Some of the most popular malls on this site have been in the tri-state area, so rather than keep you waiting, I’m offering up another:
Green acres is the place for me.
Farm livin’ is the life for me.
Land spreadin’ out so far and wide
Keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside.
The Green Acres Mall is a large, old shopping mall located just barely outside of New York city limits on Sunrise Highway in Valley Stream, a Long Island suburb. At 1,635,000 square feet, it’s one of the largest malls on Long Island, and also the second oldest, after Roosevelt Field.
The Green Acres Mall was developed by the New York-based Chanin corporation, and first opened in 1956 replacing Curtiss Airfield, and was one of the first suburban shopping centers in the New York metropolitan area. The mall’s name is somewhat indicative of the post-war optimism of the time; it was an era when this area’s population was rapidly exploding, and it was necessary to provide more out-of-town shopping options to the sprawling Levittowns of Long Island. A four-level, 266,000 square-foot Gimbel’s (the westernmost anchor) was the only initial anchor to the center, but a Lane’s opened at the mall’s east end four years later. JCPenney also opened a smaller inline store at the mall’s center court at some point, and they remain in this location to today. In 1967, a 320,000 square-foot Alexander’s department store opened in the front of (but apparently not connected to) the mall. Initially, the center was open air, but in 1968 the entire center was enclosed, as was the trend at the time.
The original center was a more basic dumbell design. but a 3 level expansion and renovation in 1983 added the wing closest to Sunrise Highway along with a new Sears store. A brand new food court was added to this wing at some point as well, though I have my doubts it was right in the original 1983 expansion. In 1986, the Gimbel’s store became an Abraham & Straus (and here’s a GREAT photo of it), which would remain until 1995 when the nameplate was retired in favor of Macy’s. The Lane’s store, at the mall’s east end, would be home to many different nameplates over the years. The store became a Love’s in the late 1960s, before becoming an S. Klein for ten years or so. EJ Korvette’s then replaced the S. Klein store, which in the 1980s became a location for Queens-based Gertz before being rebranded as a Stern’s. Stern’s lasted until 2001, before becoming half of the Macy’s location at the mall, which it remains until now. The Alexander’s store closed in 1992 and was completely demolished, and replaced somewhat nearby by a Caldor store, which, well, geez, that didn’t work out so well either. Gone by 1999. It’s a Target now.
In 2003, a Walmart opened in a strip center on the mall’s outlots, replacing an old Kmart store. Although this wouldn’t normally be big news, this particular Walmart was the site of a major news story in fall of 2008, when a Walmart employee was trampled to death by a mob obsessed with Black Friday bargains.
The mall was again renovated in 2006-2007 to remove a lot of the neon accoutrements left over from the 1983 re-do: our two sets of photos date from 2001 (I think) and 2007, so before and after this most recent remodel. I’ll let you guess which is which because let’s be honest, it’s not that hard.
Despite all of the changes to Green Acres Mall over years, it has remained successful. It’s still one of the largest/only malls serving the adjacent part of Queens, and it is a vital shopping destination for the older inner ring suburbs not far from JFK Airport. Even though it seems the demographics have evolved over the years–from the post-war GI Bill-driven veteran sprawl to a plethora of ethnic and racial groups that shop at the mall today–it seems to be largely similar, serving a large middle income audience in the older suburbs of this part of New York.
The mall’s anchors today are Macy’s (two stores), JCPenney, Sears, and Kohls.
More on the mall: