The first post-war, suburban shopping center in the New York City metropolitan area, GARDENS OF GREAT NECK CENTER, was completed in May 1951. Located in Long Island's Town of North Hempstead, it was a small strip center of 216,500 leasable square feet.

The developer of GARDENS OF GREAT NECK CENTER, Sol Atlas, also built the region's -and state's- first mall-type shopping venue. CROSS COUNTY CENTER was located in the Westchester County suburb of Yonkers -not on Long Island- and was dedicated in April 1954. By late 1958, the complex, which incorporated retail, office and medical components, encompassed over 906,000 leasable square feet.

The GARDENS OF GREAT NECK and CROSS COUNTY shopping hubs were followed by five shopping malls built out on "The Island" (original names are used)...

*ROOSEVELT FIELD CENTER [August 1956]
*GREEN ACRES CENTER, [October 1956]
*MID-ISLAND PLAZA, [October 1956]
*WALT WHITMAN CENTER [November 1962]
*SOUTH SHORE MALL [August 1963]



A map showing the locations of post-war shopping hubs in Westchester County and in the Long Island counties of Kings (Brooklyn), Queens, Nassau and Suffolk.
Click on image for a larger view.

The first controlled-access highway in Greater New York City was a 4.6 mile section of the Brooklyn-Queens Connecting Roadway (later known as Brooklyn-Queens Expressway), which extended between Queens Boulevard (in Sunnyside, Queens) and Kingsland and Meeker Avenues (in Greenpoint, Brooklyn). This segment opened to traffic in August 1939.

In addition to being New York City and State's first shopping mall, CROSS COUNTY CENTER was also the first in Greater New York City to be freeway-friendly. A section of the New York State Thruway that ran along the west side of the shopping hub opened to traffic in September 1956.

Long Island's Gardens Of Great Neck Center


A circa-1952 view of New York City's first suburban shopping venue, with a 51,000 square foot John Wanamaker at its center. This structure would house several different department stores over the next 27 years. Wanamaker's shut down in mid-1955. The Allied Stores conglomerate would operate a Stern's branch there between 1955 and 1961 and a Gertz between 1961 and 1979.
Photo from Library of Congress



Two more circa-1952 views of Long Island's GARDENS OF GREAT NECK CENTER. Over the years, the retail hub would also be known as the NORTH SHORE SHOPPING CENTER.
Photos from Library Of Congress

A physical layout of GARDENS OF GREAT NECK CENTER, as it was configured in 1951. The name derives from the desire of its developer to promote the shopping hub as a pastoral, tree-lined complex.


The Long Island Railroad's Great Neck Station is located across South Middle Neck Road from the shopping plaza.
Photo from Wikipedia / Adam Moss 


A contemporary physical layout of the shopping center, known today as THE GARDENS OF GREAT NECK. After the demise of the Gertz store in the late 1970s, the anchor space was expanded into a large Edward's supermarket. This was rebranded by the Waldbaum's chain in 2001.  

And now, three photos of today's THE GARDENS OF GREAT NECK. We begin with the 2-level store structure at the northeast end of the complex. It houses two financial institutions; TD Bank (nee' World Savings) and Astoria Federal Savings & Loan.
Photo from Nassau County, New York


Moving toward the center of the center, we see the former John Wanamaker store. Today, it houses a Waldbaum's supermarket, Planet Fitness gym and a branch of the Great Neck Library.
Photo from http//www.showcase.com/property/2-50-Great-Neck-Road/Great-Neck/New-York/1155272


The southwest end of the shopping hub, with Rite Aid Drug on the right.
Photo from Nassau County, New York


GARDENS OF GREAT NECK CENTER
South Middle Neck and Great Neck Roads
Nassau County (Town of North Hempstead), New York

Greater New York City's first suburban-style shopping center was constructed on a 7 acre parcel located 13.4 miles east of Times Square. The site, once part of the Grace Estate, was located in Nassau County's Town of North Hempstead / Village of Great Neck Plaza.

