Plattsburgh mall tenants plead with Cuomo to reopen

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) New York Governor Andrew Cuomo last week said the reopening of malls will not take place as part of the state's phase 4 plans. The extended closure with no end in sight has left tenants at the Champlain Centre mall in Plattsburgh frustrated.

"It's very bad," said Simpson Ntuien, who runs a nail salon that has now been closed down for nearly four months. He's even more frustrated that it's still closed, given Clinton County's one active COVID-19 case. "There's nothing here. We keep staying home for three months -- no money, no working."

Champlain Centre is a small mall compared to malls in large cities. It's home to 51 stores and over 900 employees. Nearly 500 of them do not work in an anchor store with separate entrances, so they are still out of work until further notice.

"How unfair is it that our small businesses and their employees cannot open back up right inside that building when other businesses around here can. It's unfair. We want to level the playing field and we should do so today," said Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Plattsburgh.

Governor Cuomo says the issue with opening mall stores with no outside doors comes down to air filtration. He says malls will be required to use specialized filters for their air conditioning systems to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

But those in Plattsburgh say the air isn't the issue. "The air filtration system in this mall works the same as it does in any big box store," said Greg Nephew with Lake City Hobbies.

Local law makers, business leaders, and tenants of Champlain Centre gathered Monday outside the mall to voice their frustration. "we feel this is extremely unfair. We'd like to know what we need to do to get open, and at this point there are a lot of us that are in danger of not surviving," Nephew said.

Mall tenant first thought they fell under phase two, then phase three, then phase four. But now that the North Country region has met all those requirements, there's still no word of an open date for the interior of the mall.

"What is the path forward? Plattsburgh has led the region and New York state many times over. Let this be another one of those moments," said Plattsburgh Town Supervisor Michael Cashman.

They are making their plea to the governor to consider opening the Champlain Centre as a trial run for malls across the state. "If you aren't quite ready to reopen mall interiors in downstate New York, start with the region that is the lowest risk and has done the best job at being prepared for this. Open the one region, let it be the trial," said Garry Douglas with the North Country Chamber of Commerce.