Uncommon Economic Indicator: Prostitution in Westchester County

J Philip Faranda December 23, 2010

I suppose I could find a real estate angle for just about anything, and I will now as well: in today’s paper, a “spa” located down the street from my office was raided and the police arrested two in a prostitution sting. Earlier this month, the same thing happened in Mohegan Lake, NY a hamlet of Yorktown. Smarter people than I could write volumes on who, why, and how. My observations are those of a guy who brokers real estate, not a commentary on morality. Full disclosure: I have had clients in the, shall we say, adult industry. 

While I know Westchester is considered affluent, the world’s oldest profession has always been with us. And while the perception is that it was always on the other side of the tracks, it has always more or less been in our back yard. Concealed, but there. That said, I have never seen “open and notorious” examples of the thing as much as I have since the economy went south. And brother, I mean almost overnight the change occurred. Here’s what I mean: doctor’s offices, storefronts, and office space are now getting, um clogged with these places, almost all of which popped up (sorry) in 2008 or after. More than one of my friends is going to kid me about this, but you can set your watch now by when your suspicions about a place are confirmed with an arrest report in the paper. You’d read about it once a year before, now we have two reports just this month. 

This tells me that the recession has hit retail and commercial space as hard as it has hit housing. What’s worse, a vacant storefront or a rent-paying “spa?” I don’t blame landlords for erring on the side of paying their bills. 

Another peculiar thing is the practitioners. If you are a child of the 80’s and think Pretty Woman, think again. The ages of the women arrested were 46, 46, 47, and 54. We’re not talking about Julia Roberts working her way through college. Whatever granny was doing before the economy crapped out she’s not doing anymore. 

I think what it all means is that nature abhors (sorry) a vacuum, and that when the real economy goes south the underground economy steps up. The space is there, the cheap rent is there, the willing landlords are there, and the workers desperate for money are there. The clientele has been there since the ink dried in the bible. 

The funniest part of the whole thing was the report that mentioned that the Mohegan Lake place charged credit cards as the “Han Deli.” I am going to go out on a limb and say that an encounter with a prostitute costs more than a corned beef on rye. Can you imagine the look on the wife’s face when she sees a $300 charge to a delicatessen? I want one of those subs! 

One last slightly unrelated item: On one of the tributaries of Google I hit while researching this post I came upon the fact that the 2008 Nobel Prize in Economics was won by a team that researched how strippers who were ovulating earned higher tips than those who were doing that other thing. 

At any rate, I expect to read about fewer 50-year old hookers as the economy recovers. Then I’ll know we’re doing better. 

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