Editorial: Xenophobia at CB 7

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The misguided, ill-informed and apparently xenophobic decision of Community Board 7 to oppose the opening of a spa on 41st Street in Flushing calls into question the ability of the board to deal fairly with the changing face of one of the most dynamic communities in all of New York City.

Despite the opposition of the community board members – they rejected the spa in a 34-3 vote – the city's Board of Standards and Appeals has granted a permit to a Manhattan restaurateur to open the massage and spa that will target Flushing's Asian-American community. Opponents expressed concern that the spa will be located across the street from St. Michael's School. At the heart of their opposition is the fear that the spa will become a front for a house of prostitution.

This fear appears to be irrational and unfounded. Yes, there have been any number of “massage parlors” in Queens that were nothing more than houses of prostitution. But these were fly-by-night operations. The owners did not go to great lengths to get proper licensing, they did not hire licensed masseuses and they did not install saunas and other expensive equipment.

If Elizabeth Arden had filed for a permit to open one of its Red Door Salons in Flushing, the community board would not have blinked. No one would have questioned whether it was a good idea for adults to get healthy so close to an elementary school. The elected officials and candidates who opposed the Flushing spa would have been there for the ribbon cutting if the owners had been Arden and not Asians.

We are alarmed that only three members of the community board voted in favor of the spa. But we are not at all surprised that Councilwoman Julia Harrison (D-Flushing) strongly opposes the spa. She has often been insensitive and even hostile to the Asians who have pumped new life into downtown Flushing. Frustrated by the decision of the Board of Standards and Appeals, John Watts, an aide to Harrison, asks: “Why do we have a community board? Those 50 people shouldn't waste their time volunteering.” At times we agree. And to that we add, why have a councilwoman representing Flushing who panders to such xenophobia?

Had the community board or the councilwoman done even cursory research, they would have discovered that affluent Asian-Americans value highly the type of services offered by legitimate health spas. To assume that the proposed spa will be used for prostitution solely because its owner is Asian is insulting and indefensible.

The city is right to allow this spa to open.

Editorial: Dumping on the kids

Nearly our years after the ballfields of College Point were padlocked, the Queens district attorney has indicted three brothers for allegedly dumping soil filled with construction debris at the sports complex. More arrests and indictments may follow.

These arrests have been a long time coming. The city estimates it will cost as much as $10 million to repair the damage done by this illegal dumping. More importantly, the community has been denied use of the sports complex. For four long years, the College Point Little League, the soccer club and the football league have had no place to call home.

Fines and prison sentences will not give back the four years that have been stolen from the children of College Point. Many questions remain unanswered: Why wasn't anybody watching? Why didn't Envirofill, the company overseeing the rebuilding of the fields, notice that someone was dumping hundreds of tons of dirt filled with concrete and other waste?

The people of College Point have the right to know.

Posted 7:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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