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Sunrise Mall in Massapequa tells tenants to vacate, leaving store owners and employees scrambling

Sunrise Mall on Long Island shutting down 02:20

MASSAPEQUA, N.Y. -- Many malls on Long Island were struggling even before the pandemic hit, and now one major mall is telling its tenants to vacate.

There are just 50 tenants left in the once bustling Sunrise Mall sitting on 77 acres in Massapequa. Soon there will be none.

"I grew up in this area. This is the mall we always came to, and to just see it go..." mall patron Nikki Bamundo said.

"Oh, I think Amazon killed it. Amazon and the whole digital entity of ordering stuff online is the main reason that malls are shutting down nowadays," mall patron Kevin Winston said.

The Sunrise Mall has been a mainstay in Massapequa since 1973. Now, stores will be looking for new homes or closing permanently. Employees and owners are scrambling.

"For me, I'm heading to the military. That's my only option ... For other people here with small businesses, they might take it online," said David Fuentes, of Custom Tees.

When Walmart, JCPenney and Sears pulled out, the writing was on the wall.

Urban Edge Properties of Manhattan, which purchased the struggling mall, hopes for an orderly transition as specific leases expire over the next year..

"I'm gonna miss it. A lot of people are going to lose their jobs," mall patron Tracey Morrison said.

"What do you like about the mall?" CBS2's Jennifer McLogan asked 9-year-old Janelle Morrison.

"To look at and touch things," Janelle said.

The property is zoned for commercial or light industrial. Residential development wouldn't be allowed unless the town board approves a zoning change.

"We certainly would like to see some form of residential ... Because there is a tremendous housing need on Long Island," said Eric Alexander, with Vision Long Island.

Long Island's eight major malls are at a turning point as foot traffic ebbs and flows, especially since the pandemic. Many smaller store owners who signed leases unwittingly are not surviving.

"The mom-and-pops are likely going to be out of it unless they negotiated a clause in their lease when they first signed it. The issue now is when you sign a lease, it's a 'speak now or forever hold your peace,'" said Andrew Lieb, managing attorney at Lieb At Law.

The most passionate seem to be the mall walkers

"They are going to not renew leases," one person said.

"We've been walking here for over 20 years," another person said.

"Terrible what they're doing to us," another person said.

If affordable housing can't be brought in, many want innovation and technology companies for stable and lucrative jobs.

The advocacy group Ignite Long Island, meanwhile, says now is a good time to diversify malls with local, home-grown businesses.

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