En Español Know Your Rights
Source: Queens Courier
Subject: Workplace Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Mall Target of Wage Criticism

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.