial operation involved six different locations, he said, four of which were closed down temporarily. Those four, as well as an additional three, are being pursued for nuisance abatement, which would result in a permanent solution, said Sanseverino.
Locations where arrests for prostitution were made during the operation are 2156 Bath Avenue, 2 Bay 25th Street, 7605 18th Avenue (four arrests on two separate occasions), 8614 18th Avenue (where a total of seven arrests were made on three separate occasions), 7517 20th Avenue (three arrests on two separate occasions), 1810 76th Street, 1878 86th Street (three arrests), 1938 86th Street (five arrests on two separate occasions), 1955 86th Street (two arrests), 1963 86th Street (two arrests), 2178 86th Street (six arrests on two separate occasions) and 2180 86th Street (two arrests).
In addition, on May 2, the task force made an arrest at 6511 Bay Parkway of an individual, who Sanseverino referred to as “management there,” in which a skimming device, forged credit cards and some controlled substances were discovered. That person, Sanseverino said, was “also wanted for pistol whipping someone in Queens.”
Usually, complaints about prostitution behind closed doors are “routed to Vice,” Sanseverino said, but, this time, after Community Board 11 “brought a couple of locations to our attention,” the precinct expanded the investigation, which requires extensive surveillance, as well as research and in-depth analysis.
CB 11 made sure that all the appropriate city agencies received word of the issue, said Marnee Elias-Pavia, the board’s district manager. “Complaints received for massage parlors are filed with the Department of Buildings to ensure compliance with zoning and building use,” she told this paper. “Most, if not all, of the reported locations have received multiple violations, amounting to thousands of dollars in fines. These locations are also forwarded to the 62nd Precinct for alleged criminal activity.”
“There’s been a lot of good work, a hard push in the right direction,” Sanseverino said. “Now, our plan is to stay on a nice pace and continue to work with Vice, Worker’s Compensation, the Department of Buildings and our partners in the community. It’s not going to be an overnight process. It’s a long and tedious process, and we’re utilizing whatever tools we have in our tool belt to get the job done.”
This paper was first alerted to the issue by City Council candidate Liam McCabe, who learned about it in a tweet made by Father Michael Gelfant, the pastor of St. Finbar’s Church.
After McCabe reached out to Gelfant, the pair walked up and down 86th Street between Bay 19th Street and Bay Parkway, and observed the string of neon store fronts.
“We saw tons of little pink lights that read ‘foot massage.’ The avenue looked like a red light district,” McCabe recalled, adding that Gelfant also told him some of his parishioners had approached him claiming that they had been solicited while walking by the businesses on 86th Street.
Additional reporting contributed by Patrick Weinberg.