Ground was broken for GARDENS OF GREAT NECK CENTER in June 1950. The open-air strip complex, built by developer Sol Atlas, encompassed 216,500 leasable square feet. It was anchored by a 3-level (51,000 square foot), Philadelphia-based John Wanamaker, the chain's first suburban New York City location. It opened for business May 16, 1951. The store featured a huge, 2 story show window in front and two elevators...impressive features at the time.

Inline stores in GARDENS OF GREAT NECK CENTER included Millers apparel, Pennsylvania Drugs and an F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10. The parking area accommodated five hundred autos.

Wanamaker's store turned out to be short-lived. It was shuttered May 3, 1955 and re-opened -as a New York City-based Stern's- September 2, 1955. This was the chain's first suburban branch. It became a New York City-based Gertz in 1961. This operation shut down in late 1979, with its ground level being expanded into adjoining store space. A 1-level (31,000 square foot) Edward's supermarket was created. This was rebranded by the Waldbaum's chain on March 3, 2001.

Today, the Long Island shopping center still exists and, save for a 1990s facelift, is essentially the same as in the early 1950s. Of course, the stores are different. Nowadays, the Wanamaker / Stern's / Gertz is occupied by three tenants. In the basement is Planet Fitness. The ground level houses a portion of the aforementioned Waldbaum's supermarket, with the third level being devoted to the Station Branch of the Great Neck Library.

Also operating in today's THE GARDENS OF GREAT NECK are Rite Aid Drug, TD Bank, Astoria Federal Savings & Loan, Starbucks, Wells Fargo Bank, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Wild Ginger (an Asian fusion restaurant). The complex is owned and operated by Woodbury, New York-based Kabro Associates.

Sources:

"Great Neck Plaza Walking Tour" / Long Island Traditions / Nancy Solomon
"Great Neck Plaza" article on Wikipedia
Nassau County, New York property tax assessor website
Comment post by "Anonymous"
http://decisions.courts.state.ny.us/10jd/nassau/decisions/index/index_new/oconnell/2002may/003466-01.pdf


BLACK & WHITE PHOTOS:

From the Gottscho-Schleisner Collection / Repository: United States Library Of Congress Prints and Photograph Division, Washington, D.C. / Taken by Gottscho-Schleisner, Inc., 1952 / Photographs are in the public domain: no known restrictions on publication / www.loc.gov/rr/print/catalog.html
New York City's Roosevelt Field



A vintage view of the Macy's ROOSEVELT FIELD location. At the time of the mall's dedication, in 1956, it was the sole department store anchor.
Photo from Library of Congress


A vintage aerial of the mall, showing its original -single anchor- configuration. Space has been cleared for the construction of a second anchor store. Ground would be broken April 18, 1959.
Photo from http://www.vanderbiltcupraces.com/vcrsys/Images/Alco/10-3-56-2-2.jpg

A circa-'62 site plan of the 6-year-old ROOSEVELT FIELD CENTER. It featured one of the nation's first shopping center ice rinks and -with the addition of a new Gimbels- was now among the largest shopping venues in the USA.



Gimbels Roosevelt Field  rang up its first sale August 20, 1962.


Two circa-1965 shots of the center. In the first, we see the main concourse and 3-year-old Gimbels Roosevelt Field.
Photos from  http://pleasantfamilyshopping.blogspot.com


A site plan dated 10 years after the first, showing all of the changes that had been done to the shopping hub, now known as ROOSEVELT FIELD MALL. An enclosing roof had been installed in 1967-1968. Moreover, two anchors had joined the retail roster...Alexander's in 1971 and J.C. Penney in 1972. Two parking garages were built and La Petite Mall (a mall within a mall) would open -in previously existing space- in 1974.

Gimbels Roosevelt Field was shuttered in August 1986. The store operated as the Stern's seen here between February 1987 and August 2001.
Photo from http://www.occulude06.tripod.com


Alexander's at ROOSEVELT FIELD closed in February 1991. The building was remodeled, and re-opened -as an Abraham & Straus- in October 1992. This store lasted only 3 years. The Bloomingdale's seen here moved in in November 1995.
Photo from http://www.occulude06.tripod.com


A late 1997 physical layout shows the mall as it was configured after 5 years of renovation. An Upper Level had been built atop the first, which included a 15-bay Food Court. La Petit Mall had been demolished. Lastly, Nordstrom had joined the retail roster.

