WEST NYACK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Shopping mall owners and tenants are pushing back on Gov. Andrew Cuomo‘s mall mandate.

He wants the centers to install special air filtration before they can reopen.

It may be the loneliest 2.2 million square feet you’ll ever see: Palisades Center in Rockland County, a virtual ghost town since March 19.

Tenants say it has been a nightmarish three months.

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“Terrible. They’ve been devastating. We’re still paying rent. We can’t afford to pay it at this point,” said Anthony Di Maulo of Backstage Boutique.

The owners of Backstage Boutique say Cuomo’s latest mandate baffles them. He’s ordering malls to install special high-efficiency air filters before reopening.

“That can actually filter out the COVID virus,” Cuomo said.

Rockland County Executive Ed Day says he’s asked the administration for the science that justifies the decision.

“They had nothing. They spoke in generalities about social distancing, about six feet, wearing masks. It was all generalities,” Day said.

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Mall tenants point out that stores with direct entrances from the outside are open.

“Target is open. They have the same air conditioning they’ve had for years,” Di Maulo said.

“That’s all they’re asking for. Treat us like everyone else. That’s all anybody’s asking for here,” Day said.

The owner of Palisades Center, Pyramid Management Group, says New York is the only state keeping indoor malls closed. In Rockland County, you don’t have to go far to find a shopping mall that’s open, reported CBS2’s Tony Aiello.

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“Ten miles away in New Jersey, people are allowed to shop in the malls. This is killing us,” Di Maulo said.

CBS2 asked Gov. Phil Murphy‘s office if New Jersey considered mandating high-efficiency filters, and if malls are safe without them. We received no reply.

The Palisades owner calls the filter demand “unjustified.” It wants to reopen with social distancing in place, just like malls across the state line.

We also asked the Cuomo administration for the science that justifies the air filter mandate, and are waiting to hear back.

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