COLLEGE POINT — A city health inspection of Spa Castle conducted after an elderly man died at the facility in December found the popular bathhouse dirty and unsafe.
Several pools at the 131-10 11th Ave. location lacked proper disinfectant, while too many bathers — eight, instead of five — crowded another pool. In addition, Spa Castle failed to notify the Health Department within 24 hours of 84-year-old Hock Ma's death on Dec. 28, violating city regulations.
Ma passed away in one of the spa’s pools of natural causes, the Medical Examiner ruled, and a bather, not staff, discovered his body.
The fact that Ma's demise went unnoticed by staffers prompted Queens state Sen. Tony Avella to ask Mayor Bill de Blasio to establish an interagency city task force that could better track ongoing violations of bathhouses and spas.
"There was no supervision. If they had the proper supervision, maybe he might have been saved," Avella said. "The fact that he had to be found by another client of the spa is disgraceful."
Health Department records show that during 2013 and 2014, Spa Castle's Queens location racked up 45 violations — including failure to provide an updated safety plan, lack of life-saving equipment and, like Avella cautions, not having an adequate amount of support staff.
All violations have been fixed, according to the Health Department.
Spa Castle CEO Steve Chon acknowledged that the company had some "small concerns and issues" at some point.
"That said, if and when our facility receives citations or we experience customer issues, they are immediately addressed and rectified," he said.
Avella proposes coordinating inspections of spa and bathing establishments with the Health Department, Department of Buildings, the FDNY and other agencies, in order to better track ongoing violations. He wrote a letter voicing his concerns to de Blasio last week. He says that coordinated inspections wouldn't take any extra personnel or funds.
Further embroiling the owners of the two Spa Castle locations in controversy, Spa Castle Premier 57 in Midtown was shuttered on Tuesday by the Health Department for failing to provide an adequate safety plan and for not having a permit.
“This latest news only reinforces what our community has long known — we need significantly stronger oversight and scrutiny of these businesses,” Avella said.
Cho said that the business will be back up and running soon.
"Premier 57 is currently reconciling a permitting issue and the spa is temporarily closed," he said in an email. "We will advise on a reopening date as it becomes available."