One of the few present day shopping mall Macy's stores that has always been a Macy's. This location, originally encompassed 343,000 square feet. It was expanded, to 428,000 square feet, in 1963.
Photo from Nassau County, New York


That well-known Seattle-centric retailer set up shop at ROOSEVELT FIELD in August 1997.
Photo from Nassau County, New York

A contemporary view of the north side of the complex. After Stern's 2001 demise, the building was divided between Galyan's Trading Company and Bloomingdale's Furniture Gallery. Galyan's gave way to Dick's Sporting Goods in October 2004.
Photo from www.simon.com (Simon Property Group)


An interior view of ROOSEVELT FIELD MALL. The vaulted ceilings -and second retail level- were an early '90s addition.
Photo from www.simon.com (Simon Property Group)


In this futuristic footprint, modifications to be completed by the year 2017 are indicated in shades of gray. Neiman Marcus, rumored to be joining the mall for years, is being added as part of a new Southwest Wing. A fourth parking garage is being built, which will connect to Macy's and Neiman Marcus. Lastly, an Upper Level Dining District will take the place of the circa-1993 Food Court.

A rendering of the mall's new Dining District. It will include indoor and outdoor seating.
Drawing from www.simon.com (Simon Property Group)


A futuristic view of the west-facing facade of the mammoth shopping complex; this following the completion of its ongoing renovation.
Drawing from RTKL Associates


Texas' trendy Neiman Marcus chain is adding a fifth anchor to ROOSEVELT FIELD, which will be the first Neiman's on Long Island. The store is scheduled for an early 2016 dedication.
Drawing from www.simon.com (Simon Property Group)


ROOSEVELT FIELD CENTER
Meadowbrook Parkway and Old Country Road
Nassua County (Town of Hempstead), New York

Long Island's first post-war shopping center, GARDENS OF GREAT NECK CENTER (1951), was followed by a rapid succession of mall-type retail complexes. Three of these, ROOSEVELT FIELD CENTER, GREEN ACRES CENTER and MID-ISLAND PLAZA, opened over the course of a single year...1956. Two more followed soon after, WALT WHITMAN MALL and SOUTH SHORE CENTER MALL, dedicated in 1962 and 1963, respectively.

The land on which Long Island's first shopping mall was built had served as various airfields between 1917 and 1951. One of these, Roosevelt Field, was the departure point for "Lucky Lindy's" historic transatlantic flight in 1927.

ROOSEVELT FIELD CENTER was developed by New York City's William Zeckendorf, under the auspices of Webb and Knapp, and designed by Chinese architect Ieoh Ming Pei. It was situated on a land parcel encompassing 88 acres, located 24.5 miles east of Times Square. The site was within Nassau County's Town of Hempstead / Village of Garden City.

Ground was broken for the 35 million dollar project in April 1955. The shopping hub, encompassing 902,900 leasable square feet, was officially dedicated August 29, 1956. Open-air in format, it was situated on a main retail level, with a service basement / Concourse Level of retail.

Inline stores included Walgreen Drug, Buster Brown Shoes, Howard Clothes, The Corsetorium, Paree Millinery, Singer Sewing Center and a Horn & Hardhart Automat. There were also F.W. Woolworth and S.S. Kresge 5 & 10s and Food Fair and Grand Union supermarkets. Service type attractions at the original mall included the Flight Room public auditorium and (eventually) an outdoor ice skating rink.

A 3-level (343,000 square foot) Macy's was originally the sole anchor of the mall. A 3-level (250,000 square foot) Gimbels began business August 20, 1962. In order to be up on its retail rival, Macy's had an 85,000 square foot fourth level added in 1963...so that the 428,000 square foot Macy's Roosevelt Field would be substantially larger than the mall's Gimbels. With this addition, the retail hub housed approximately 1,237,900 square feet of store space.

