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Farmingdale law targets massage establishments

Marie Freiss is a licensed massage therapist. She

Marie Freiss is a licensed massage therapist. She is in her office at Park Circle Health & Wellness on Main Street. Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

Massage establishments now must obtain a village license to practice in Farmingdale, according to a newly passed law -- though the word "parlor" and a proposed $500 licensing fee were struck from the measure.

Village officials voted 5-0 Monday night to regulate massage establishments in hopes of curbing businesses "operating under the guise of being a massage establishment, when actually engaging in illegal activities and subjecting the public to exposure of unclean, unhealthy and possibly contaminated conditions."

The law will allow the building inspector to more easily find and shut down illegal establishments, Mayor Ralph Ekstrand said. "Now we can go after them with some teeth."

The law requires businesses to be licensed by the state and other applicable governments, and massage therapists to display state-issued photo identification. It also restricts business hours to 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., prohibits the sale and consumption of alcohol on site, and mandates that all massages be "therapeutic and health related."

Violators face a fine of up to $2,500, 15 days in jail or both.

The village last fall removed five mattresses from a business where no employees were licensed, officials said.

Licensed massage therapists testifying at public hearings Monday and last month welcomed an opportunity to distinguish themselves from "unsavory" businesses, but said their field has been unfairly maligned.

"No one wants to see illegal places shut down more than I do," licensed therapist and Farmingdale resident Karen Rosen said at a Dec. 3 hearing, adding, "I don't want to be lumped into this."

She protested the $500 licensing fee and suggested officials drop the outdated and offensive term "massage parlor" from the law.

Marie Freiss, a licensed Farmingdale therapist, said Wednesday, "It's insulting that I would have to pay a fee to prove I'm a professional."

She said at Monday's hearing that legitimate therapists are "being penalized and set aside from other health care professionals."

Village officials scrapped the fee and the word "parlor" in the law before passing it.

"We have to educate the public on the difference," Freiss said. "We have nothing to do with the unsavory people."

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