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Lines wrap around block as stores open in new mall

Queens residents packed into the Rego Center shopping complex last week, forming lines that snaked around the Kohl’s and Century 21 stores shoppers praised for bringing hundreds of jobs to the borough.

“All these jobs are important in this economy,” said Tamikka Jones, 38, of Far Rockaway. “There will be a lot of jobs here and maybe will help out the local economy with so many people coming here specifically for the shopping. Those people, then they can go spend money at other places around here, like the restaurants.”

Kohl’s and Century 21 held their grand opening March 3 in the Rego Park shopping center that will also contain a T.J. Maxx, which is slated to first let customers through its doors March 14.

As many as 1,000 jobs could be created at Rego Center, a 6.6-acre site at the intersection of Junction Boulevard and 62nd Drive next to the Long Island Expressway, according to Community Board 6 District Manager Frank Gulluscio. The center is located behind the Rego Park Mall, which has an Old Navy, a Sears and a Bed, Bath & Beyond.

“We’re producing 250 new jobs, which we’re very excited about,” said Victor Eckert, district manager for the Rego Center Kohl’s. “We’re opening nine stores across the country and we’re making sure they’re environmentally friendly.”

Kohl’s officials have applied for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification for the Rego Park store. The LEED program, administered by the Washington, D.C., nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council, is the recognized standard for measuring the sustainability of a building.

Store managers were unable to say how many customers came through their doors on opening day last week, but the number was certainly in the thousands. Both Kohl’s and Century 21 held big sales to draw shoppers.

“We’ve been extremely busy,” Eckert said. “Traffic is better than expected.”

Forest Hills residents Hilda Hernandez and Heddy Bruno came to shop for baby gifts for relatives, including a Fisher-Price learning camera.

“The discounts are good today, and the lines are moving pretty quickly” said Hernandez, who still had about 50 people in front of her in line.

At Century 21, Sunnyside resident Jenny Cardona said she had been looking forward to the Rego Center opening.

“When I saw the building while it was under construction, I thought, ‘Oh, finally they’re bringing a Kohl’s here,’” said Cardona, who was shopping with her two friends. “It’s beautiful how they set up the center.”

Community members have expressed concerns about an influx of traffic in the area because of the new mall and CB 6 members have asked the city Department of Transportation to make the block on 62nd Drive between 97th Road and Junction Boulevard one-way to create a better flow of traffic. The DOT is now reviewing the plan.

Gulluscio, City Council members Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) and Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), CB 6 Chairman Joseph Hennessy and DOT officials recently toured the Rego Center site to discuss traffic issues.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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