Competing malls in the vicinity of ROOSEVELT FIELD included the aforementioned GREEN ACRES CENTER (1956) {7.4 miles southwest, in Nassau County} and MID-ISLAND PLAZA (1956) {4.6 miles northeast, in Nassau County}. In addition there would be SUNRISE MALL (1973) {9.8 miles southeast, also in Nassau County}. 

Courts and concourses at ROOSEVELT FIELD were fully-enclosed and climate-controlled in 1967-1968, with the shopping center known, henceforth, as ROOSEVELT FIELD MALL. As part of the renovation, the Roosevelt Field Century's Theatre was added at the northwest corner of the complex. Originally a single-screen venue, it was divided into a 3-plex in 1981 and an 8-plex in 1987.

A third expansion of the shopping venue took place in the early 1970s. Alexander's 3-level (314,000 square foot) location opened for business October 15, 1971. J.C. Penney, with a 3-level (260,000 square foot) store, came inline July 19, 1972.

New York City-based Corporate Property Investors acquired the mall in 1973. In the next year, a small, Tudor-style section, known as LA PETITE MALL, came inline. This was an enclosed "mall within a mall" area, fitted into existing space in the southwest corner of the complex. It housed Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream, Hanan Yarn, The Cave Hair Salon, a Sanrio store (with lots of "Hello Kitty" stuffed animals) and a restaurant.

A fourth enlargement of ROOSEVELT FIELD MALL was done, in stages, between 1992 and 1997. An Upper Level of stores, built on top of the first, was dedicated in April 1993. This 300,000 square foot addition included a 17-bay Food Court and sixty new "luxury retailers".

Alexander's had been shuttered in February 1991. The store was gutted and remodeled into a New York City-based Abraham & Straus, which came inline in October 1992. This was in operation until April 30, 1995. New York City-based Bloomingdale's opened in this location on November 2 of the same year.

The Gimbels anchor had shut down in August 1986 and been leased by New Jersey-based Stern's between February 1987 and August 2001. After Stern's closed, the spot was taken by Galyan's Trading Company, which was bought -and rebranded- by Pittsburgh-based Dick's Sporting Goods in October 2004.

At this time, the building was divided, with Dick's occupying the eastern section and Bloomingdale's Furniture setting up shop in the western. A 3-level (225,000 square foot) Nordstrom, added to the southeast corner of the massive mall, opened August 15, 1997.

In September 1998, The Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group acquired the assets of Corporate Property Investors, which included ROOSEVELT FIELD MALL.

By the turn of the century, the mammoth shopping center housed 2,228,000 leasable square feet, with over two hundred and seventy stores and services. It was the largest shopping mall in the New York City metropolitan area. As of August 2012, it was the second-largest mall in New York State, following Syracuse's DESTINY USA.

In September 2013, a comprehensive interior-exterior makeover got underway at ROOSEVELT FIELD MALL. In addition to giving the existing structure a thorough update, the 200 million dollar project was to include the construction of a fourth parking garage, new Dining District (a renovation of the circa-1993 Food Court) and new Southwest Wing, with a 2-level (105,400 square foot) Neiman Marcus and approximately 25,800 square feet of inline store space.

These components were to be dedicated in the following order; the parking garage in November 2014, Dining District in January 2015 and Southwest Wing / Neiman Marcus in February 2016. With all work completed, the shopping hub would encompass approximately 2,359,200 leasable square feet and two hundred and eighty-three stores and services.

Sources:

http://www.airfield-freeman.com/ / thefreemans@hotmail.com
"Roosevelt Field" article on Wikipedia
"Macy's" article on Wikipedia
"Bloomingdale's" article on Wikipedia
http://www.preservenet.cornell.edu/
Comment post by Jimmy B.
Comment post by "Dea41396"
Nassau County, New York Tax Assessor website
"Roosevelt Field Theatres" article / Cinema Treasures website
www.city-data.com/forum/long-island/47032-you-know-youre-long-island-when-106.html / Comment posts by "LiskaGirl" and "KittyNY"
Comment post by "Jim B."
http://gardencitypatch.com
New York City's Green Acres Center


The New York City-based arm of Gimbels built their second branch store at GREEN ACRES CENTER. Gimbels Valley Stream encompassed 274,000 square feet and opened for business in October 1956. Its main feature was its The Roost Restaurant.
Drawing from http://departmentstoremuseum.blogspot.com

A circa-1960 site plan of Long Island's second shopping mall. The center had operated with a single anchor, Gimbels Valley Stream, for its first 4 years.


