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As a boy in the 1970s Michael Girardin’s gaze dwelled upon the white, orange and black speckled koi in a pool of calm surrounded by the frenzy of busy shops and bargain hunters in the Sunrise Mall in Massapequa. With the mall closing, the 50 or so koi at the mall’s fishpond are among longtime residents that need to find a new home.

“It’s part of the history of the mall, those fish,” Girardin, 58, of Massapequa Park, said of the shopping center that opened in 1973. “That was a great place for the kids to sit there and watch the fish come up.” 

As a parent he took his children to visit the koi: “We probably would spend half an hour with those fish.”

The mall owners, Manhattan-based Urban Edge Properties, are looking for adopters to take some or all of the koi. 

“The koi have been a huge part of the experience here at the mall,” said Joseph DeGiorgio, vice president of asset management for Urban Edge. “It’s important to us to make sure they get the benefit of living a full life.”

Urban Edge, a publicly traded real estate investment trust specializing in retail properties, hasn’t announced its plans for the shopping center other than to say it won’t be a residential community. As the new mall owners are preparing to redevelop the property, they are not leasing tenants’ leases and stores are emptying out. 

“The koi will not have a place with the new redevelopment,” DeGiorgio said.

More than four dozen people and organizations have expressed interest in adopting some or all of the fish, he said. The company expects to decide in June or July who the new owners will be. The fish will be given free of charge.

“I’d like to keep them all together because they seem like a big family,” DeGiorgio said. But more importantly, he said, they want to make sure whoever takes them is “looking at it from a long-term perspective to insure that they are not sold … and given the best care possible.” 

The Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead, which has an 8,000 gallon, covered outdoor koi pond, hopes they’ll join its population of about 40.

Noel Heinsohn, curator of fish and invertebrates at the aquarium, said he reached out to Urban Edge when he learned on Facebook that they needed a new home.

“That’s a pretty large collection,” Heinsohn said. “We have some empty space that we could add them to.”

Koi, which have a life span of 40 to 50 years or longer and are Asian-bred members of the carp family, have become popular fish for home ponds and aquariums, Heinsohn said.

“They are very different, colorful, gorgeous and very tolerant to different temperatures,” he said. During winter, when ponds freeze over, the koi go into a kind of hibernation, slowing down their metabolism and don’t need to eat, he said.

Dominique Bower, of East Setauket, said she hopes to adopt two or three of the mall’s koi to add them to her backyard goldfish pond where she already has two koi.

“They’re elegant, they’re beautiful, they have a calming way about them,” Bower said. “The koi are graceful and gentle and will actually eat out of your hand … it’s almost like a pet.”

Sunrise Mall

  • Built in 1973
  • 1.2 million square feet
  • Purchased in 2021 for $29.7 million by Sunrise Mall Holdings LLC, a joint venture led by Urban Edge Properties

SOURCE: Newsday
PHOTO: With the closing of the Sunrise Mall in Massapequa, 50 or so koi at the mall’s fishpond are looking for a new home.  Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost
Updated May 10, 2022 8:15 pm

By Ted Phillips