Friday, April 28, 2006

Wal-Mart: Start Your Engines?

In what could probably be seen as a precursor to the upcoming Wal-Mart battle on Staten Island a large and boisterous crowd gathered last night at the Petrides Educational Complex to discuss the merits of the proposed NASCAR race track. Along with the race track an additional 620,00 sq. ft. of retail space (to be built by Related) is also planned.

The results were not pretty. As the SI Advance reports the meeting got out of hand as supporters of the project ripped the microphone out of Councilman Andrew Lanza's hand. As Lanza told the NY Post, "This was no democracy tonight...This was a mob." The meeting started at 6:00 PM but was shut down by police at 7:30.

As we have been emphasizing the main issue on the Island, and really the only issue, is the traffic congestion. Lanza, as he has done on the question of Wal-Mart in Tottenville, did not trash the NASCAR facility-calling it "a world class venue"-but rather spoke to the intractable congestion on the Island. For his trouble the Advance reports that one man actually put the Councilman in a "partial headlock" as his microphone was snatched out of his hands.

Most of the ruckus was caused by out-of-the-area construction workers who were advocating the development as a jobs generator. What is clear, however, is that all development on Staten Island will be put on hold until something concrete (and not pie in the sky) is done to relieve the congestion. Oh yes, our contacts on the Island are telling us that the new Bricktown Centre is generating over 9,000 cars a day near the Outerbridge. Wal-Mart on Richmond Valley Road would be beyond a nightmare.