Massage parlor raises eyebrows in Floral Park

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The Floral Park Police Department has parked a car outside Du’s Foot Spa to deter criminal activity. (Photo by Noah Manskar)

A Floral Park massage parlor has some residents worried about prostitution possibly taking root in the village.

Du’s Foot Spa opened Jan. 3 at 153 Tulip Ave., the former home of Nail Garden, a nail salon that recently moved into the storefront at 149 Tulip Ave., village officials said. The small studio’s menu advertises foot and back massages from 10 to 90 minutes long.

But its advertisements in the “adult entertainment” section of Backpage, a website notorious for salacious classifieds for prostitution and other sexual services, have raised red flags for residents, including Matthew Sexton, an officer in the South Side Civic Association.

“We don’t want Tulip Avenue to be known for storefront prostitution,” Sexton said. “It can bring in some unsavory people.”

Rita Lia, a receptionist at Du’s Foot Spa, said the studio did not offer any sexual services and has only one masseuse, who works on both men and women.

The parlor stopped offering back massages after village officials told employees they needed a license to perform them, Lia said.

“We promise we [do] not do extra here, only regular one [massages], so don’t worry,” she said.

The studio’s opening caused an uproar on Facebook among residents of Floral Park and other nearby areas, prompting some to write letters to village, Town of Hempstead and Nassau County officials.

Its location about a quarter-mile from the John Lewis Childs School and the Our Lady of Victory School contribute to the concerns, Sexton said.

The Floral Park Police Department has not heard any credible allegations of prostitution, but has parked a patrol car out front to ward off illegal activity, Police Commissioner Stephen McAllister said.

The studio would need an exception to village zoning rules to give back or full-body massages, which are classified as an “adult use” under the village code, Gerry Bambrick, the village administrator, said. But current regulations allow foot massages at the site, he said.

Du’s Foot Spa submitted no applications for a zoning exception before opening, and building department officials told employees to remove signs advertising back massages from the front windows, Bambrick said. None could be seen there Tuesday.

Du’s Foot Spa has postings in the “Other services” section of Backpage.com advertising “foot rub & bodywork” in a “nice service environment.”

Other similar postings in the sexually explicit “adult entertainment” category could be seen Monday before Backpage blocked that section in the wake of a U.S. Senate report alleging that the site knowingly harbors prostitution and child sex trafficking.

Village police have shut down seven Floral Park prostitution parlors on Jericho Turnpike fronting as massage studios in the past six years, most of which advertised on Backpage, McAllister said. But that is not evidence of any illegal activity on Tulip Avenue, he said.

“We of course are going to continue our investigation if there is anything to investigate,” McAllister said.

At the studio on Tuesday, Lia said many businesses and individuals advertise on Backpage, and Du’s Foot Spa only uses it to get word out about its offerings.

The studio opened in Floral Park because it saw the empty storefront as a good place for a business, Lia said. She noted the space has a window without blinds and three massage rooms with partly transparent curtains and no doors.

“We [are] here doing a very good job, good work,” she said.

An earlier Du’s Foot Spa ad in Backpage’s adult section also listed an address on Prince Street in Flushing, Queens, that appeared on other ads more explicitly soliciting prostitution, Sexton said.

But Lia said her studio is not affiliated with any other business and repeatedly emphasized that it does not offer any sexual services.

An online state business incorporation record for Du’s Foot Spa lists an address on 41st Avenue in Flushing. The studio’s corporation was formed on Dec. 7, the record shows.

The village and Police Department will ensure Du’s Foot Spa follows all applicable laws, Bambrick and McAllister said. They encouraged residents to report any incidents of criminal activity there.

“We’re very lucky to be served by our Police Department, which has experience and success in investigating those types of activities and stopping them,” Bambrick said.

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