The Queens Courier
Retailers at Queens Center Mall and the mall property owner, The Macerich Company, have been accused by local elected officials and community activists of not paying a living wage to the majority of the mall’s approximately 3,100 workers, despite Macerich’s receipt of around $48 million in city tax abatements during the last five years.
“Queens Center Mall is among the most profitable malls across the country and made sales of about $876 per square foot in 2008,” said Andrew Friedman, co-executive director of the Jackson Heights community organization Make the Road New York (MRNY). The mall has 966,499 square feet of leasable space and has 97.5 percent occupancy. “Macerich could lower rents and still make money so that the [retail] tenants could pay more to the workers.”
Friedman recommended that Macerich include requirements in its lease agreements stipulating that tenants provide a living wage, which they calculate at $10 with benefits or $11.50 without benefits.
Queens Center Mall spokesperson Dawn Simon declared in an email statement that “we do not discuss our leases and cannot comment on behalf of retailers.”
Simon added that groups like Latino Share, a cancer survivor support and educational group, LaGuardia Community College, Community Board 4, and New York Blood Center consistently use the 1,400 square foot community unity room, which has a kitchenette and bathroom. The Queens Economic Development Center also utilizes space.
According to Friedman, beginning in 2004, the mall entered into the Industrial Commercial Incentive Program (ICIP) – now replaced by the Industrial and Commercial Abatement Program (ICAP) – for a tax abatement benefit period of 15 years. The MRNY/RWDSU report expects Queens Center Mall to receive a benefit of $129 million during that time.
However, Owen Stone, a spokesperson for the New York City Department of Finance (DOF), which administers the development and construction projects under the ICIP/ICAP, said “the ICIP is designed to stimulate capital investment, and create and retain jobs in the neighborhoods that need it.”
“There is no wage requirement for employees of businesses that are receiving ICIP,” said Stone. Unnamed sources tell the The Queens Courier though the city may not receive real estate taxes, the city receives employment and sales taxes.
MRNY maintains their position that Macerich “gives too little in exchange for too much.”
Friedman added that MRNY launched their living wage campaign at Queens Center Mall because their membership lives, works and shops primarily in the vicinity of the mall.
“The role of responsible government is to get more for the public then what they give,” he said.