2015-08-26 / Front Page

Cuomo Task Force Nails Steinway Street Salons

By Liz Goff

A team of New York State investigators swooped down on nail salons on Steinway Street on August 20, checking conditions there within a six-block area along the bustling commercial strip.
Governor Andrew Cuomo last May established a Task Force of 10 Field Teams including investigators from the New York State Labor and State Departments, the Workers Compensation Board and the Department of Taxation and Finance, to address labor abuses at nail salons throughout the state.
Investigators showed up at the Steinway Street shops unannounced on August 20 in response to anonymous tips called in to a task force Hotline and a series of preliminary probes by task force members, authorities said.
Investigators first descended on Lyn’s Nail Salon at 32-44 Steinway St., where owner, Andy No Tran, was handed a list of health and safety violations that needed fixing to bring his shop up to code. The investigators told Tran the team would be back to check on the violations.
“If we find that these issues have not been addressed, we will take appropriate action,” a task force spokesperson said.
Tran was also warned that if he failed to get workers compensation insurance for his employees within 48 hours, state officials would shut down the salon. It was unclear as of August 24 if Tran obtained the workers compensation insurance.
Owner Chelsea Dong appeared irritated and questioned investigators when the team showed up at her Steinway Street salon, The Sparkling Snail, on August 20, a source said.
“She was really angry and she almost scolded the state workers for showing up unannounced,” the source said. “She was yelling, saying they were scaring her workers and her customers.”
A task force spokesperson said investigators found that only three of Dong’s workers were licensed to perform manicures.
“The investigators pointed out several issues that need to be addressed at the salon and told the owner how to immediately bring the unlicensed workers to compliance,” the spokesperson said.
Investigators that showed up at Cupid Nails & Spa, located on the second floor of a building at 30-74 Steinway St., issued multiple violations to owner Lu Weizhong for safety, health and labor issues, and brought one worker to tears, sources said.
The investigators issued a Cease-And-Desist order to a woman who said she recently emigrated to the U.S. from China, and was paying Lu $350 a week to rent space at the salon to work as an independent manicurist. When the woman, who is unlicensed, was ordered to show up for a September 2 hearing on the matter, she began to cry, the sources said.
“She was scared because she doesn’t understand. She was afraid what would happen to her,” a source said.
Investigators calmed the woman and explained that she could apply for a license and continue to work in the weeks prior to the hearing.
“She is still afraid and she doesn’t know what she will do if the hearing goes against her,” the source said.
Investigators ordered Lu to attach the Cease And Desist Order to the front door of the building before they left the location.
“Mr. Lu was warned not to remove the posted order,” the task force spokesperson said. “He was warned that we would be keeping an eye on the building to make sure the order stays there.”
Violations issued by task force members during the August 20 enforcement included operation of an unlicensed business, health and sanitation issues and workers rights violations such as an owner’s failure to post a Workers Bill of Rights, authorities said.
At least one of the team members involved in the August 20 enforcement in Astoria is fluent in Korean, a spokesperson said.
“Workers at the salons were give a number to call if they wanted help to leave their jobs,” the spokesperson said. “But many of those workers are too scared to even think about leaving.”
A spokesperson for the governor said the team would continue to show up announced at salons throughout Queens to continue enforcement of the new regulations.
Cuomo last week signed legislation that that cracks down on tattoo and body-piercing businesses in New York State. The new law requires tattoo and body-piercing prociders to utilize single-use needles and single-use ink containers in all procedures.
“Reusing tattooing or piercing needles poses potentially serious and life-threatening health risks,” Cuomo said. “This new law is an important step toward preventing the spread of infectious diseases and in holding accountable those who don’t take the proper precautions.”
Under prior state law, tattoo and body-piercing specialists were not held to any standard regarding needles and ink used in the procedures. The new law requires that the provider and the customer sign a consent form confirming that the provider presented all single-use materials to be used during a procedure to the customer, and that the sealed, sterile packages were opened in the presence of the customer at the start of the procedure.

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