Segments in this Video

Addiction to Shopping (06:34)


The Mall of America opened in 1992 and became a tourist destination. James Howard Kunstler explains how large malls have grown while downtown areas disintegrate. Developers thought Rockland County New York was an ideal location for the second largest mall in America. (Credits)

Act One: Pyramid Comes to Town (03:49)

Bob Congel ran the Pyramid Companies out of Syracuse, New York. A small town in Vermont and Howard Dean fight the real estate developer for a decade. The proposed site in Rockland County holds a historical graveyard for African Americans and industrial waste.

Act One: Hiring Tom Valenti (03:51)

The attorney begins environmental testing and fights distrust generated by Rockland County residents. Anti-mall rallies erupt across West Nyack. The city council postpones the project for two years until it passes a re-zoning law; Pyramid Company is accused of buying off the Poughkeepsie city council when building the Galleria mall.

Act One: Zone Change Approved (03:52)

Recession strikes and Pyramid expands a little at a time to reduce governmental intervention. Valenti announces it wants to increase the number of floors in the mall.

Act One: Rockland County Civic Association (03:13)

Shirley Lasker fights against Pyramid's plan of expansion. At a city council meeting, the company forces an audience of protestors to watch a promotional video. Pyramid promises union jobs, reduced taxes, and a destination tourist site.

Act One: Next City Council Meeting (02:43)

Hundreds of construction workers turn out to urge the city council to approve the mall. Members complain that the Mall of America is not relevant to the meeting.

Act One: Stopping Construction (08:25)

Activists realize Virginia Avenue and Besso Street might be the key to stopping mall construction. The Rockland County Civic Association force the sale to be put on the ballot so the town can vote. Congel meets with town officials and threatens to sue.

Act Two: Pyramid Plans Revealed (05:32)

Pyramid obtains a loan and begins construction, expecting a budget surplus of $100 million. In the summer of 1996, residents notice the company built a larger mall than the city council approved.

Act Two: Voided Space (06:12)

Pyramid claims they were leveling off the roof and the extra space would not be rented out. Activists pressure to remove the additional space. The judge allows Pyramid to keep the space; Lasker runs for City Council.

Act Two: Job Creation (03:11)

Pyramid holds a job fair; residents realize the company would only offer minimum wage part-time positions. Valenti announces the opening of BJ's Wholesale Club in 1998. The town blocks the grand opening, citing public safety concerns.

Act Two: Working Around the Clock (06:01)

Valenti pushes to get the rest of the mall constructed. At a sneak preview on March 4th, Nancy Kerrigan performs. Valenti receives "The Businessman of the Year" award from Rockland; he lives in a town that banned malls.

Act Three: Showdown at the Mall (04:04)

Rumors circulate that the mall is sinking into the landfill below. Approximately 15 million visitors come to the Palisades Center in the first year. Pyramid refuses to pay the tax bill.

Act Three: Tax Bill (04:14)

Residents elect Lasker to the City Council. After two years, strip malls are deserted and six of the eight movie theaters closed because they could not compete with Palisades Center.

Act Three: Big Problems (03:00)

A bomb threat, stabbings, and beatings occur; residents advocate for a curfew. Adler conceals income related to development deals from the IRS.

Act Three: Expansion Proposal (05:52)

Pyramid announces plans for a theme park called "Kid City," which would be created in the mall's "unused" space. According to the settlement reached in 1996, citizens need to vote on the referendum.

Act Three: Election Night 2002 (07:42)

Citizens vote against Proposition 1. Lasker and other objectors celebrate. Local veterans refuse to move the historic African-American graveyard. Pyramid Companies puts Palisades Center up for sale and announces Project Destiny.

Credits: Megamall (01:59)

Credits: Megamall

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Twelve years in the making, Megamall documents the origins of the massive Palisades Center mall and its impact on the suburban community of West Nyack, New York, 18 miles north of Manhattan. The film kicks off when the biggest mall developer in the Northeast comes to the smallest county in New York to build its biggest mall yet on a toxic dump, one mile from the filmmakers' homes. That move sparks a citizen uprising which lasts almost 20 years. It also inspires the filmmakers' quest to understand the dramatic events unfolding right in their backyard. Megamall turns out to be a local saga of epic proportions. We see big money overwhelm local governments, zoning and planning boards to impose a massive development project on a community, extract millions, and move on -- leaving the local community to bear the costs of road maintenance, increased crime, and shuttered stores downtown. Featured throughout the film is provocative commentary from leading urban critics and writers, who give viewers the real story behind the mall-building business and challenge Americans to think about the consequences of our obsession with shopping. They include authors James Howard Kunstler (The Geography of Nowhere); Roberta Brandes Gratz (Malling the Northeast for The New York Times Magazine); and real estate economist Donavan Rypkema. Megamall is a gripping story of ordinary Americans who confront the forces that are changing the face of our nation. It is designed to give students and communities around the country the tools they need to understand the forces propelling growth. It encourages people to think of themselves as citizens—not consumers—and to take action in their own communities.

