Friday, July 22, 2005

Wal-Mart on Staten Island Update

As we mentioned in a previous post, Wal-Mart and the Department of City Planning are in negotiations over a proposed site in Richmond Valley on the south shore of Staten Island. Though Wal-Mart is touting the supposedly high support on the Island for the box store, we believe there is a lot more opposition than meets the eye and that this opposition will increase in number and intensity as the store’s plans become more widely known.

During a meeting with June Delaney and members of the Tottenville Civic Association (Tottenville borders Richmond Valley) one of the greatest fears was the increase in traffic that a Wal-Mart would cause. Remember, Statens Island’s road infrastructure is already at or above capacity and the access points that would lead into the proposed Wal-Mart are all old, two-lane roads. Ms. Delaney and the others were concerned about the effect of 50,000 extra weekly car trips on their already congested neighborhood. The folks in Tottenville also stated that members of other surrounding civic associations, including the Richmond Valley group, have similar reservations about the project. Simply put, they don’t see the need for this big box store in their already overdeveloped community.

Another point brought up was that the proposed Wal-Mart location is a superfund site that needs to be cleaned up. Regardless of what is put there, community members worry about whether the site can be cleaned up properly and whether construction will negatively impact local aquifers and other bodies of water. This concern was echoed by the National Resources Protection Association, a Staten Island-based environmental group that also has serious doubts about Wal-Mart. Jim Scarcella, President of the NRPA, told us that a number of other SI groups also are concerned about the potential environmental impacts of a 200,000 sq. ft behemoth.

Much has been made of Wal-Mart’s burden on tax payers (e.g. workers on public health care, the cost of infrastructure improvements) and Staten Islanders are listening closing to this line of reasoning. Nothing aggravates folks in Richmond Valley more than seeing tax dollars being wasted and for this reason groups like the SI Partnership for Community Wellness and the Staten Island Tax Payers Association, led by Dee Vandenberg, do not want a Wal-Mart coming to SI.

Staten Island is burdened by traffic and overdevelopment and, we predict, as more people pay attention to Wal-Mart’s negative side-effects – especially those who live closest to the proposed sites – there will be tremendous opposition.