They came from all corners of the borough — and came ready to shop.
Bronx residents flooded the Bay Plaza Mall at its opening Thursday, August 14. And locals were raving about the selection and prices at the first suburban-style mall to open within city limits in 40 years.
“I love it,” beamed Grace Rosado of Country Club, soon after entering the high-ceilinged three-story complex.
Rosado said she usually shops at the Galleria in White Plains, or at the Westchester Mall. But she may be changing those plans soon.
“This is ideal for us,” said Rosado. “It’s indoors, so if the weather is lousy you can come here and spend a day here.”
Most of the people polled were Co-op City residents, who lined up to get the first glimpse of their new neighbors.
“I’m surprised, I didn’t think it was going to be this big,” said Craig Powlis, who lives at the co-operative.
Powlis was excited about the restaurants at the mall, which include an Olive Garden. But he was concerned about potential traffic leaving the complex.
“It’s easy to come in, but nobody’s going to be able to get out,” he said.
A crowd of shoppers lined up outside the mall before the 10 a.m ribbon cutting. Inside, another line formed at the H&M store. Staffers blasted pop radio and held a makeshft dance party to greet the branch’s first shoppers.
“It’s a really big deal for us,” gushed 16-year-old Liana Garrison, a Co-op City resident who was waiting in the H&M line. “We used to have to go to the Palisades [mall in West Nyack], Ridge Hill [mall in Westchester] or Cross County [mall in Yonkers]. Now they’re right across the street from us.”
Better commute for workers
Shoppers weren’t the only Bronxites pumped about the mall’s opening.Officials said that nearly 90% of the 1,800 employees hired at the mall are from the Bronx — the state’s most unemployed county.
“Now I don’t have to pay 14 dollars every day just to go back and forth from work,” said Manny Fortuna, a manager at Lids who used to work at a mall in Queens.
“I would have never taken this job if it wasn’t in the Bronx,” said Letty Maldonado, a Fordham resident who works as a manager at Journeys, a fashion apparel store.
But not every shopper was pleased with the offerings. The mall opened at around 71% capacity, with some stores still boarded up. Mall brass do not expect the complex to be fully open until next summer.
“I came to spend my money, but not all of the stores are open yet!,” griped Tae Bruno from Allerton.
One local teenager had another suggestion — spice up the mall with some non-shopping activities.
“They should have games, some more things here to entertain teenagers besides shopping,” said 16-year-old Ladesha Grant.
–with Jaime Williams