Length: 81 minutes

Item#: BVL154659

ISBN: 978-1-64347-864-7

Copyright date: ©2010

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

“Relevant for courses across the sociology curriculum...Megamall is an excellent film to illustrate the complex dynamics of public processes, especially in the face of corporate influence...It empowers the viewer (our students) that to make necessary changes in our communities we have to get involved, and to get involved we have to speak up.”—Robert Owen Gardner, Linfield College, Teaching Sociology

“For students who feel less at stake in the loss of their communities, this film points out the dangers of short-term thinking; malls are designed to last only 30 years. For courses covering local government, corporate influence on government, citizen activism, and the transformation of small town America, this documentary offers a real story that will bring textbook studies to life. Recommended.”—Sandy River, Texas Tech University, Educational Media Reviews Online

“Essential viewing for Northeast residents, but relentless ‘malling’ will be familiar to viewers in other regions as well.”—Library Journal

“Whether consulting with urban critics or registering the woes of local law enforcement over the added costs of dealing with mall-related crime, the filmmakers cast a wide net, taking in multiple perspectives…The twists are compelling.”— Steve Dollar, The Wall Street Journal

“See this film and you see the future—America’s last small towns, open space and quality of life smitten from existence by unfettered and mindless development. See it, get mad—and then get involved. We might yet confront the juggernaut.”— Bill Moyers, Public Affairs Television

“The film reveals how our township governments, zoning and planning boards, were manipulated and the conflict between perceived economic growth and the needs of decades-old stores on Main Street were used to divide us...It is extremely well done, and well worth your time. It should be shown to citizen's organizations and in classrooms as a slice of real history.”—The Nyack Villager  

“The mallification of America...and the acts of local resistance against it…are central to bigger questions we ask about development, about consumption, about the homogenization of space and culture, about the relations between global economic structures and everyday life, and about the building of livable communities.”—Hannah Gurman, Assistant Professor, School of Individualized Study, New York University

“[The film] examines how greed, hypocrisy and treachery used under the banner of consumption-oriented economic development can invade and overwhelm local politics, but it also demonstrates that this can be contested.”—Greg Andranovich, Professor of Political Science, California State University, Los Angeles

“The film dramatizes the twenty-year struggle of the citizens of suburban Rockland County, New York, to preserve their shared sense of community from outside forces that sought to build the second largest shopping mall in the country in their back yard…It was a hard lesson, but in the end Rockland County citizens learned they could seize control of their own neighborhood and guide their own destiny—an inspiration for all communities.”—Emil Pocock, Professor of History and American Studies, Eastern Connecticut State University

Megamall is an objective inquiry into how politics, planning, and policy intersect into one of the most fascinating issues facing local governments: the growth and development of commercial suburban centers. All communities will find this documentary engaging and a story worth learning from.”—Dr. Thomas Vicino, Department of Political Science, Northeastern University, Co-Author, Cities and Suburbs: New Metropolitan Realities in the US

“[The film contains] a startling series of lessons for small towns in America that desire growth, that desire jobs, that desire economic sustainability, that desire access to the goods and services of everyday life closer to home, yet desire to retain their small-town way of life.” —Robert Dorgan, Director, Institute for Small Town Studies

“At times amusing and at times disheartening, the film documents how a single development changed the community forever… While continued development is needed in many communities, unchecked growth has unintended consequences. We keep repeating the same mistakes.”—Judy Schwank, President and CEO of 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania

“A very effective film…What stands out here is a quality of compassion and understanding that is communicated so well by several interview subjects and by the script which Roger [Grange] so sensitively narrated. His voice [plus] the down home perspectives from man/woman-on-the-street interviews and the direct cinema quality of the town hall meetings work so well and combine to present a point of view that seems honest and thoughtful rather than manipulative.”—Jason Starr, Artistic Director and President, Cultural Media Collaborative

“A frightening documentary about America's biggest addiction: consumption. The equation is a classic: greedy developers, inhuman lawyers, consenting consumers and a handful of corrupted elected officials, all against a bunch of determined citizens...A well-paced documentary.”—IMDb

“More than anything, Megamall asks us to reject passive consumerism in favor of active citizenship and dialogue about how corporate greed is shaping our very landscape.”—Leslie Stonebraker, New York Press

“[Megamall] raises awareness about mall construction nationwide. Pyramid and other developers pick prime locations when building their 'consumption machines,' whether locals want them or not. Megamall gives an in depth overview of how mall makers are changing America's landscape and psyche.”—Jennifer Merin,

“An engaging drama with a strong point of view as well as a sense of humor. MEGAMALL is calm, credible and at the same time, maddening.”—John Paul Newport, Reporter/Golf Columnist, Wall Street Journal

“An enthralling documentary about a small county's fight against a big mall developer... Examines the intersection between money, power and politics in ways that have implications for our own issues of adequate affordable housing vs. slow growth.”—SB Sound (Santa Barbara)

Megamall documents [a] David versus Goliath fight...It all comes together as a portrait of what we increasingly recognize as the overwhelmingly negative impact of the mall and big box lifestyle...No wonder I get nauseous when ever I'm inside a mall.”—Thefilmfiles


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