June 9, 2023 By Michael Dorgan
The NYPD shut down an alleged brothel in Woodside last week following an undercover sting operation where two women in their 60s were arrested for prostitution. Local residents say they have been calling for its closure for some time and that similar establishments are operating freely in the area.
Police on June 2 shuttered 63-02 Roosevelt Ave. – a space which up until last year was used as part of an adjacent supermarket called Food Express Supermarket — and served its landlord with a nuisance abatement that could be seen taped to the front door on Thursday, June 8.
The operator of Food Express Supermarket told Queens/Sunnyside Post that he hasn’t used the now-shuttered space since last year when the landlord retook control of the building, although the premises still bear the store’s awning. The landlord, listed as Key Fat Corp, according to city records, was unable to be reached for comment.
The NYPD said they shuttered the premises last week after they arrested two women– aged 64 and 60 – and charged them with prostitution after they offered an undercover officer sex in exchange for cash. The women were arrested at 64-01 Roosevelt Ave., an establishment on the next block which appears to be a shuttered bar called Tijuana Bar Restaurant.
It is unclear why 63-02 Roosevelt Ave. was shuttered and served a nuisance order given the arrests took place at the bar at 64-01 Roosevelt Ave. — which did not have any notices posted to its exterior and looked closed down. At one stage Thursday a man could be seen leaving 64-01 Roosevelt Ave. and locking the door behind him.
Police said the two buildings are connected but did not provide details as to how the establishments are related.
A complaint issued to the landlord of 63-02 Roosevelt Ave. by the Queens Supreme Court – and which was attached to the front door on Thursday — alleges that persons at that premises offered an undercover cop sex for $100 cash there in August 2022 and on January 2023.
The complaint notifies the landlord to appear at a virtual motion on June 12 pertaining to the nuisance abatement.
Residents and local business owners say that 63-02 Roosevelt Ave. is a known cathouse, and women in scantily dressed clothes are often seen outside trying to entice men inside by first offering them massages. The front doors and windows were covered up from the inside on Thursday.
Several passers-by could be seen walking up to the premises Thursday and reading the legal notice. Many families with children also passed by.
“It’s disgusting,” said one woman who did not want to give her name. “They shouldn’t be doing that, it’s a disgrace.”
One local business owner told Queens/Sunnyside Post that he had repeatedly asked police to shut the location down, and also asked the Community Board to do the same. He said he was pleased it had closed.
Another business owner said he had mixed feelings about the closure — and the legality of sex workers in general — saying he thinks many women in that situation may be trafficked. It is unclear if the women arrested last week were trafficked.
Many residents, nevertheless, said that Roosevelt Avenue has become well known for being a hotbed for prostitution. Some identified another establishment on the next block which they say is also being used as a brothel. Two women of Asian descent dressed in skirts could be seen standing outside the premises Thursday.
Lucila Flores, a resident who is originally from Mexico, said that she was glad 63-02 Roosevelt Ave. had been shut down. Flores and her daughter had been passing the premises Thursday afternoon with two young children.
“We’re happy that they at least took one of them out because it’s really bad,” said Flores, whose daughter Britney German translated for her.
“The young people pass through and then these women just exhibit themselves, so its shame[ful] to have this in our neighborhood.”
“They kind of exhibit their underwear, and [wear] short skirts… kids see that,” German added.
Flores said that the issue is very concerning and that the brothels give the neighborhood a bad name. They have lived in the general area for 12 years and say the problem is getting worse with brothels scattered along Roosevelt Avenue from around 61st Street to 111th Street.
“There’s still more in this area but we hope that they keep taking them out,” Flores said.
“It’s really bad for the young people especially because that’s how they are going to grow [up], seeing all this stuff,” Flores said.
“We want to encourage the other places to be closed because these women keep pulling men, and even young kids. [We want] people to stand up and don’t conform with it, just speak up because people stay silent.”
In recent years there have been efforts by progressives at the state level to decriminalize sex work, although a bill to comprehensively legalize sex work – known as the Stop Violence in the Sex Trades Act — has failed to advance in the state legislature since it was first introduced four years ago.
Advocates argue that decriminalization would reduce the chances of women being trafficked into the industry and would create a safer working environment for prostitutes.
Jim, a lifelong Woodside resident who didn’t want to provide his full name, said that brothels began popping up in the neighborhood about 15 years ago. He said it has become more prevalent in recent years.
“There’s like two or three on every block now,” Jim said.
He said it doesn’t bother him whether the practice is made legal or not.
“I don’t care either way but either shut them all down or leave them all alone, it’s one or the other,” he said.
Jim said he is more concerned about the well-being of the sex workers, noting that he often gives them food when he passes by as they are hungry after being there for long hours.
He said the work they do is hazardous and that they should have someone there protecting them. He said there are many drunk individuals on the street late at night on weekends and he fears something untoward will happen to one of them.
“It’s dangerous for the girls, what’s to stop someone raping them and not paying them?”
“One of these days you’re going to read on the news that one of them was raped or kidnapped, that’s what I worry about.”