Friday, September 16, 2005

BJ's Redux

The Daily News has picked up on what we have reported earlier: BJ's, and its faithful Related Companies sidekick, has re-submitted its application to build a 140,000 sq. ft. store on Brush Avenue in the Bronx. This time, according to a spokesperson, they will actually undertake a socio-economic impact analysis, something that the company had originally failed to do last year and, even more troubling, a less than diligent City Planning Commission had failed to require.

Not that we're sanguine that the company's bought and paid for analysis will shed much light on the giant retailer's impact; we’re still reeling from a similar study done on the impact of a box store at the proposed Gateway Mall at the site of the BTM. As we have commented on earlier, that "study," a term paper that wouldn't get a passing grade from even a non-accredited institution, humorously predicted that a big box store selling over $60 million dollars a year in groceries alone would not negatively impact a single Bronx or upper Manhattan supermarket!

What's interesting in the story today is the comments of outgoing Councilwoman Madeline Provenzano. Maddy expresses unhappiness about the failure of Related to even consult her and also harbors ill will for the lack of support she got for standing up – all alone – for BJ's last year. In addition CB#10's district manager and Democratic nominee to replace Provenzano, James Vacca, expresses extreme skepticism about the store and, somewhat surprisingly, so does his Republican challenger Phil Foglia. Foglia in fact mimics are conservative arguments about box store impacts on neighborhood business. All-in-all, not a good sign for BJ's.

The renewed BJ's application in the East Bronx also underscores a point that we made last year: its not just about one store! At the time, we predicted that the Brush Avenue site would be followed by others until six or seven such retail outlets – not all of them BJ's – would ring the borough. Individually these stores have a major impact. Cumulatively, however, their effect on the existing neighborhood food businesses would be devastating.

That is why we fight so vehemently when the box stores invade. The business model calls for saturation and the elimination of the competition. The overall impact would lead to the killing of the city's Main Street small businesses. This is why we called for a box store moratorium last year. It would allow for time to study the cumulative effect of box store proliferation on the city's economy.

We renew that moratorium call today. All the developers talk about are the putative benefits of these big boxes they never do more than gloss over their collateral damages. This is a great topic for the newly constituted Council to take up in January.