- See more at: http://blogtimenow.com/blogging/automatically-redirect-blogger-blog-another-blog-website/#sthash.Q6qPkwFC.dpuf Journey into the Heart of Transgender Prostitution in the Bronx | Bronx News Networkbronx

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Journey into the Heart of Transgender Prostitution in the Bronx

Ed. note: This story appears in the latest issue of the Norwood News, which is out on the streets now. Pick up your copy today.

It’s a slow Monday night for Bianca, a transgender prostitute who operates on the corner of East 192nd Street and Davidson Avenue -- a quiet residential intersection near St. James Park, a place where the “tranny” sex trade has flourished, to the chagrin of local residents, for more than a decade.

“What are you doing here?” Bianca asks a potential customer, smiling coyly. “You’re looking good.”

Bianca’s hair is pulled back tight against her skull, a frizzy, kink of thick dark hair puffs out into a pony tail. Her heavily made-up face is highlighted by voluptuous dark red, almost purple, lips, and big dangling, gold-colored hoop earrings.

“I’m slumming it tonight,” she says, looking down at her baggy, gray-hooded sweatshirt, tight black skinny jeans and high tops. She is tall, but slender. Her sharp jaw line and wide shoulders give off just a whiff of masculinity.

Like the majority of the dozen or so prostitutes who ply their trade here, Bianca has male genitalia, but lives her life as a woman. Off and on, she takes hormones, but for the time being isn’t interested in having full gender re-assignment surgery.

Bianca is 27, she says, and has worked as a prostitute near Davidson and 192nd ever since she was 16.

“My best friend got me into it,” Bianca says. “She was doing it and was making a lot of money at it.” She’s thought about trying to get out, she says, but the money is too good. She earns enough to afford her own apartment on the Grand Concourse and usually only works a few hours a day.

On this Monday night, it’s 11:30 p.m. It’s been two hours and still no customers.

Ripe for Prostitution

One block off of Jerome Avenue and the elevated 4 train, Davidson is a thin one-way street going north. It’s lined by trees and handsome brick houses, an unusually low-density block in a section of the borough dominated by six-story apartment buildings.

T.K. Singleton, a coordinator of community initiatives for the nonprofit Bronx Community Solutions (BCS), which works through the court system to get prostitutes like Bianca off the street, says it’s the “aesthetics” of Davidson that make it a hot spot for prostitution.

“It isn’t highly populated,” she says, “so there’s not a lot of foot traffic.” It’s also relatively close to a highway, the Major Deegan, making it easier for johns to pop into the area from upstate, Connecticut and New Jersey.

Last month, Davidson homeowners showed up in force at the 52nd Precinct Community Council meeting and gave the commanding officer, Deputy Inspector John D’Adamo, “an earful” about the prostitution problems on their block.

Since then, D’Adamo has been arresting prostitutes and johns through a policing initiative called “Losing Proposition,” which basically aims to arrest the problem away.

“After that [precinct council] meeting, there was a crackdown that seems to have quieted the problem,” says Esteban Galvin, who lives on Davidson and runs a church out of his home.

Most people who live on Davidson or nearby have a story about an unpleasant encounter with a prostitute engaging in a sex act, usually in a parked car.

“Children shouldn’t be seeing that kind of obscenity,” Galvin says.

Another local resident, who didn’t want to give her name, says she remembers walking home with her young son, 11 or 12 years ago. “I will never forget the experience,” she says. “It was directly in front of us. It was a red car. They was, you know, doing their thing, at 2, 3 o’clock in the afternoon.”

The woman says the prostitution presence isn’t as dominant as it has been periodically in the past. “Before it used to be really crazy,” she says. Several of the “young ladies of evening” she had come to know over the years have “disappeared,” she says.

“The homeowners probably wouldn’t agree with me,” she says.

Stopping the Revolving Door

Singleton and other criminal justice experts say it’s not easy to stop prostitution, even with arrest-intensive programs. Because it’s a low-level misdemeanor crime, prostitutes who are arrested are usually back out in the street after a day or two in jail and a slap on the wrist.

Between 50,000 and 70,000 misdemeanor cases pass through the Bronx criminal court system each year, Singleton says. That’s the highest volume of any borough and it makes quick plea deals for prostitutes inevitable, observers say.

“Once police do their job, then it’s up to the prosecution,” says Diana Dykes, a former Assistant Bronx District Attorney who now works as a criminal justice professor at Monroe College. “And they’re not going to hold up their calendars to move the case along [and not accept a plea deal].”