A freestanding Alexander's opened at the site in 1967. In 1969-1970, the open-air mall was enclosed., becaming GREEN ACRES MALL. Between August 1982 and October 1983 a North Wing (indicated in light gray) was added to the complex, which was anchored by Sears. At the time of this circa-1986 plan, Gimbels had just been converted to an Abraham & Straus. Stern's had moved into the east anchor space in 1983.

The GREEN ACRES Sears. Upon it's late 1983 completion, the newly-expanded mall encompassed 1,627,400 leasable square feet and over one hundred stores and services. 
Photo from Nassau County, New York tax assessor website


The 14-bay Food Court at today's GREEN ACRES MALL was added during the center's 1982-1983 expansion.
Photo from http://www.vno.com/ (Vornado Realty Trust)


Macy's Valley Stream Furniture and Men's Store, built as a Big Apple-
based Lane's in 1960. The building is a contender for the American
shopping mall anchor store that has had the most nameplates. Thus
far, the building has housed Lane's, Love's, S. Klein, Korvettes, Gertz,
Stern's and today's Macy's operation; for a total of six rebrandings.
Photo from Nassau County, New York


The Best Buy big box. It replaced a strip center building originally occupied by a National Foods supermarket. 
Photo from Nassau County, New York tax assessor website

In a circa-2014 plan, a lot of things have changed. Kmart opened a freestanding location in 1992. It became a Wal-Mart. Alexander's closed and was demolished. Caldor built a new store in the vicinity, which eventually became a Target. Home Depot came inline in 1994. Best Buy and BJ's Wholesale Club were 2008 additions. Kohl's set up shop in the east anchor spot (using a portion of the first floor and all of the second).
GREEN ACRES CENTER
Sunrise Highway and Green Acres Road
Nassau County (Town of Hempstead), New York

Plans for the second shopping mall on Long Island were announced in mid-1954. A 57.6 acre plot, previously the Curtiss Airfield, became the construction site for a 30 million dollar, open-air retail hub.

GREEN ACRES CENTER was developed by the New York City-based Chanin Organization. The complex, consisting of a main mall level and service basement, was located within Nassau County's Town of Hempstead / Village of Valley Stream. It was originally anchored by a 4-level (274,000 square foot), New York City-based Gimbels, which held a grand opening October 11, 1956.

There were seventy-two other retailers in the original shopping venue, which had officially opened October 7, 1956. These included J.J. Newberry and F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10s, Lerner Shops, Regent Men's Shop and Oppenheim Collins. A 2-level, dry goods only J.C. Penney was at the center of the center, with a (38,000 square foot) National Foods supermarket as a western outparcel and (40,000 square foot) Grand Union supermarket on the eastern periphery.

A 3-level (216,400 square foot), New York City-based Lane's department store was added to the east end of the mall. The store, dedicated in May 1960, shared space with Dime Savings & Loan.

The single-screen, Century's Green Acres Cinema opened for business on September 15, 1961. It was located at the front of the shopping center site, adjacent to Sunrise Highway. Moreover, a 4-level (320,000 square foot), New York City-based Alexander's was constructed in the front (north) parking area, as well. This store came inline September 18, 1967.

Shopping malls in the GREEN ACRES CENTER trade area included ROOSEVELT FIELD CENTER (1956) {7.4 miles northeast, in Nassau County}, KING'S PLAZA (1970) {10.8 miles southwest, in Brooklyn (New York City)} and QUEENS CENTER (1973) {9 miles northwest, in Queens (New York City)}.

In order to keep up with its climate-controlled competitors, GREEN ACRES CENTER was roofed-in in 1970 and known -henceforth- as GREEN ACRES MALL. In August 1982, a second major renovation of the center began. One of the nine store blocks was demolished to make way for a 2-level (235,000 square foot) Northeast Wing.

