JACKSON HEIGHTS, Queens (PIX11) — State Assembly Member Catalina Cruz of the 39th District in Jackson Heights researched human trafficking and the sex trade for several years before she was elected to the legislature.
She said the recent complaints about Roosevelt Avenue’s brothels and outdoor solicitations require a team effort to find solutions.
“Until we have a more holistic approach,” Cruz said, “having the hard conversations, we’re not going to see an improvement.”
Cruz noted the Roosevelt Avenue area has been “a neglected community for decades,” and said an increase in sex workers can likely be attributed to “a lack of immigration reform at the federal level.”
She said of residents now complaining about the wave of sex workers lining sidewalks.
“What they are seeing can’t be denied,” Cruz said. “What they’re seeing is an issue older than us.”
Cruz was one of the only public officials we contacted in the Roosevelt Avenue area who consented to an interview.
The office of City Council member Francisco Moya did reach out to PIX11 News Thursday afternoon to say he would be available to speak with us, after just returning from leave on a family matter.
Assembly Member Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, who is co-sponsoring a bill to decriminalize sex work, said through a spokesperson’s e-mail:
“Unfortunately, the Assemblymember doesn’t have the capacity at this time, but I’d recommend you reach out to Make the Road NY if you haven’t already.”
On Tuesday this week, Mayor Eric Adams took my question about the Roosevelt Avenue brothels during his weekly media availability.
The mayor said he disagrees with politicians trying to legalize sex work, because of sexually transmitted diseases, human trafficking concerns, and luring of young girls into the trade.
“It is going to impact the foundation, the quality of life, in our city,” Adams said of more brothels.
Cruz said she was going to be working with colleagues on the city and state level to address the issues involving sex workers.
She added residents are complaining about the scantily-clad appearances of sex workers need to look at more than that.
“That’s a simplistic way to see a problem that’s about poverty, immigration reforms, crime and feeling safe,” Cruz said.
Cruz said what we’re seeing “is a problem that’s been brewing for years.”