Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Wal-Mart Hearings in Rockland

In an unusual turn of events there will be two legislative hearings tonight at the Rockland County legislature on the impact of a proposed Wal-Mart in Monsey. The first hearing will be held before the Public Safety Committee, chaired by Legislator David Fried. The second is before the Environmental Committee that is headed up by Ellen Jaffee.

What makes this all the more compelling is that Fried and Jaffee are set to face off in a September 12th primary for the Democratic nod to replace the resigned Ryan Karben. What this demonstrates, however, is that the opposition against Wal-Mart cuts across political divides.

For instance Spring Valley attorney Bruce Levine, an ally of Jaffee's, is running for a seat in the legislature as a strong opponent of the Walmonster, yet Ramapo Supervisor St. Lawrence who supports Fried and opposes Jaffee appears to favor the retail development. If this sounds confusing it's only because it really is.

Clearly, Wal-Mart inspires political opposition all over and, in response, the company is fighting back. It is targeting those Democratic presidential candidates who have made the store a campaign issue. We expect that it will do the same in Monsey and in New York City.

Tonight's dueling hearings will feature the testimony of Brian Ketcham. BK will focus on the failure of the Wal-Mart consultants to do real world traffic analysis. Most of their work has been derivative, using the benchmarks established by the Institute of Traffic Engineers, figures that are outdated and don't come close to reflecting the actual numbers generated by a Wal-Mart Supercenter.

Given the recognized traffic havoc on the Route 59 corridor the gross deficiencies of the W-M traffic data are truly deadly. As Ketcham will demonstrate, the heavy increase in cars and trucks to and from the project will seriously increase the number of traffic accidents as well as fatalities.

The hope here is that these hearings will be a prelude to the beginning of a grass roots effort in Ramapo to convince St. Lawrence to oppose the development. The key variable is the Orthodox community and its response to the Walmonster's threat to its quality of life will be key to the final outcome.