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Roosevelt Field mall adds Christmas tree; 'Glacier' Santa got icy reaction

The Glacier Santa set at Roosevelt Field mall

The Glacier Santa set at Roosevelt Field mall is to be replaced with a more traditional Christmas setting after a social media protest. Even adding the tree didn't mollify the critics. Credit: Ryan PR Inc.

Facing a backlash fanned by social media, a Long Island shopping mall has put the Christmas tree back in its Santa display.

Roosevelt Field unveiled a new photo backdrop last week, featuring a sparkling faux glacier that projects glittering lights.

But the absence of a traditional holiday tree upset some shoppers, who complained to Simon Property Group, the Garden City mall's owner and operator.

An online petition started by West Babylon resident Jessica Juzwa-Rudin calling for the mall to "bring back Christmas" garnered 1,000 signatures in about six hours Saturday.

Juzwa-Rudin, 25, said she read about a similar controversy at a Simon mall in Charlotte, North Carolina, and decided to take action.

She hadn't seen the glacier display for herself, but said: "If you go and see a big plastic structure instead of the tree with lights, there's a change in mood."

The agitation online reached a fever pitch by early afternoon. Some protesters accused the company of being "anti-Christmas" or "too politically correct." Others threatened to shop elsewhere.

Simon responded by announcing the return of the tree.

"Key elements are still being added to the Glacier experience at Roosevelt Field over the coming week -- and after hearing early customer feedback, one of those elements will be a traditional Christmas tree alongside the Glacier experience," the company said in a statement.

Juzwa-Rudin was pleased with the prompt response. "It's good that they're listening to us, and our message is being heard," she said.

The mall was one of seven Simon shopping centers around the country to unveil the glacier display last week. Walt Whitman Shops in South Huntington and Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove, which Indianapolis-based Simon also owns, both have traditional Christmas tree displays.

At Roosevelt Field Saturday morning, Courtney Younghans' first thought when she stopped by the glacier display was, "Where's the tree?"

The Bethpage mother of three said she normally brings her children to take their photos with Santa but was reconsidering.

Her 10-year-old son, Steven, said, "I want to see a Christmas tree instead of a snow cave."

Adrian Baldeo, 35, of Valley Stream, who brought his 5-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son to take pictures with Santa, said he would have preferred a backdrop that was "a little more traditional" but thought the protest went too far.

"If you don't like the pictures here, I'm sure you can find another place you like better," he said.

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