20-Year Covenant Is Lifted By Voter Referendum
NOTE: Updated Vote Counts, 11/19/2020
By Tina Traster
The Palisades Center is free to sharpen its pencils and draw its blueprints.
Citizens of the Town of Clarkstown in Tuesday’s referendum lifted the restriction that prohibited the Palisades Center for two decades from developing additional gross leasable space in the mall.
In a 25,563 to 18,662 tally — nearly a 60-40 split (unofficial count as of 11:51pm), voters said “yes” to the question: “Do you agree that the Town of Clarkstown shall lift the restrictive covenant that limits the Palisades Center Mall to 1.854 square feet of gross leasable space?”
“Retail is not the future,” said Councilman Donald Franchino. “The mall has to be repurposed.”
“I’m happy we got to first base and thankful the citizens of Clarkstown had the foresight to see what the future can be,” said Councilman Donald Franchino, who led the effort to the get referendum on the Nov. 3rd election ballot. “Now they are able to repurpose and reinvent the Palisades Center.”
The mall is now free to use 250,000 square feet of existing empty space on the fourth floor and build another 250,000 square feet outside the “four walls.” However, Supervisor George Hoehmann has said “any increase in the use of space is subject to the approval of the town’s planning board. This is not a blank check.”
Mall representatives did not return calls seeking comment.
The debate over a vote on the covenant to lift the restriction has been going on for years.
The mall and Clarkstown are still awaiting a ruling from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals over the mall’s efforts to lift the restrictions preventing it from expanding beyond its present 1.85 million square feet without voter approval.
Given that the Second Circuit Court of Appeals did not rule prior to Nov. 3rd and voters decided to let the mall expand, the suit might be moot. However, Pyramid Companies, which owns the mall, could file claims for attorney’s fees if the court determines it to be a “prevailing party,” and the case would be remanded back to the district court.
The Palisades Center, like malls across the nation, has been witnessing a shifting landscape of big box and department store retailers. In recent years, it has lost both J.C. Penney and Lord & Taylor, as well as Bed Bath & Beyond and a slew of other stores. The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated both the temporary and permanent closure of many retailers, restaurants, and entertainment companies, including Dave & Busters, which shuttered its mall location recently.
“Retail is not the future,” said Councilman Donald Franchino, who has been a strong proponent of bringing the issue to a vote and allowing the mall to expand its offerings. “The mall has to be repurposed.”
The long festering issue – the subject of litigation and much wrangling locally – is one Clarkstown voters got to decide by referendum, but it impacts the entire county. The Palisades Center pays approximately $43.5 million annually in property and sales taxes. To the county, the mall pays $1.4 million in taxes and an estimated sales tax of $22 million.
The town of Clarkstown receives $4.8 million in property taxes while Clarkstown School District takes in $14.3 million.