This new mall space included a 2-level (150,000 square foot) Sears [with parking garage and Auto Center], several new stores, and a 14-bay Food Court. The wing was dedicated in October 1983. With its completion, the mall encompassed 1,627,400 square feet and over one hundred stores and services.

By the mid-1980s, the two anchor stores at GREEN ACRES MALL had been rebranded. At the west end, Gimbels morphed into a New York City-based Abraham & Straus on October 10, 1986 and was "Macy-ated" April 30, 1995.

On the east end, Lane's had been shuttered in late 1965. The space re-opened as Love's, a division of New York City-based S. Klein, in March 1966. By early 1968, the store was operating as an S. Klein. This lasted until 1975. Klein's was replaced by a New York City-based Korvettes discount mart. This became a Queens-based Gertz department store in the fall of 1982, which was rebranded by Paramus, New Jersey-based Stern's in late 1983. Stern's closed shop in August 2001 and re-opened soon after as today's Macy's Valley Stream Furniture and Men's Store.

Meanwhile, the outparcel Alexander's had closed in June 1992. Its building was demolished, with a 1-level (135,000 square foot), Norwalk, Connecticut-based Caldor discount mart built nearby. It was dedicated July 28, 1994. A Home Depot, situated on the mall's southwestern periphery, had begun business in May.

More changes occurred during the late 1990s. The mall's proprietor, the Conshohocken, Pennsylvania-based Arbor Property Trust, merged with the New York City-based Vornado Realty Trust in August 1997. Caldor went bust in May 1999. Its space was eventually taken by Target. A Kmart, located in the PLAZA AT GREEN ACRES strip center since 1992, went out of business in 2002. Wal-Mart occupied its spot in October 2003.

In March 2008, GREEN ACRES MALL emerged from its third remodeling project...which included the addition of a new Best Buy, Levitz Furniture and 1-level (122,000 square foot), Westborough, Massachusetts-based B.J.'s Wholesale Club. The interior of the mall had also been updated during 2006 and 2007.

In October 2012, Southern California's Macerich Company acquired the shopping hub.

Sources:

"Green Acres Mall" article on Wikipedia
Nassau County, New York tax assessor website
Comment posts by "RichR"
Cinema Treasures
www.vno.com (Vornado Realty Trust)
www.greenacresmallonline.com
New York City's Mid-Island Plaza

MID-ISLAND PLAZA, the third of three Long Island shopping malls that opened during the year 1956.
Photo from Library of Congress


The original, PLAZA, as it existed before anything was added. Truck tunnels extended out from the structure in three directions.


Gertz Long Island, fronting on Center Court at MID-ISLAND PLAZA.
Photo from Library of Congress

The east-facing facade of Gertz, at the western edge of the East Wing.
Photo from Library of Congress


A westward view of the East Wing, with Gertz at mall center.
Photo from Library of Congress

A northward view of the MID-ISLAND Center Court.
Photo from Library of Congress


Center Court and Gertz. The East Wing extends in the distance.
Photo from Library of Congress


An eastward view of the East Wing, with Bond Clothes on the left.
Photo from Library Of Congress



The Hicksville Sears, which is located across the North Broadway thoroughfare from the mall proper. The store began business in October 1964. At the time, the 180,000 square foot operation was reputed to be the largest Sears in the eastern United States. 

A circa-'70 site plan of MID-ISLAND PLAZA. The center had just emerged from an enclosing renovation. A component of the project was the construction of a second anchor...S. Klein. It now anchored a North Wing, which had added new store space (indicated in dark gray). This connected with mall-based movie house -the Twin Theatre- that had been added in 1964.


A contemporary shot of the East Entrance. The complex was renamed BROADWAY MALL in 1989.
Photo from www.labelscar.com / "Caldor"


The mall's ginormous -5-level, 300,000 square foot- Macy's...which was originally a Queens-based Gertz...then a Paramus, New Jersey-based Stern's.
Photo from www.labelscar.com/ / "Caldor"


Ikea, which came along in 1991.
Photo from Nassau County, New York tax assessor website