Within one weekend, Yonel Letellier Sosa collected more than 100 business cards from men, hawking their “goods” near Roosevelt Avenue and 104th Street in Corona.
Some promotions boasted “free delivery,” while others offered flowers and food as a bonus to their seedy services, what vendors described as “chicas, chicas, chicas,” or girls, girls, girls.
However, all of the cards were similar in that they featured scantily clad or nude women, enticing viewers to call and request a prostitute.
“We have to deal with this day in and day out,” said Assemblymember Jose Peralta, blasting the sex for sale promotions.
To combat the problem, Peralta has drafted a bill for the Assembly, increasing the penalties for those convicted of promoting prostitution in the fourth degree from a class A misdemeanor to a class E felony - thereby upping the maximum sentence to three years.
In addition, Peralta, Letellier Sosa and the Guardian Angels plan to launch an informational campaign, asking residents, business owners and visitors to report those doling out the scandalous material.
“This is an immigrant community and because it is an immigrant community, sometimes there is a mentality of hush-hush,” Letellier Sosa said, explaining that residents oftentimes avoid the authorities because of questionable immigration status.
Letellier Sosa, a father of two who heads the Hispanic Junior Chamber International, said he was not the only one who recently received the racy cards - they were handed out almost indiscriminately to men, women and even kids.
“Our children are receiving these little cards,” Peralta said.
Youngsters, particularly young boys, have taken to collecting the cards much like other children do with baseball cards, Letellier Sosa said.
“These are what our young boys are trading,” he said, before pointing to a number of explicit images of women in highly suggestive positions. Officials had used black bars to cover particular body parts, which were otherwise viewable in the cards handed out.
Seeing the pornographic pictures leads kids to become “very interested” in sex, said psychologist Iris Yankelevich, adding that piqued sexual curiosity causes behavioral changes and ups the risk of disease.
“That affects directly their concentration and attention in school, affects directly their interest in their studies, and increases the risk of early sexuality,” Yankelevich told media gathered at a Corona park on Thursday, March 20.
Experimenting with sex earlier increases a child or teen’s risk of catching a sexually transmitted disease and becoming pregnant, Yankelevich added.
“This epidemic has to stop,” Peralta said. “We have to stop demoralizing our community because it affects the men, women and children.”
The Guardian Angels also plan to keep on the lookout for promoters during their rounds of Roosevelt Avenue.
“Phase three is where the rubber meets the road,” said Guardian Angels Senior Director Arnaldo Salinas, explaining that the Angels will snap photos of promoters and give the images to the New York Police Department (NYPD) and the Queens District Attorney. Roosevelt Avenue, which has shared coverage by the 115th and 110th Precincts on the north and south sides respectively, is also part of Operation Impact, the NYPD’s initiative to flood a high-crime area with new officers, giving the area an increased police presence.
“When we see something, we are going to say something,” Salinas added.
Officials said that they timed their press conference in light of the recent scandal involving former Governor Eliot Spitzer, who is believed to have patronized the services of pricey call girls.
“Ms. Dupr/ is getting $5 million,” said Salinas, referring to “Kristen,” or 22-year-old Ashley Alexandra Dupr/, whose Valentine’s Day-eve tryst with the governor eventually forced him to resign. “She isn’t walking on egg shells. She’s walking on velour.”
However, many prostitutes in northwest Queens are women from Central America conned into turning tricks by those who help them immigrate to New York, said Daniella Rodriguez, the President of Queens-based group United Hispanic Women. Once here, the women become almost enslaved, Rodriguez said. The community and officials must work together to put an end to the burgeoning business, Rodriguez said, which targets day laborers, many of whose families are back home, and who often make a large sum in a single working day.
“Prostitution is the world’s oldest profession,” Salinas said, later adding, “I have two daughters. I wouldn’t want them to join the profession.”