STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. - The Christmas tree is lit — a festive reminder to shoppers that the busy holiday shopping season is already underway. But it wasn’t bargains that drew residents to the Staten Island mall Monday night. It was something else entirely— security at the massive retail space.
"We want mall security and the mall and Brookfield properties to understand that this is a serious issue," said Kelly McLoughlin, a shopper.
McLoughlin says she and her wife, Carmen Velasquez, were walking outside the mall last Monday night when a group of young people shouted at her and poked fun at McLoughlin’s weight. When Velasquez questioned why they were being disrespectful, she says she was quickly surrounded by the group - seen in a Facebook video - and taunted, spit on and cursed at.
“I couldn’t believe what was going on. I couldn’t believe what was going on. I thought I was imagining things. There were no police around there was no security; my wife had to flag the police, the security around. He didn’t care," Velasquez said.
The incident is the latest black eye for the newly expanded mall, which has been the scene of several violent incidents this year.
This summer, several young girls were attacked by other teenagers. The NYPD increased patrols then - and several months passed without report of another incident. But Monday night, residents were back outside the mall again, urging the malls management company to increase security permanently to prevent these attacks from happening.
"No one can stop children from behaving badly. We have to kind of divert that. But there has to be a police presence. It’s time we have police presence at the mall," said Sam Pirrozzolo, an activist.
Pirrozzolo led a group of residents inside the mall to deliver a letter, urging mall tenants to ask mall management to make the space safer. In a statement, Brookfield properties blamed the incidents on unruly kids saying, "We are aware of the concerns and can assure the community we are taking this very seriously. We are disheartened that these young people from Staten Island are using our center as a location for their terrible behavior."
It continues “Our center is working diligently to implement additional security measures and are meeting regularly with our partners at NYPD.”
Residents say they’ve spoken with the mall‘s management company, Brookfield Properties Group, to set up a meeting to discuss next steps. It's unclear when that meeting will take place.