Sex Offenders Allowed to Live Across the Street From Famed Dance School
MIDTOWN — Every week, Theresa Certosimo drops off her daughter for ballet classes at a Midtown dance studio. As she leaves, she looks up at the studio's large glass windows and admires her young daughter's improving skill, dedication and form.
But she's afraid she's not the only one looking through those windows. Owners of the dance school recently learned they have three registered sex offenders living across the street — including one man convicted of abusing a 9-year-old girl.
The men, whose names and convictions are listed on the state's mandatory sex offender registry, are legally allowed to live wherever they want under state law, but parents at the Broadway Dance Center say their presence is unnerving.
"I want to know what they can see in their room, their view of the studio," said Certosimo, a Rutherford, N.J., resident whose daughter has come to Broadway Dance Center for five years.
"The kids are all wearing tights, but they might as well be naked."
Founded in 1984, the Broadway Dance Center offers more than 200 classes a week and has instructed stars including Bette Midler, Brooke Shields and Britney Spears. The school attracts local kids, teens and full-time students along with dancers of all ages from other countries.
But the recent discovery of their neighbors at the Aladdin Hotel, a homeless shelter at 317 W. 45th St., has dancers at the world-renowned school on edge, and management concerned about the safety of their young students.
The school discovered that sex offenders were living across the street earlier this month after a random search of the sex registry, and asked members of the local block association to bring their concerns to cops at the January Midtown North Precinct meetings. The men's presence, while legal, is ruffling feathers among block residents.
"I'm just kind of upset in general — if it was one person, it would have been enough," said dance student Rebecca Ramsey, 19, who added that no one at the school had informed her that there was even a homeless shelter across the street or that registered sex offenders were there.
"We go home by ourselves every night at 11. It's dark and bad things could happen."
According to the state's sex offender registry, the men include a 45-year-old convicted of sexually abusing a 9-year-old girl, a 47-year-old convicted of attempted rape, and a 46-year-old who raped a woman at knife point.
"They approached us and were concerned about sex offenders in the Aladdin," said David Stuart, a member of the West 45th Street Block Association, 8-9th Ave.
"They just have tons of kids going in there."
Sex offenders are often limited from living within 1,000 feet of a school or "other facility caring for children" while they are on probation. However, any offenders who are no longer under any kind of judicial supervision — including the three who live in the facility — have no restrictions on where they can live, according to a spokeswoman for the state Division of Criminal Justice Services.
Cops said they planned to follow up with the NYPD's sex offender monitoring unit regarding the men.
Heather Janik, a spokeswoman for the city's Department of Homeless Services, declined to discuss specifics about the Aladdin.
“Pursuant to court orders, Homeless Services is under legal mandate to provide shelter to all homeless individuals or eligible families regardless of their criminal background, including sex offender status,” she said in a statement.
Diane King, the dance school's executive director, described the presence of the three sex offenders across the street as "shocking," but declined to comment further.
"We had no idea, we only just found out about it," she said. "We're just trying to process it."
But upon hearing the news, students at the school said they felt less safe about the block they visit nearly every day.
Rocio Gomez, 24, said that she also had not heard about the sex offenders.
"I'm not shocked. This is New York and this sort of stuff happens everywhere," she said.
"It's scary. I'm not sure it should be legal, but since it is, we have to deal with it."
The school offers mandatory self-defense classes for full-time students.
The Aladdin has long been a source of tension on the block. Most recently, cops arrested a woman after a bloody slashing attack inside the building, according to reports. The building has caused so many problems that police are considering setting up a light tower and shining it at the hotel's entrance, officials said.
"We certainly don't want anyone that's a convicted sex offender on the block. We don't want anyone selling drugs on the block. They promised us they would screen people before they go in, but that hasn't made a difference," said John Fisher, co-chairman of another West 45th Street Block Association.
Staff at the Aladdin would not allow DNAinfo.com New York to contact the three men, and declined to comment.
Certosimo, the New Jersey mom, said she planned to let her daughter know about the trio, and hoped the studio would take appropriate precautions.
"This is her favorite studio, she won't stop dancing here," she said. "Unless there's an incident, then we'd stop her."
Concerned parents can find information on sex offenders in the neighborhood using the state's online Sex Offender Registry. Parents can also sign up for notifications when a sex offender moves in or out of a neighborhood using the state's alert system.