Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Survey: I Like My Wal-Mart in New Jersey

As the Staten Island Advance reports, a recently released Staten Island Economic Development Corporation (SIEDC) survey demonstrates the obvious: many Staten Islanders shop in New Jersey because of a lower sales tax, cheaper gas, less traffic and better customer service. What this shows is that adding a Wal-Mart in Totenville will not necessarily keep people from spending their dollars out-of-state.

Scott Landron tells a similar story.

"There are nicer people, there's no taxes, the stores are cleaner, the gas is cheaper," said the Tottenville resident who was shopping at Target with Jennifer Calandra.
In addition to economic issues, traffic was a big concern among those surveyed. Due to Staten Island’s clogged local infrastructure, people felt it easier to get to and travel within New Jersey than to travel to Island-based retail. Therefore, though a Tottenville Wal-Mart may be geographically closer we bet than many will still make the short trip across the Outerbridge instead of dealing with the hassle of navigating packed local streets. One must also remember that just a couple miles north of the proposed Wal-Mart site the Bricktown Shopping Centre, with a Target and Home Depot, is nearing completion. Traffic will already be horrendous even before a 200,000 sq. ft. Wal-Mart is constructed.

So while a Staten Island Wal-Mart will not capture as many shoppers as SIEDC officials hope the store will generate Island-based business. The survey does show that some people would be willing to shop at Wal-Mart (though number is only 35 out of 254: 14%). We believe that these shoppers will be mostly from areas farther away from the proposed site and therefore less concerned about the effect of a Wal-Mart on the local Tottenville neighborhood.

The question then becomes does a Wal-Mart that will capture only a smaller-than-expected percentage of New Jersey-fleeing customers worth the costs of tremendous traffic and the destruction of quality of life in a quiet, middle-class, homeowner neighborhood? Is this building of yet another box-store in the already overdeveloped South Shore worth the elimination of local small businesses and the addition of thousands of cars to roadways near 3 public schools? The answer is a resounding no and, after talking with a number of local civic and PTA leaders in the area, we believe that a Totenville Wal-Mart will be strongly resisted and eventually defeated.