WEST NYACK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Voters in one suburb are deciding an unusual referendum this election cycle.
They’re voting on whether to allow a mall to rent out unused space in its attic.
In March 1998, shoppers flocked to the newly opened Palisades Center. Even on opening day, there were concerns the big mall would grow even bigger.
Back then, the developer told CBS2 they agreed not to rent the top floor.
“We and the town agreed that we were going to put it off,” he said.
Twenty-two years later, with the internet threatening brick-and-mortar retail compounded by the pandemic, Clarkstown voters are being asked to lift the restrictive covenant that prevents the mall from leasing 200,000 square feet in its fourth-floor attic.
The mall believes unfinished, high-ceiling space would appeal to a variety of possible tenants not interested in retro-fitting a former anchor store such as the empty JCPenney or Lord and Taylor.
In the ’90s, the Rockland County executive opposed construction of the mall.
Today, he’s urging voters to allow Palisades to expand.
“We can either have the people invest in the mall and continue paying property taxes and then some and sales taxes, or we can let it wither and die and that’s just not really a viable option right now,” Rockland County Executive Ed Day said.
Bronte Menswear store owner Eddie Tawfik says shopping malls must adapt and become retail and entertainment destinations. He’s voting to lift the space restriction.
“Gonna have more traffic in the mall. More traffic means more business,” he said.
Voters waiting in the early voting line at Clarkstown Town Hall shared their opinions with CBS2’s Tony Aiello.
“People doing online shopping. The mall’s not doing well even before COVID, so I don’t see any reason to expand it,” Melissa Alexander said.
Voter Bob Jay says he’s going to vote yes.
“For the tax base alone,” he said.
A referendum to expand the mall was defeated in 2002. A lot has changed since then and supporters are counting on approval this time around.
Earlier this year, the Clarkstown Council signaled its approval, voting unanimously to put the mall referendum on the ballot.
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