As representatives of Queens, we know the borough has its share of bad corporate citizens. We are currently working hard to confront bad corporate behavior by the Queens Center Mall and its retail giant, JC Penney.**
The Queens Center Mall is one of the most profitable in the country. The owner of the mall, Macerich Company, is the beneficiary of more than $100 million in public subsidies granted through tax breaks.
What has this public investment brought? It has helped enable Macerich to reap $876 in sales per square foot in a mall that occupies one million square feet of space. This adds up to almost $1 billion a year.
In stark contrast, for members of our community, the public investment has brought poverty wage jobs and a neighbor who hogs what should be shared resources.
An example of the mall owner and managers bad corporate behavior can be found in this paper’s March 10th editorial entitled Queens Center Mall: Giving Space But Lacking Spirit Indeed. According to reports, since 2004, the mall management has placed fake NYPD signs over street parking meters to steer patrons into the malls more costly garage.
This is unacceptable corporate behavior and a violation of the law. As elected officials, we refuse to allow corporate actors to profit from such behavior at the expense of community members.
As the elected representatives of the district where the mall is located, we are calling on the NYPD to investigate the malls parking meter caper. If it is found to be unlawful, mall management should be prosecuted and ordered to make restitution to the community.
Another prime example of what is wrong at the mall is the recent behavior of JC Penney. Despite being one of the most profitable JC Penney stores in the country, a number of full-time employees, some with more than 20 years of service to the company, recently had their hours cut, and 25 part-time employees were fired.
In response to employees growing discontent, JC Penney is now conducting an anti-union campaign that includes captive-audience meetings where workers are told, in so many words, that the management does not want them to join a union. This is a violation of workers rights and must stop.
We are very concerned about what is happening at the Queens Center Mall. We have reached out to the mall owner and manager to encourage them to begin transforming what has effectively become the communitys main street into a place that provides services such as job training, ESL classes, financial counseling and meeting space.
The mall, as a facet of the Queens community, should be a place where workers can earn a living wage and improve their lives by joining a union without fear of employer intimidation and retribution. It should be a place of justice and prosperity, not oppression.
Daniel Dromm and Julissa Ferreras are members of the City Council, and Jose Peralta represents the district in the State Senate.
**Make the Road New York is a leading member of the campaign to win living wages for workers at the Queens Center Mall