Monday, July 10, 2006

Wal-Mart in Downtown Brooklyn?

The Brooklyn Papers, having spent a good deal of its resources attacking the proposed Atlantic Yards development, now has set its sights on Wal-Mart and, guess what? The paper feels that the store would, unlike the Brooklyn Nets, be a boon for downtown Brooklyn.

If you read the editorial, however, an interesting pattern emerges. The BPs thinks that a Walmonster in Brooklyn would be different from any other store in the chain. In the first place, "Wal-Mart's standard one-level big box store with an endless parking lot won't fit in Downtown."

What about the company's abysmal labor practices? Not to worry says Brooklyn's authentic voice. "This is not Oskaloosa, Iowa; In Brooklyn, Wal-Mart would not find qualified staff willing to work for sub-par wages and sub-par benefits...Brooklyn presents Wal-Mart with the prefect opportunity to face its critics head on by paying fair wages and offering fair benefits."

Oh, so now we get it. Wal-Mart would be a great addition to Downtown Brooklyn if it just transforms itself into something that it isn't-a transit dependent good employer. As Warner Wolf would say, "Give Me a Break!"

And how about the paper's assumption that, "A Wal-Mart drawing shoppers to Downtown could well enhance the profitability of many nearby businesses..." (unlike if it were built on the periphery). Well there's always a first for everything, and this store becoming a business magnet for others when its entire model is based on eliminating competitors, would break new ground.

So what we end up with is the Brooklyn Papers' offering the borough a classic "pig in a poke." Expecting the retail giant to completely overhaul its business model is a bit much, and it is the kind of expectation that leaves a bad taste in our mouth, especially when it comes from a paper that sees AY as a looming catastrophe for Downtown Brooklyn.

With Wal-Mart joining the Brookln Chamber of Commerce and the borough's anti-development voice joining the company's amen chorus it certainly invites the kind of speculation that there are less laudatory selfish interests at work in this entire situation. Can the "booty capitalists" be far behind?