HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Residents are bracing for what some have described as a devastating school tax hike — the result of their local mall getting big tax breaks.

As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, business is bustling at the expanding Green Acres mall, new national chain stores are going up where an old movie theater was torn down.

It’s an effort to breathe new life into the struggling mall on the Queens-Nassau line.

“It’s expanding, it’s getting better. Hopefully people will get jobs, that’s what they need,” one resident said.

The upgrade comes at a hefty price to Valley Stream residents who — because of tax breaks to the mall developer — now have to make up millions in lost school revenue.

Fifty-thousand homes face an annual tax hike up to 12 percent.

“It’s a travesty. I don’t know how I’m going to cope with this,” Maribel Padin said. “We have a mall that’s already been established, and a few new stores are coming, so we are really not benefiting in any way at all.”

Community leaders demanded that the agency that approved the tax break rescind it.

“In the dead of the night by unelected officials, the Town of Hempstead IDA imposed a massive tax increase on Valley Stream residents,” State Sen. Todd Kaminsky said.

The decision to slash mall taxes was made by the appointed Industrial Development Agency.

The agency head wouldn’t appear on camera, but said experts have ruled the tax rate is appropriate, Green Acres was in jeopardy of going under, and that economic development will create 700 jobs.

Town councilman Bruce Blakeman said it’s an overly generous tax break that ignored local tax payers.

“I think this was a very excessive deal that was given to Green Acres, and I think that anyone who built this economic model on the backs of taxpayers made a big mistake, so we are going to try to correct that mistake,” Blakeman said.

The head of the IDA said the public had a chance to weigh in on this two years ago at a hearing, and no one showed up.

Residents have circulated a petition demanding the town agency rescind the agreement, and reopen the hearing or else members be removed from their positions.

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