By Joseph Ostapiuk | Updated Nov 18, 2019
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — A rally was held at the Staten Island Mall Monday night in the wake of a frightening encounter with a group of teenagers that left two women badly shaken — the latest incident after a string of alleged assaults at the location caused police to ramp-up their presence last summer.
Despite the NYPD’s increased presence in the immediate aftermath of the summer attacks, protestors on Monday said they felt that security at the mall is still a profoundly concerning issue and they believed that the most recent incident indicated that not enough is being done to protect shoppers.
Kelly McLoughlin, who was a victim of the Nov. 11 incident in which a group of about 10 teenagers threw items, shouted profanities and spit at McLoughlin and her two friends, said the rally’s purpose was to “make sure that nobody gets hurt again.”
Attended by over a dozen people, the rally was initially held in the courtyard of the mall, where a significant police presence grew, comprising multiple NYPD vehicles, a K-9 unit and mall security. One attendee said the security was “very intimidating.”
“I feel like I’m the criminal,” she said.
McGloughlin echoed that sentiment. “This doesn’t surprise me because it’s the mall trying to make us the villain,” she said. “We’re not the villain. We’re here for your family. We’re here for everybody’s family.”
Sam Pirozzolo, the Staten Islander infamous for erecting a 16-foot-tall wooden Trump “T” and a current City Council hopeful — who was integral in organizing the rally — said he’s been in contact with Brookfield Properties Group, which owns the Staten Island Mall, in an effort to create a security plan moving forward.
However, Pirozzolo said he hoped the rally “wouldn’t be met with this presence,” referencing the number of officers who stood outside the entrance to the mall Monday night.
“It’s a shame that that presence is here for people who’ve been attacked, yet after people get attacked and there are criminals that are still on the premises, there is no police presence,” Pirozzolo said.
“Not only is there no police presence, the mall security doesn’t want to do anything,” Pirozzolo added. “This is backward to the way security is supposed to be.”
“It appears that Brookfield Properties Group and the security at the Staten Island Mall do not seem interested in keeping your shoppers safe,” said Protect Our Kids, a victim advocacy group which also organized the rally, in a release.
Lindsay Kahn, a senior manager of public relations for Brookfield Properties Group, said in a statement that the company takes the community’s concerns “very seriously.”
“We are disheartened that these young people from Staten Island are using our center as a location for their terrible behavior,” the statement said. “We have spoken directly with the organizers of tonight’s gathering and our local officials about possible solutions for this community problem. Our center is working diligently to implement additional security measures and are meeting regularly with our partners at NYPD.”
“We will not discuss our security program publicly because to do so would compromise its effectiveness,” the statement continued. “There is nothing more important than the safety and well-being of our customers and retailers and we maintain a strict code of conduct that is enforced at all times.”
The NYPD did not respond to a request for comment regarding the department’s response.
Minority Leader Steven Matteo tweeted on Monday that he has “had ongoing discussions with the Mall in regard to their security plan.”
According to Matteo, management from the mall said that it continues to augment and transform its security program, including efforts to increase security staffing and K-9 patrol in the mall during after-school hours, evenings and holidays, among other initiatives.
“Everyone who visits and shops at the Mall should be safe and I will continue to have discussions with Mall Management,” Matteo tweeted.
The rally moved inside the mall shortly after 6:30 p.m., and protestors then handed out fliers to managers of retail venues, imploring that they “join the shoppers of Staten Island in demanding a significant improvement in security, public relations and a permanent police presence at the mall.”
Multiple participants said they were met with support from managers inside the stores.
Joseph “Joey Salads” Saladino — a pro-Trump congressional candidate who attended the rally, said: “I think the mall security needs to tighten up, especially during the holiday season.” He stressed the importance of being able “to ensure the people that they can come and they can shop in peace and not have to worry about people starting trouble.”
While Pirozzolo and other protesters are confident that the mall management will work to increase police presence during the holiday season, there are concerns that it will diminish after the heavy-shopping period ends.
To combat the possible de-escalation of security, Pirozzolo said he intends to continue to extend community-driven efforts.
Pirozzolo said Brookfield Property intends to create a task force in early December to brainstorm solutions to the problems that have recently plagued the location.
“Now is the time for our voices to be heard,” he said.
Read the article on the Staten Island Advance website at https://www.silive.com/news/2019/11/rally-held-at-staten-island-mall-in-wake-of-violent-encounter.html