NYC ignored warnings about shady, illegal strip club where man was killed
The NYPD and other city agencies had plenty of warnings that a Manhattan pole-dancing “fitness studio” allegedly operated illegally after hours as a noisy, booze-serving strip club long before a 32-year-old man was shot dead there last weekend, The Post has learned.
The NYPD responded to five 311 complaints, from April 29 to Aug. 25, about loud music coming from Foxy Fitness & Pole training studio at 355 Seventh Avenue in Midtown.
Four of the incidents occurred between 1:57 a.m. and 5:39 a.m., records show.
Cops also responded to a complaint of underage drinking there on May 7 at 5:22 a.m.
Like the other complaints, it was closed without immediate action taken.
Foxy occupies the top floor of a century-old, three-story building it shares with a ground-floor pizzeria and formalwear retailer.
The top two floors are zoned for factory use only.
Since 2019, the city Department of Buildings has responded to five complaints about an illicit jiggle joint allegedly operating on the site. They include:
- A Dec. 13, 2019 complaint about an “adult establishment” operating without proper permits. DOB inspectors issued two violations that were later dismissed by an administrative law judge.
- An April 20, 2021 complaint alleging a strip club had previously been operating for 10 years there. The Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement twice tried inspecting the site but couldn’t gain entry because Foxy wasn’t open when they arrived, officials said.
- A DOB complaint from April 28 this year alleging a person named “Virgil” illegally runs the club Friday to Sunday, from 4 a.m. to 7 a.m., likely referring to Foxy co-founder Virgil Avery.
Michael Alcazar, a retired NYPD detective and John Jay College of Criminal Justice adjunct professor, said the city’s failure to shutter the illegal club before someone was murdered is likely the result of lack of cops since many are retiring and resigning at a record-breaking pace.
“The complaints are there; they weren’t able or they didn’t have the manpower to address it,” he said.
“People are calling 911, 311 reporting [the illicit strip club]; it should have been addressed. And in the perfect New York City, it would have been addressed.
“If we had undercover stings, absolutely, we would nip it in the bud,” he said.
“These illegal strip clubs wouldn’t happen. And there would be no shootings.”
Foxy Fitness’s website says it offers after-hour “private parties” that include pole dancing lessons running $599 plus tax, yet neighborhood residents and workers said it was no secret the business’ operators routinely made it rain for a horny clientele — many who would leave falling-down drunk.
“It was a front – they were doing something raunchy up there at night,” said Tyrell, who works as a construction flagger nearby. “They’d be partying.”
A 55-year-old security guard who works in a building nearby said he had to lock the door at night because he was “scared” of the club’s clientele — and wasn’t surprised to learn someone was shot dead in the head there.
“When you mix drinking and guns, people get hurt,” he said “I used to … complain about people coming out drunk and fighting.”
The victim, identified as Steven Mussington of Harlem, was shot and killed around 5:30 a.m., and scantily clad women were seen fleeing the venue screaming.
NYPD Chief of Detectives Joseph Kenny said an “after hours joint” had been operating on the top floor at Foxy Fitness, adding that Mussington had been gunned down in the building’s stairwell following an argument with two men at the front door.
Police said they are still investigating the shooting and have made no arrests.
Foxy remains shuttered since the shooting. Avery and fellow co-founder Ashley Fox, who also run a Foxy Fitness studio in West New York, NJ., did not return messages.
A man answering the phone of one of the building’s owners… claimed he had “no clue” the third floor was being used as a flesh fest.
He claimed Foxy is a good tenant before hanging up on a reporter.
Pole-dancing classes have become widely popular over the past 15 or so years as women of all ages learn the exotic dance to both spice up relationships and as a cardio workout.
Former Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz famously featured a legit pole dancing studio then operating in Bay Ridge at his 2011 State of the Borough address to help illustrate Brooklyn’s then-growing economy.
There’s at least 15 purported pole-dancing fitness studios operating in New York City.
At least five of them are located in buildings with a history of noise and nuisance complaints, records show.
These studios typically abide by the same rules as gyms – meaning they don’t have proper zoning approvals to operate as strip clubs.
“If you’re clothed and [pole] dancing, that’s exercise to me,” said Adam Leitman Bailey, a real estate lawyer.
“But the minute you’re doing a sexual activity and showing your body [for money], that’s when you’re entering strip club territory, and that’s different rules and regulations.”
Businesses that provide “adult” entertainment must follow most typical health and safety codes but also not be located less than 500 feet away from schools, houses of worship and residences.
They also must not exceed 10,000 square feet, excluding storage space.
Clubs that serve booze must also have a proper license, which Foxy lacks, according to the state Liquor Authority.
A spokeswoman for Mayor Eric Adams said city inspectors visited the building Tuesday and found a slew of violations, including obstructed fire escapes, a blocked emergency door and failure to abide by zoning regulations requiring factory use only on the second and third floors.
Only the ground-floor pizzeria was allowed to remain open while the rest of the site was padlocked.
The building’s owners were slapped with four violations and have a hearing scheduled before an administrative law judge on Dec. 21 where they’ll face fines up to $28,125. officials said.
“Mayor Adams has made it clear that his top priority is the safety of New Yorkers,” said spokeswoman Liz Garcia.
“The city has taken repeated action to ensure New Yorkers are safe in this building, and the building owner is responsible for making sure their property is safe and compliant with the law.”
Additional reporting by Tina Moore