Ridge Hill, the vast new outdoor mall, a public common of commerce perched on a hillside overlooking the New York Thruway in Yonkers, is a study in contrasts and ironies.
Long billed as both a resuscitator of the local economy and the ruin of local traffic patterns, Ridge Hill, at least by early indications, is amounting to neither.
By no means can you call it a dead mall walking. First off, stores are still in the process of opening. Moreover, during Christmas and over the weekend, Ridge Hill draws its share of crowds to stores that run the gamut from Cheesecake Factory to Sephora. There is also a movie theatre and -- count ‘em -- three sporting good/outdoor stores: Dick’s, LL Bean and REI.
But during the week, Rivertown residents in the surrounding communities of Dobbs Ferry, Irvington and Hastings have been raising brows over just how desolate Ridge Hill is. “Tumbleweed City,” someone honked and snorted at the bus stop recently, and several recent weekday visits bore that out. Trolleys there to transport shoppers across the vast complex passed nearly empty. Stores, with no shortage of “50 percent off” and “clearance” signs, appeared cavernous. The sidewalks languished, near empty. A notably light load of weekday shoppers puts outsized pressure on weekend business—one can only imagine how challenged their January sales numbers might be with the Saturday snowstorm two weeks ago knocking out business that day.
Speaking for Ridge Hill, Kathy Welch said in a statement that the mall is: “Extremely pleased at the response we’ve gotten from customers. We opened up a limited number of stores and have been moving right along. The more stores we open up, the greater the response.”
Read between the lines and you can see the underlying reality: we hope it improves. It very well might. The staggered opening of stores might not be helping; the frayed economy, too, offers no natural lift.
Besides, residents in the neighboring villages (even my wife) who petitioned for years against the complex nearly choked on their bone of contention when they saw desirable stores like Whole Foods and Sur la Table open. They’ve been going.
But the beat of strangeness at this nation-mall goes on.
Sandy Annabi, a former city of Yonkers Democratic council member, who was once expected to stand fast against the controversial project – and casting the deciding vote -- turned proponent at the very last moment. She was later indicted for selling her vote. If you believe federal prosecutors, there would not have been a Ridge Hill in the first place if it were not for Sandy Annabi’s money grab.
Her trial is expected to attract pretty decent crowds. We’ll see if the same can be said for Ridge Hill.