Assemblymember Wallace, Supervisor Benczkowski, Local Business Leaders Call for Reopening Indoor Shopping Malls in Phase 3

Assemblymember Wallace, joined by coalition of elected officials and business leaders, asks state to reopen malls with safety measures to preserve hundreds of local businesses, thousands of jobs, important sources of revenue for local governments
June 16, 2020

Today, Assemblymember Monica P. Wallace (D-Lancaster), Cheektowaga Town Supervisor Diane Benczkowski and local business leaders joined together to urge New York State to reopen indoor shopping malls in Phase 3 of the state’s reopening and to issue clear guidance on the safety measures that malls will have to implement upon reopening. Including indoor shopping malls in Phase 3 of the reopening would allow malls in Western New York and across most of the state to reopen immediately, and would benefit thousands of businesses and tens of thousands of employees who work in malls.

Malls across the state are crucial to the economy, providing jobs, income, and revenue for local governments. The Walden Galleria alone hosts over 200 retailers, dozens of restaurants, and several entertainment establishments. The Galleria also employs 4,255 people, pays $60 million in total payroll, and contributed about $45.5 million in annual taxes to New York State, local governments, and school districts in 2019. Shopping malls across Upstate New York collectively employ tens of thousands of people and pay hundreds of millions in total taxes.

Without clear guidance from the state and a prompt reopening timeline, many of these businesses in malls face an uncertain future. Assemblymember Wallace, Supervisor Benczkowski, and local business leaders ask the state to allow businesses in malls to reopen alongside their industry counterparts in Phase 3. The state has now allowed retailers, restaurants, professional services, and big box stores elsewhere to reopen with limited capacity and face mask requirements. The continued decline of COVID cases and hospitalizations, despite the continued reopening, shows that these public health regulations are effective at preventing the spread of COVID. Therefore, malls should be allowed to reopen immediately with appropriate safety measures, such as limited capacity, restricted gathering spaces, and face mask requirements.

“Every day that malls stay closed, thousands of workers remain unemployed, thousands of businesses remain shuttered, and local governments continue to miss out on crucial revenue,” said Assemblymember Wallace. “Meanwhile, big box stores have remained open throughout the pandemic, and other retailers were allowed to reopen weeks ago. The continued drop in COVID cases shows face mask requirements and other social distancing measures can be effective at containing COVID while businesses reopen. We urge the state to immediately give businesses in malls the same opportunity to reopen safely.”

“As we move forward in New York's reopening process, protecting public health remains the top priority,” said Senator Tim Kennedy. “Across the nation, nearly half of the states that have reopened have seen a spike in COVID-19 cases. Now more than ever, it's imperative that all businesses, including those at the Galleria Mall, have clear guidelines on what to expect during the reopening process, so that they can safely and responsibly prepare to welcome customers through their doors once again.”

“As town supervisor, I put the health and safety of our town residents first,” said Supervisor Benczkowski. “I completely supported the need for emergency public health measures due to COVID-19. That said, with other retail stores opening, I urge Governor Cuomo to reconsider re-opening of malls and allow them to safely re-open now. Our town relies on the strong sales tax revenue generated by the Walden Galleria. The Walden Galleria can enact the same social distancing measures that other retailers are complying with. This would be a major boost to Cheektowaga’s economy and put laid off employees back to work.”

“The Cheektowaga Chamber of Commerce represents businesses of all sizes and industries across the community,” said Kristina Groff, President and CEO of the Cheektowaga Chamber of Commerce. “We feel that the Walden Galleria is an invaluable part of Western New York’s economy and has contributed significantly to the region’s economic revitalization. The ability of the Walden Galleria to reopen, in accordance with the NY Forward Phased Reopening guidelines on retail facilities, will play a crucial role in the long-term economic recovery of the Town of Cheektowaga and the Western New York region.”

“The BFLO Store is equipped and ready to safely open all of its interior mall locations, including Walden Galleria store once the green light is given,” said Nathan Mroz, owner and founder of The BFLO Store. “Each day the lockdown on malls continues, the less likely it is that these small retailers will survive. The spread has been slowed, and as we have learned from essential businesses and retailers that have reopened, we can continue to contain COVID with the proper PPE, social distancing, and frequent sanitizing.”

“We are trying to survive,” said Marlene Gigliotti, owner of Euphoria Salon and Spa. “Every day that we are not open is a huge impact on our business.”

“This is about our livelihoods. If Walmart is open, the mall stores should be open,” said Mark Andol, owner and founder of The Made in America Store.

“While I am excited to finally reopen, I am very concerned about the mall remaining closed,” said Jim Materese, franchise owner of The Melting Pot. “The closure will be detrimental to my business and the earning potential of my staff. I rely heavily on the mall traffic to fill my seats. It's time to put guidelines in place to safely open the mall as soon as possible."

Brief overview of the Walden Galleria’s impacts on the Western New York economy:

  • More than 200 stores and businesses
  • 4,255 employees with a total payroll of about $60 million
  • $36.1 million in sales tax revenue ($16.5 million for the state, $14.9 million for Erie County, and $4.67 million for the Town of Cheektowaga)
  • $10.5 million in annual property taxes