From the Village Voice:
As shoppers scurried to snatch up last minute gifts inside the Queens Center Mall, local elected officials and community organizations painted the shopping destination's landlord, Macerich, as the latest Grinch in the ongoing fight for living wages -- just days after the city council rejected a Kingsbridge Armory plan that had no living wage requirement.
Most of the 3,100 retail workers in the sprawling urban mall earn $7.25 an hour.
Standing on a snowy corner of Queens Boulevard, Santa symbolically held gift-wrapped boxes marked "living wages." A menacing green Dr. Seuss character represented the mall owner. Activists from Make the Road New York, a citywide organization focusing on economic justice, demanded that the landlord place a living wage clause in its leases -- which would require stores to pay $10/hour with benefits, or $11.50 without.
Yesterday the group released its Dickensian report, "Queens Center Mall a Poverty Wage Center in Elmhurst," illustrating the travails of low-income New Yorkers and arguing that the millions of dollars in tax abatements received by Macerich should translate into benefits for its employees, including a living wage and the right to unionize. They also beseeched the owner to create community space.
Like many major commercial property owners in New York, Macerich saved $48 million in taxes through the Industrial and Commercial Abatement Program between 2004 and 2009. Make the Road New York predicted that by 2018 those abatements will total $129 million.
Andrew Friedman, the group's co-executive director, said the city shouldn't dole out abatements without requiring a living wage as some municipalities across the nation do.