An ex-sex worker who previously worked on the ‘Market of Sweethearts’ in New York has described how she was forced to sleep with twenty men on her first night.
Kika Certa arrived from Venezuela in the Big Apple after falling in love with a man and was under the impression she would be staying with his family.
Instead, Certa found herself on Roosevelt Avenue, also known as the ‘Market of Sweethearts’, in the Queens borough of the city after being forced into work as a prostitute in the early 1990s.
Certa told the New York Post she had decided to speak about her ordeal after hearing Mayor Eric Adams that migrants were being used in the sex trade in Queens.
Using a pseudonym, Certa told the outlet with tears streaming down her cheeks: ‘I slept with 20 men my first night. I didn’t get to say who. They just came in one after another. That was the worst night of my life.’
Certa found herself on Roosevelt Avenue, also known as the ‘Market of Sweethearts’, in the Queens borough of the city. The street is seen here in recent pictures
The 51-year-old said she had been offered a place to stay in the city after meeting and falling in love with a man named Daniel in Venezuela.
Certa was introduced to his cousin Sandra, who lived in the city and was who she would be staying with.
After arriving at JFK Airport in 1992, the offer of a better life changed and Sandra took $3,000 she had saved and her passport from her after touching down.
Certa said: ‘I saved $3,000 that I brought here to the United States.
‘I remember getting out of the airport and she immediately took my passport, and she took my money.’
After two weeks, Certa was sat down by the pair and told she would have to prostitute herself to pay a debt on behalf of Daniel.
She recalled: ‘[Sandra] said Daniel was living here and he owed her a lot of money.
‘And then she said ‘You’re going to pay the money and the way you’re gonna pay is you’re going to prostitute yourself.’
Certa found herself on Roosevelt Avenue, also known as the ‘Market of Sweethearts’, one of the brothels in the area is seen here
After two weeks, Certa was sat down by the pair and told she would have to prostitute herself to pay a debt on behalf of Daniel
In order to pay the debt, she was told she would need to prostitute herself. The inside of one of the current brothels in Queens is seen here
Certa was taken to a house at 92nd and Roosevelt Avenue, given the name Lily and put to work as a sex worker.
She said: ‘When she took me there, she said, “This is a new girl. She’s fresh. She’s just 20 years old”.’
Certa said that every time she opened the door to a knock there was a different man standing there, who paid $35 each and would tip her a few dollars.
She added: ‘I had no spirit, no soul. I just get up in the morning and go and eat something, go back to sleep, waiting for the time I have to go back to work.’
Certa told the Post she tried to hide from Sandra but always was found, and that she had been arrested five times.
Eventually she demanded her passport back and agreed to pay the madam more money for her freedom.
Certa is now married and has three daughters, but has been disturbed about recent reports of Venezuelan women she sees working in brothels on the same street.
She said: ‘They’re not there because they want to be. It’s because they’ve been forced to somehow and somehow they get broken. After they get broken, there is no way out.’
Certa was taken to a house at 92nd and Roosevelt Avenue, given the name Lily and put to work as a sex worker. Workers on Roosevelt Avenue are seen here
Earlier this week, Mayor Eric Adams said the migrant crisis had been fueling a rise in the amount of prostitutes on the street
Earlier this month, Mayor Eric Adams said that the city had a huge new red light district due to the arrival of Venezuelan migrants who are working as prostitutes.
In recent weeks sex workers have been seen walking the streets during the day, with many aggressively soliciting even as children get out of school or during their lunch hour, as reported by Pix 11.
Previously, the Bronx was home to the Big Apple’s highest concentration of sex workers for hire.
Mayor Adams said the situation is just one of many ways in which the migrant crisis is affecting the city, which has received over 120,000 new asylum seekers since last spring.
When asked by reporters about the open-air sex market, Adams said the situation has been brought to his attention, and he has visited the area himself, confirming that ‘illegal’ activity is taking place publicly at all hours of the day and night.
Adams continued: ‘This is what happens when you create an atmosphere that people can’t provide for themselves and have to turn to illegal activities to do so.
‘When I talk about the spiraling impact of how this is going to affect our city, this is what I’m talking about.
‘We are going to create generational problems based on the failure of the national government and that is one example.’
Prostitution is considered a Class B misdemeanor in New York, punishable by up to three months in jail and/or up to a $500 fine.
Patronizing a prostitute is a Class A misdemeanor and punishable by up to one year in prison and/or up to a $1,000 fine.
We previously told how school children have complained that they are being forced to walk post prostitutes in broad daylight in the Queens neighborhood.
Jalene Lugo, 14, said she passed several provocatively dressed women in a doorway on 93rd Street earlier this week and not for the first time.
‘During school hours, they’re out,’ the high school freshman told PIX 11 News. ‘They will be out with their pimps and they don’t care.’
Other residents described the scene as like a ‘red-light district, similar to Bangkok’.
Elmhurst resident Ramsay Frias told the outlet: ‘It’s scary that there’s no moral compass anymore. Growing up, it’s never been perfect, but right now, it’s lawless.’
Jalene’s mom Massiel Lugo, a local activist who has previously held rallies about the issue, is calling for more to be done to keep the area safe for youngsters
Jalene’s mom Massiel Lugo, a local activist who has previously held rallies about the issue, is calling for more to be done to keep the area safe for youngsters.
Lugo said: ‘We understand that these women need money, but they shouldn’t be doing this during school. We are seeing more Latina women doing prostitution.’
She has set up a petition to ‘reclaim’ the community, which has so far amassed more than 1,600 signatures.
In June a Woodside establishment was shut down following an undercover sting operation by cops. Two women in their 60s were arrested for prostitution.
Neighbors had been calling for its closure for a while and said there were other brothels operating in the area, the Jackson Heights Post reports.