Queens Center Mall
A Poverty Wage Center in Elmhurst
Elmhurst, Queens, is a bustling neighborhood, one of the most ethnically diverse in New
York City. Throughout the day, Elmhurst is teeming with kids playing and walking to and
from school, and people hanging out, talking, and shopping at the numerous stores that
line the neighborhood’s main streets.
Standing above it all, at one of the busiest intersections in Queens, is the massive Queens
Center Mall, situated at the intersection of Queens Boulevard and Woodhaven Boulevard.
Originally built in 1973 over the ruins of a children’s amusement park called Fairyland, the
mall prospered, with its growth culminating in a massive expansion between 2002 and
2004. The $275 million expansion doubled the size of the mall, resulting in a site with
961,559 gross leaseable square feet and 175 stores.
The current owner of the mall is Macerich, one of the country’s largest owners of malls. The
company owns 95 malls in the U.S., and bought the mall in 1995.
The Queens Center Mall is among the most profitable malls in the entire country. In 2008,
the mall had sales of $876 per square foot. The mall’s location, ample parking, and accessibility
via the buses and subway trains that converge there generate foot traffic of over 26
million visitors annually.
J.C. Penney and Macy’s are the mall’s largest “anchor” stores, with both posting increasing
annual profits before the economic downturn.
TAX ABATEMENTS FUEL GROWTH
The growth of Queens Center Mall and the Macerich company has been aided by property
tax abatements that have cost the city of New York tens of millions of dollars. Under the
Industrial & Commercial Incentive Program, which recently became the Industrial & Commercial
Abatement Program, the Queens Center Mall property saved over $48 million in
property taxes between 2004 and 2009. It is predicted that total reductions of tax bills due
to ICIP and ICAP exemptions between 2004 and 2019 at Queens Center Mall will exceed
These tax breaks have helped Macerich’s bottom line, with sales increasing from $623 per
square foot at the time of the 1995 purchase to $876 per square foot in 2008. Whether in
boom times or an economic recession, Queens Center Mall remains one of the most profi table
malls per square foot in the entire country.
*Because future tax rates have yet to be determined, this estimated predicted tax savings
utilizes a 15-year averaged tax rate of the class 4 tax rates from 1994/1995 through and
including 2008/2009 for tax years going forward.
Besides tax breaks and its location at one of Queen’s busiest intersections, Queens Center
Mall owes much of its success to New York City-run public transit. The mall is served by
three New York City subway lines and 10 bus routes.
What has the community of Elmhurst, Queens, and New York City gotten for its millions
of dollars in tax breaks? Not much, according to local residents and employees working
at Queens Center Mall.
A POVERTY WAGE CENTER
While foot traffic, sales, and profits are sky high at Queens Center Mall, wages paid at the
stores at the mall for working people in the community are very low, and in some past
cases, were so low they violated the law. There are about 3,100 jobs at the mall. The vast
majority of the jobs are for retail workers, with a smaller number of people employed as
security and mall maintenance.
A survey conducted at various stores at Queens Center Mall found that there are few fulltime
jobs and most jobs paid at or slightly above the $7.25 federal minimum wage. The
average starting wage at the 25 Queens Center Mall stores studied was $7.72 cents per
hour. One store, the Ranch 1 restaurant, was offering new hires $6.75 an hour, a violation
of New York labor law. Footco USA and Yellow Rat Bastard, both of whom have or have had
stores at Queens Center Mall, were revealed in the past to be paying illegal poverty wages
before their workers unionized and joined the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store
Union. Moreover, very few of the jobs available are full-time.
According to interviews with workers at Queens Center Mall, their pay is not enough to live
on in Elmhurst, Queens. Click the pdf icon to download the full report.
More on: Workplace Justice