WOODBRIDGE – Woodbridge Mayor John E. McCormac has joined mayors with large indoor mall and shopping operations asking Gov. Phil Murphy to consider allowing malls to reopen as soon as possible as part of the state’s “Stage 2 Restart and Recovery plan” set to begin on June 15.
“Woodbridge Center Mall, one of New Jersey’s largest indoor malls can provide for proper social distancing which will keep patrons and employees safe,” he said in a release on June 9.
McCormac joins Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage, Paramus Mayor Rich LaBarbiera, Bridgewater Mayor Matthew Moench and Wayne Mayor Chris Vergano on the request.
Bollwage represents Jersey Gardens, LaBarbiera represents Paramus Park, Bergen Town Center and Westfield Garden State Plaza, which is the state’s largest mall, Moench represents Bridgewater Commons, and Vergano represents Willowbrook Mall.
The malls have been closed since March 17 due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. As the state begins to enter stage two of the multi-phase reopening plan, Murphy has said stores in the mall with direct access to exterior doors are allowed to open, however, has said the state is not ready to open the inside of malls. On May 18, the state allowed non-essential retail stores to offer curbside pickup.
“We commend and appreciate the leadership of the administration during these most difficult times,” LaBarbiera said. “We are encouraged by the ongoing steps to reopen businesses and hope that malls too can reopen on June 15.”
Bollwage said Jersey Gardens “provides millions of dollars in revenue to [Elizabeth] while providing for hundreds of jobs for our residents.”
Moench said Bridgewater Township has not been able to collect revenue associated with the township’s profit sharing with Bridgewater Commons, which the mayor said will “result in higher property taxes and more financial burden on our residents.”
Vergano said Willowbrook Mall is the largest taxpayer in Wayne. The long closure “is hurting our economy severely,” he said.
The state’s Stage 2 Restart and Recovery plan allows for outdoor dining and the reopening of non-essential stores on June 15. Additionally, Stage 2 allows for hair salons, barber shops and nail salons to reopen on June 22.
The call to reopen malls from the mayors comes on the same day Murphy lifted the state’s stay-at-home order, which went into effect on March 21. The governor on June 9 also increased limits on the number of people who can gather indoors from 10 to 50 people or 25% of a building’s capacity and 25 to 100 people outdoors. The numbers of people allowed to gather outdoors will increase to 250 people on June 22 and 500 people on July 3.