Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Wal-Mart Punked Again

For the second time in fourteen months Wal-Mart has tucked tail and run from a prospective store site in Queens. This time, as the NY Sun reports this morning (with reports also in the NY Daily News and the NY Times), it was an abandoned Caldor's site on the corner of Roosevelt and Main Streets in Flushing.

The location had been identified by Wal-Mart's opponents through the Dodge Report, a trade publication that tracks construction activity. As the Sun says, "The report said that the Wal-Mart project was in its "final planning" stages, and a renovation costing between $5 million and $10 million would begin this July."

Once Wal-Mart opponents got wind of this stealth operation notifications began to fly to area electeds and the press. We made it clear in the process that even though it appeared that the store might be "as-of-right" we were going to go all out to prevent its siting in Flushing.

As it happens the Wal-Mart people were meeting yesterday with Speaker Quinn's staff and, inexplicably, they failed to inform the staff about Flushing. As the Sun points out, "According to a spokeswoman for Ms. Quinn, Maria Alvarado, Wal-Mart representatives were asked 'point blank' about the Flushing site and said they had no serious plans for it."

This did not sit well with the Speaker who, having been informed about the Dodge Report, recalled the Wal-Mart folks back into her office to explain the situation. As Maria Alvarado says, the Wal-Mart people were "disingenuous at best" and at worst "lying."Quinn and her staff made it abundantly clear to the Walmonsters that they needed to inform the Council on any store location "even if not legally required to do so."

What are we to make of all this? It appears that the world's largest retailer was, while attempting to sneak into Queens, literally "punked" by the Speaker and their opportunities elsewhere in the city don't appear too rosy anywhere they might need land use approvals. Clearly, as the UFCW's Local 1500 political director Pat Purcell told the Sun, "...bypassing the City Council would be 'penny-wise, pound foolish' for Wal-Mart because it would likely anger the legislative body that would presumably need to approve future projects."

All in all not a stellar day for the Walmonsters and a great day for all of us in the anti-Wal-Mart coalition. Shout outs go to Speaker Quinn who stood the bully down!