It’s the goal of BCS to end this revolving door. Created by the Center for Court Innovations, a think tank arm of the New York court system, BCS “infiltrated” the Bronx criminal courts in 2005, says Elizabeth Taylor, the group’s coordinator for court operations.

With 27 staff members housed inside the criminal court building on East 161st Street, BCS now oversees community service operations in the Bronx. They also serve as objective advisors for the assistant district attorneys and judges.

In most cases, they will try to steer prostitutes into “alternative sentences,” which might place prostitutes into drug rehab programs or “psycho-social” classes instead of paying a fine or just getting off with time served. Taylor says the goal is to give prostitutes options other than going back out on the street.

They also work directly with police. Singleton went out of her way to praise D’Adamo’s attention to the prostitution problem on Davidson. Along with patrol officers, BCS staffers go out to prostitution hot spots, which include Davidson, but also Hunts Point and Boston Road, and talk to prostitutes. Mostly, they gather data. “It helps us on the backside when they do get arrested,” Singleton said.

“We know so and so has this, this and this [in their background] and then we can create sentencing options,” Taylor says.

Since they took over, Taylor says BCS has increased compliance with sentencing mandates (showing up for classes, completing community service work, etc.), from 50 percent, to 70 percent.

The Cycle Continues

Singleton says they not only serve as a bridge between the DA’s office and the police, but also to the community. Judges may see prostitution as a victimless crime, she says, but “we know it’s the community that suffers.”

Bianca mostly keeps to herself and goes about her business quietly, she says, but there are others on the block that get loud and start fights. She can understand why people are upset.

A couple of years ago, Bianca says she moved to Puerto Rico, where she still has family, and started taking classes. But without a job, she couldn’t afford to stay. Employers wouldn’t hire her, she says, because of her transgendered lifestyle.

This discrimination happens in the states, too, Singleton says, and it’s a big reason why, combined with the stagnant economy, transgender prostitutes have such a hard time getting out of the life.

On Monday night, two other prostitutes went off with customers while Bianca talked about a savage beating she took at the hands of an African john last year. A scar on her cheek serves as a souvenir.

She’s noticed a few more cops on the streets lately, but it’s nothing that will stop her from coming out. The police presence ebbs and flows, she says.

In April, she says she was arrested by a persistent undercover cop who kept circling around until she finally took the bait. After they agreed on a price, Bianca got into the car and the two exchanged touches (“cops aren’t supposed to touch,” she says.) and the cop “ate a red light,” she says. Cops swarmed the car. And then, she says matter-of-factly, “I went to jail.”

She was out a couple of days later.


  1. This is good reporting. Thank you.

  2. This is GREAT reporting! The community thanks you! I was at the last 52 precinct meeting and I am happy to see some progress in quelling the prostitution on Davidson Ave. I hope to see the residents at the next 52 precinct meeting and I know that this Norwood News article is going to help those residents by shedding some light on their problems.

  3. Interesting personal take on trans-gender prostitution. However, there is no mention in the same issue about the rise in violent crime in the 52...murder up 33.3, rape up 18.2, robbery up 0.2, felony assault up 14.2. [http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/downloads/pdf/crime_statistics/cs052pct.pdf].

    A front page article on this might have been more indicative of the current crime wave in the precinct. Even more interesting would have been the police noting no rapes for the same 28 day period last year-'09 and 2 this year while citing a 0% in rapes from '09-'10. Their reason? - a percent increase can be calculated from zero.

    "NO RAPES IN 52 DURING 28 DAYS LAST YEAR AND 2 THIS YEAR FOR SAME PERIOD BUT NO INCREASE NOTED BY NYPD????" might have been a better article about what is actually happening in terms of violent crime within the 52.

  4. This is great reporting. This is the kind of community reporting we need. Keep it coming!Of course there will always be other stories to report, but I applaud this well-written, informative account of an issue that is close to home for us who live in the community

  5. arrest the johns instead

  6. This is very much still a problem! I live in one of the houses nearby and have encountered a prostitute and a john in my driveway engaging in sex, it is very shocking to come home to that happening on your own property. i have since then put a lock on my gate, these prostitutes on Davidson are very persistent and are increasing in number they hang out in groups in front of residential houses doing drugs and just causing all types of issues within a community filled with children!


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