New Providence Planners OK Restaurant, Not Spa

Planning board member Gary Kapner voted to approve the addition of a new restaurant and renovations at the former McGrath's hardware site. Credits: Michael Daigle

NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – The Planning Board approved Tuesday two parts of an application by the owner of the former McGrath's Hardware building, only after the applicant, New Providence Global Realty LLC, asked the board to drop consideration of a spa that has originally been included in the application.

The request to drop the spa was made after spa owner Donho Li of West Windsor provided the board with apparently conflicting answers to questions regarding her background and qualifications.

While she had testified at a July 10 hearing on the application that she was licensed by the state, on Tuesday, Donho, who speaks softly and with an accent, she gave conflicting answers to a series of questions about her current business.

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The testimony was halted by the applicant’s attorney after Li was unable to provide answers acceptable to the board  to a series of questions posed by board attorney William Robertson concerning police activity in West Windsor that might have included her business, but did include police searching the building where Li’s business was located.

He asked if Li had been arrested, charged by police and the nature of the police activity. Li said she was taken for questioning, not charged with any offense and the police were asking questions about sexual-based activity. Li, who has testified that she had no employees at the West Windsor shop, told the board that two students had been detained and deported.

After the board peppered Li with a series of questions, Jeffrey Katz, a Realtor representing Li, interrupted the questions and the hearing by declaring the questions were “ridiculous.”

In order to be able to move forward with the development of the planned Galileo's restaurant, the expansion of the existing China Fan restaurant and other renovations, and a phased-in project to unify the appearance of the building at the corner of South Street and Springfield through an extensive development of the façade, the board was asked to drop the spa from the application.

The board approved the new application with one dissenting vote. Board member Phillip Trevani objected to the parking and traffic plans.

Robertson’s questions about police activity were apparently related to a coordinated raid in October 2010 of three West Windsor massage parlors, including one at the address of Li’s business, by West Windsor Police, Mercer County Prosecutor's Office Special Investigations, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

According to a Oct.10 West Windsor Police Department report, the raid followed a four-month long investigation into possible prostitution and human trafficking at several massage parlors in West Windsor.

The police report indicated that “arrests” were made, but listed no names of suspects or any charges.

A Nov. 5, 2010 story in the West Windsor Plainsboro News said in a subsequent police report that six employees of the three massage parlors were questioned, although no names were included in the report.

In addition, about $15,000 in cash, computers surveillance equipment and financial documents were seized, the report said.

One of the six employees who were questioned by police was turned over to ICE agents for possible deportation proceedings for “undisclosed immigration issues,” the report said.

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