Kings Plaza Mall is working to repair its image in the wake of recent disturbances, but some locals say the push is coming too late to undo the damage.
Mall managers issued a belated mea culpa for a poor public response following two incidents at the shopping center involving large groups of unruly kids. Residents said management did not take seriously requests to appear before civic groups, and a representative from Macerich, which purchased the mall a year ago, acknowledged at a March 11 meeting of the Bergen Beach Civic Association that it was a bad decision.
“I wish I’d done that differently,” said Don Pott, Macerich’s vice president of property management. “I wish we had come.”
Residents said they felt ignored after more than 100 rowdy teens descended on the mall on Dec. 26 last year, and Macerich downplayed the incident. A similar scenario unfolded on Feb. 17, resulting in two arrests for disorderly conduct, but locals felt mall management tried to minimize that incident as well.
Compounding that image Tuesday night, Macerich brought five representatives to the civic meeting, but none were from the company’s security department. After several security-related questions from residents, Pott called Macerich’s vice president of security and had him give answers over the phone.
A chief concern among locals was whether Kings Plaza was brushing incidents under the rug rather than reporting them to police. Pott said that was not the case.
“We don’t skew numbers. We don’t not report things,” he said.
The mall reports all violations of New York State penal code to the 63rd Precinct, said Anthony Lauro, Macerich’s vice president of security. He said police do not arrest minors for low-level crimes, and the police department had no grounds to arrest teens for simply congregating or being noisy.
But infringements on Kings Plaza’s code of conduct, which includes prohibitions on saggy pants and groups of three or more teens, do not necessarily warrant informing police, Pott said.
“They don’t want to know if we threw a kid out because he didn’t pull up his pants,” he said.
Pott said Macerich is installing new lighting and security cameras in the mall and parking garage, but it will not implement valet parking.
In addition, two officers from the 63rd precinct will patrol the mall, said 63 precinct commanding officer Deputy Inspector John Rowell. They will arrive at 1 pm — before schools let out — and stay until the Kings Plaza closes, he said.
But locals pointed out that the increased police security takes officers off the street and taxpayers will be paying for it rather than Macerich.
“If there’s two cops who are not walking the beat, that is very problematic for this community,” said Bergen Beach Civic Association president Michael Benjamin.
Pott countered the mall deserves some police presence as well.
“We’re taxpayers too, and we pay a lot of taxes,” he said.
Councilman Alan Maisel (D–Canarsie) agreed with Pott, pointing out that the mall and its shops are among the borough’s top sources of tax revenue.
“They’re entitled to the police, but, internally, they have to do a better job of increasing security,” said Maisel, who also repeated a call for Kings Plaza to pay off-duty cops to provide security.
Some residents maintained the mall is unsafe, but others acknowledged Macerich’s attempts to improve security and called for more communication to reassure the public.
“This is an urban area, and we realize we’re not living in Lollypop Land — this is Brooklyn,” said resident Donna Cafiero. “But we need to know there is a partnership between the mall and the community.”
©2014 Community News Group
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