New-York News

Westfield blames crime at Fulton Transit Center for scaring off retail tenants

The real estate firm that oversees the Fulton Transit Center claims persistent crime and unruly behavior has scared off tenants and is forcing the company to break its lease with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, court records show.

Global retail giant Westfield argues that businesses at the commuter hub reported multiple incidents of theft, vandalism and assaults on workers. Westfield noted that several businesses, such as Haagen Dazs, Wetzel’s Pretzels and Pressed Juicery, have abandoned the Fulton Transit Center. The closures have pushed Westfield to pull out of its 20-year lease to run the center only about a decade into the agreement. The decision triggered a lawsuit from the MTA, arguing in federal court in Manhattan that the company has no basis to terminate its contract early.

Westfield fiercely objected Friday in response to the MTA’s lawsuit. The firm submitted crime reports, photos of damage and correspondence to transit officials over many years about the company’s concerns. Hyura Choi, an attorney for Westfield, said a commercially viable operation at the Fulton Transit Center has become “untenable.”

“For years, Westfield has repeatedly notified the MTA about the unsafe conditions,” Choi wrote in a Feb. 12 letter to the MTA which was submitted in court. “Multiple tenants have left, citing concerns about safety and security, and additional tenants have expressed a desire to leave, remaining only due to significant economic incentives Westfield has offered (to its financial detriment) simply to keep spaces occupied and help save these local businesses.”

Westfield’s efforts to pull out of the Fulton Transit Center come at a time when elected officials and the MTA have desperately fought the perception that subway use is dangerous.

Mayor Eric Adams beefed up the NYPD’s presence beginning in February with 1,000 additional officers assigned to patrol the system. Then last week Gov. Kathy Hochul added 750 National Guard soldiers to help the NYPD check bags for weapons at entrances. The governor cited a brief spike in the rate of major crimes in January, though by February the rate had fallen again.

MTA spokeswoman Joana Flores defended subway safety. “While we are unable to comment on specific pending litigation, we have full confidence in the NYPD, which has surged officers into the subway, to ensure safety across the transit system, including at Fulton Center,” she said.

Court records show that in correspondence dating back to 2018, Westfield Senior Vice President of Development John Marshall raised concerns about unsanitary conditions created by people sleeping in the Fulton Center. At the time, Marshall argued, “such behavior engenders an unsafe and unsanitary feeling” and “discourages foot traffic.”

Westfield is arguing that the MTA is bound by its lease terms to maintain security at the transit hub, and that despite talks with transit officials, the authority has failed to live up to that obligation.

Photos submitted by Westfield document damage to the transit center and workers. One image features a security guard with a bloody nose. Others show broken storefront windows. Another photo shows a fist fight that broke out at the concourse.

Westfield says it has spent roughly $700,000 to address damage at the center.


Caroline Spivack , 2024-03-13 17:45:09

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